F1 Boss Downplays Vegas’ $500,000,000 Charm to Hail US GP as the “People’s Race”

Published 10/14/2023, 7:12 AM EDT

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Can you tell that Formula 1 is getting more popular in the US? In 2009, former F1 owner Bernie Ecclestone said he was in no hurry to bring a US race back on the calendar. Eight years after he expressed this, American conglomerate Liberty Media took over F1, intending to get the sport the exposure it deserves. Now, the 2023 calendar boasts three races in the States, but there’s one that’s stealing the limelight from the other two. That’s the Las Vegas GP.

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Until 2021, the US GP at the Circuit of the Americas (COTA) in Austin, Texas, was the only race in the US. It lived up to its hype every year because it’s a place the drivers love and a track they love. But 2022 hosted the inaugural Miami GP, and 2023 is set to bring F1 back to Vegas. Even though Miami and (primarily) Vegas have been getting more exposure recently, the US GP has no plans to change its approach.

The Las Vegas GP will never be the “people’s race”

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Apart from being the first Las Vegas GP in 41 years, this year’s race has another new aspect. When a city hosts a race, a local investor usually organizes the race weekend with some sponsors. They hope the amount they invested will turn into profits through ticket sales. More often than not, that is the case. However, instead of getting a local investor to organize the Las Vegas GP, Liberty Media is doing it on its own. The F1 owners acquired 39 acres of land worth $240 million aside from the circuit-building costs. But their motivation for spending so much is that they’re predicted to earn a whopping $500 million in revenue.

With all the talk about the Las Vegas GP, it’s like America’s favorite race (on a circuit that’s so much more than just straights) has been sidelined. Even so, COTA chief Bobby Epstein isn’t looking to change anything about COTA that makes it so inherently COTA. In an interview with Motorsport, he said, “I don’t think we’re doing anything different because what’s nice is that the other events as they came in each tried to establish their own identity that’s unique. We don’t have to change our recipe. It’s really working. One of the things we’ve found is that the people have defined us. It hasn’t been us.”

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The fans have looked at this and said, in many ways, this is what they’ll call the people’s race. We’ve seen that name a lot. It’s nice to see that, and we’ll try and live up to that,” Epstein added. It’s not just the fans who love it. The track, the fans, and the atmosphere all make for a memorable experience for drivers every year. Since the race was introduced in 2012, it’s become a favorite. Epstein added, “We’re in year 11, and people are coming back, and we’re getting bigger crowds every year. It really speaks to some of the tradition. And one thing you can’t buy is tradition.”

As much as Epstein is confident COTA will still be the “people’s race,” he isn’t unaware that Las Vegas and Miami are hurting its exposure. But the US GP has been taking matters into its own hands.

The Vegas GP is making it difficult for COTA to get its message out

Every season F1 has returned to COTA in recent years, it has seen an increase in audiences. Last year saw a record crowd of 440,000 spectators, a figure Epstein is trying to make 500,000 by 2024. To put out the message that the US GP is truly an experience for fans, the organizers started using different platforms for promotions and ticket sales. One of the most popular ones is Costco, where they’re selling a three-day Grounds Pass for $350. Isn’t that a steal? 

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You would expect people to swarm Costco as soon as they heard about this, but that’s the problem. Not enough people have heard about it. Why? Because of the media coverage that the exorbitant $10,000 tickets for the Vegas GP are getting. Epstein said, “We want to get our message out that there is value in a ticket to the US Grand Prix at COTA, that everything’s not a $10,000 ticket. And it’s been hard to get our message out. We are trying to find every way we can to tell the customer that a ticket to the US Grand Prix is affordable and there’s great value in it.”

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WATCH THIS STORY | Rich History of F1 Races in Las Vegas Throughout the Years

Even with the problems the US GP is facing because of the Las Vegas GP, the race in COTA is in no danger. Because, as Epstein said, there’s one thing money can’t buy that COTA has and Miami and Vegas don’t. Tradition.

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Written by:

Aditi Krishnan

757Articles

One take at a time

Aditi is an F1 writer at EssentiallySports and is essentially a sportsperson. She fell in love with F1 in 2020. It happened when her brother tuned into that first race weekend in Austria, and she knew right then and there that she had to learn everything she could about the sport.
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Edited by:

Aishwary Gaonkar

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