Formula 1 has always been quite niche in the States but also a big deal in Europe. Much has been made recently of how Netflix’s Drive To Survive has started to change that, in that Americans have started to give a shit, though I like to think that the competition itself deserves some credit. Also, it seems, Formula 1 might be more popular than ever in Europe, too.
The latest evidence is the following news item from The Guardian, about the British Grand Prix, which doesn’t take place until the first weekend in July:
The British Grand Prix at Silverstone has sold out in the shortest time in the race’s history and is now expected to break all previous attendance records this year.
All 142,000 tickets for race day at the British Grand Prix on Sunday 3 July have been sold, which will be a new record attendance. Organisers are expectant that demand for the Friday and Saturday of the race weekend is such that both days could also all be taken up. This would be the first time in the history of the race, which has been on the F1 calendar every year since 1950, all three days will have sold out. If it does the weekend crowd will surpass the record of 356,000 who attended in 2021.
“We have experienced unprecedented demand for tickets for the 2022 Formula One British Grand Prix,” said Stuart Pringle, Silverstone’s managing director. “We have never reached a position of sell out so early in the year.”
There is, of course, a race in Las Vegas next year, making three races in the U.S. for 2023, because the U.S. is where the money is. I would say that it is surprising that Formula 1 hasn’t been bigger here than before given its rich history, but Formula 1 was also run by Bernie Ecclestone for decades. Under different ownership, Formula 1 has been more concerned with attracting “young people” to the races; they’ve also, aside from Drive To Survive, made it easier than ever to watch races and highlights. I can remember, many years ago, finding that almost impossible in the States.
The fact that Drive To Survive is an exceedingly mediocre show makes me think, too, that Formula 1's current crop of drivers is still a compelling bunch, despite them being constantly described, boringly, as being too media savvy and lacking personality. But have a look at the standings and tell me if there is a single driver you wouldn’t mind having a beer with. Nicholas Latifi? No need to be so rude.
The results on the track, in any case, haven’t been boring, with Max Verstappen winning the title in controversial fashion on the final lap last season, and, this year, Ferrari putting up a fight for the first time in years, and the previously dominant Mercedes team out of sorts. Hell, even Kevin Magnusson and poor old Haas are doing all right. It’s interesting what happens when a racing series puts out a genuinely absorbing product.