As the whine of Formula 1’s hybrid engines stilled after another day of action at the Miami Grand Prix, the bass-heavy beat of parties began to kick up all around South Beach. Perhaps the most exclusive of them all, though, was the Red Bull Guest House, a VIP-only event designed to bring the thrill of motorsport to the dance floor.
Full disclosure: Red Bull invited me to attend the Miami Grand Prix as a guest of the Red Bull Guest House. I was deliciously wined, immaculately dined, and pristinely lodged in a weekend that was simply too fancy for my rural ass.
When I first chatted with the press agency representing Red Bull and the Miami Guest House, there was one thing that caught my attention: The Guest House was, apparently, designed with racing legacy in mind — but it wasn’t the legacy you’d think. If the Grand Prix itself was James Hunt as a race car driver, the Guest House was James Hunt as the life of the afterparty that rolled on through until dawn. I had to admit, I was fascinated.
See, I’ve gone to Formula 1 races around the world, but I’ve done so as a member of the unwashed masses, clamoring for a glimpse of a celebrity in the paddock or a driver having a post-race dinner. My closest taste of the high life was splitting a swanky meal with several friends after the Montreal Grand Prix in a restaurant we’d heard might be frequented by racers. I walked away from that meal several hundred dollars poorer, and my only glimpse of celebrity was a brief moment when Felipe Massa walked in, greeted someone, and left.
Heading to the Red Bull Guest House party, then, felt a little bit like I was going undercover to see what the high life was like (though, in my $15 dresses from Amazon and Target, I probably stuck out far more than I blended in). I wanted to know what an F1 party could be.
The Red Bull Guest House, while unified around a single concept, was an incredibly varied event. Each night — Friday, Saturday, and Sunday — featured different themes expressed in multiple ways in several different rooms throughout the Faena Hotel. In one room, you might find a relaxed, cocktail-hour ambiance. In another, a speakeasy turned into a disco. In yet another, a larger venue that felt like a proper concert hall. In each room was an artist, singer, or DJ offering a totally different take on the night’s vibe.
The weekend was broken down into three different themed nights, where different artists performed in different rooms at South Beach’s Faena hotel. Friday night highlighted Miami’s Latinx culture with a curated set by Tigre Sounds, called Raíces. Playing various rooms throughout the hotel were Brenda Navarette, Sinego, Richie Hell, and DJ Nickodemus. Saturday’s Autopista set brought an automotive-inspired spin to techno music courtesy of Teksupport and featuring artists like DJ Arca, American Dance Ghosts, and Eli Escobar. Finally, Sunday ended with the ultimate throwback to the disco era. Called You Should Be Dancing and presented by Insomniac + Club Space, artists like Channel Tres, Soul Clap, and Horse Meat Disco took center stage.
Entering the Faena from the front doors, I was greeted by a Red Bull display car and a collection of team gear from memorable races: Daniel Ricciardo’s race boot, the first he ever used for a celebratory shoey; or the helmet Max Verstappen wore as he won his first championship.
Personally, I was a big fan of Sunday night’s action — but that’s because I’m an unabashed fan of disco and because that night brought out the most elaborate outfits I’d seen all weekend. Drag queens dressed as demons towered over a gyrating crowd in bell bottoms and sequined halter tops while others turned up in the latest designer clubwear.
And with the race over, it was the first time I really felt like I could enjoy the event to its fullest. On Friday and Saturday, I did my best Cinderella impression by retiring just before the stroke of midnight because I knew I had to be up early to hit the track. On Sunday, my only concern was making it to an afternoon flight.
For the other attendees, though, the whole “race” thing wasn’t really a concern. The Guest House was less a motorsport-specific party than an event that used a massive race weekend to expand its scope with long lists of VIPs and hangers-on crowding the entrances and exists, hoping for a glimpse of someone famous.
I though it would bother me, but it really didn’t. In the sweeping history of motorsport, events have been characterized by both dedicated race fans and the other folks who use a race as a way to rub shoulders with some higher-ups and have a few drinks. It was like a whole new take on what it means to “go to a race,” one that more likely represents the experiences of the folks in the Paddock Club than those of us out in the grandstands.
After the event, I had a chance to talk to Isabella Acker, founder of Prism Group (which launched the Tigre Sounds brand last year) and curator of Friday night’s music selection. She, like plenty of other folks I talked to that weekend, wasn’t massively familiar with F1 racing outside of Drive to Survive, but she saw the race’s international appeal as a way to broaden horizons.
“Here in Miami, Latin music is generally catered to the Latinx community,” Acker told me, “but there’s such a deep curiosity for this kind of music around the world. Amazing music scenes are birthed in alternative spaces in Mexico, Argentina, Paris. I wanted to find artists that connected those bridges, that made people say, ‘Oh, wow, I didn’t realize that sound existed.’”
For Acker, culture and tradition is important in music, and her goals for Friday night’s set fell right in line with Red Bull’s aim of reviving the retro party feel of 1970s F1.
“People connect with fusion,” she said, referring to an artist named Sinego who performs electronic music blended with a traditional Latin sound. “It’s old school mixed with new wave, and people resonate with that because, even if it’s new, there’s something that makes you feel like you already know this music.”
Living in Texas and hearing plenty of modern takes on traditional music from Mexican and German communities, I immediately understood what Acker meant. As I walked from room to room in the Guest House, I was greeted with an artist I’d never heard before — and yet, somehow, I could recognize something in that music that grounded me in a wider history. Friday’s intimate performances somehow managed to feel expansive in their scope, and it was an incredibly unique experience.
Did Red Bull Guest House fully emulate the raucous F1 parties of the 1970s? Without a time machine, I can’t know for sure, but I like to think that the two eras are connected by a thread of evolution. In previous eras of racing, the party would have been smaller, more intimate; only some drivers had the international largesse to command ballrooms of celebrities after a race weekend — but at the same time, the races themselves were similarly intimate.
The 2022 Miami Grand Prix was, frankly, an unimaginable event in many ways, and yet it represents the magnitude of what F1 has become here in America. It’s no longer just a sport — it’s an event, and the Red Bull Guest House managed to capture an impressive audience of VIPs and celebrities while also paying homage to tradition. It couldn’t have been a more fitting blend.