Formula 1 is booming in America right now, a sentence nobody would have predicted reading 10 years ago. The sport is gearing up to host three races in the U.S. next season thanks to the addition of new races across the country, and new and returning fans are flocking to the fastest sport on four wheels.
Now, as F1 prepares to take to the track in Austin, Texas, this weekend, Alfa Romeo driver Valtteri Bottas has spoken about how much attitudes to the sport have changed in recent years.
“Even if I go back just five or six years, it is so much more popular here [now],” says Bottas.
Despite struggles in America in the past, the States are seen as an untapped market for Formula 1’s overlords. And, as such, they added a second race in Miami this year, which quickly went on to break viewing figure records on its first running.
A third U.S. event is also scheduled to be added to the 2023 calendar when F1 races in Las Vegas. The Vegas night race next year is arguably one of the most hotly anticipated grand prix in years, despite the eye watering ticket price providing a barrier to most fans.
So, why the sudden change of heart amongst American motorsport fans?
“I think a big part of that is thanks to Netflix,” says Bottas.
“You just see more people interested in F1 and absolutely loving it. Even for me, like my personal fanbase in the U.S. has grown a lot in the last few years. I used to be able to be anywhere in the U.S. completely unknown, let’s say six or seven years ago. But nowadays, in any place I go there is at least somebody who comes to me and says, ‘Hey, I’ve seen you on Netflix.’ It’s quite funny.”
Despite the logistical challenges of increased traffic at the tracks and more people stopping the 10-time race winner for a selfie in the airport, Bottas is happy to see his sport thriving.
He says: “It’s good to see, it’s nice to be part of it and it really feels like F1 at the moment is booming all over the world – but especially in the U.S.”
The Finish driver is gearing up to race in Austin with his third different team, after making the switch to Italian squad Alfa Romeo at the start of the 2022 season. Ahead of the race, Jalopnik sat down with Bottas during a virtual event organized by Alfa Romeo sponsor Hyland.
“It’s always good to be racing in the U.S.,” says Bottas. “Every race so far that I’ve had in the U.S. has been really enjoyable.”
The 33-year-old racer has good form on American soil. He won the US Grand Prix when he drove for Mercedes back in 2019 and picked up points at the Circuit of the Americas on five occasions, both driving for the Silver Arrows and with his old team, Williams.
The circuit in Texas, Bottas says, has a “great atmosphere” and “a lot of people” excited to watch the race.
Today, F1’s presence in America is in stark contrast to how it was viewed in years gone by. It fell by the wayside as series such as Nascar and IndyCar thrived.
That’s, in part, down to the sport’s rocky past here. It tried and failed to race at the historic Watkins Glen circuit in New York state, and has previous run-ins at tracks in Las Vegas and California. But now, it looks like those fortunes have turned around.