I don’t know if you’ve heard, but Formula 1 is having a bit of a moment in America right now. After long being seen as that snooty European motorsport, the series has undergone a resurgence that’s brought new fans to the sport in droves. Now, passionate fans and exciting new circuits are making racing State-side feel “very special” for drivers like AlphaTauri racer Yuki Tsunoda.
Ten years ago, the number of Americans that could name that year’s F1 champion could probably fit snugly inside the last Boeing 747. But now, you’ll easily run into people on the street that have a passionate belief about whether Max Verstappen is a one- or two-time champion of the world.
The rise in popularity of the sport has been meteoric in recent years, thanks in part to Netflix series Drive to Survive, which is about to launch its fifth season. The show offers an inside look into the lucrative sport, and welcomed new fans to the fold by showcasing the personalities that make up the grid, and also Christian Horner.
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For this upcoming 2023 season, the U.S. will be home to three Formula 1 races, when just last year the series set a record for the most fans in attendance at a grand prix during the 2022 race at Austin’s Circuit of the Americas.
“The U.S. can be very special,” AlphaTauri driver Yuki Tsunoda told Jalopnik during the launch of his team’s car at an event at New York Fashion Week. Tsunoda says he could “tell” that things were changing in the U.S. thanks to the sheer amount of people that showed up in Austin to support him and the other 19 drivers on the grid.
The American enthusiasm for F1 has really shown in its sell-out events planned for Miami, its second race in Florida, and a new race in Las Vegas, marking the sport’s first race there since the Caesars Palace Grand Prix in 1982.
“Americans [are getting] better at understanding Formula one,” explains Franz Tost, team principal at AlphaTauri. “We had fantastic races in the last years. And if you look back, the last two or three years, there were really many, many very exciting races with a lot of overtaking and with a lot of action. This is what people want to see.”
It should come as no surprise that the U.S. is doing a good job at making F1 exciting whenever it comes here, as the country is pretty damn good at putting on a great sporting show. Just look at the pizzazz around last night’s Super Bowl, and think about all the engagement and activity that kicks off around an NBA or NHL game.
“In the U.S., people go crazy,” adds Tsunoda. “We went to an NBA match and the amount of support for the team is different [from] other countries. They support them 100 percent.”
This atmosphere, Tsunoda says, adds to the excitement when F1 drivers head to America. Fans are passionate in their support of different drivers and teams in a way that he hasn’t witnessed in other countries F1 races at.
“Sometimes it’s too aggressive [for] our team, but I like the passion and the aggressiveness. I always enjoy being here with the U.S. fans.”
Formula 1 will return to America May 7 for the Miami Grand Prix, October 22 for the U.S. Grand Prix and November 18 for the Las Vegas Grand Prix.