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Hamilton: F1 is now part of Miami culture which is really, really cool

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Formula 1 is back in the United States for the first time in six months and the first of three stops is the Miami Grand Prix, the race that was supposed to be the American showpiece.

But the sparkling debut of Las Vegas last November was rated as one of the best races of the 2023 season, and Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas, is a stalwart event that caters to passionate F1 fans.

Miami was the big party when it debuted in 2022 but the question is: Has its status fallen enough that Sunday’s race is simply just the first of three events in what has traditionally been NASCAR country?

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Tyler Epp, president of the Miami Grand Prix, acknowledged ticket sales for the third running of the event have been “soft” but felt there would be an uptick ahead of Sunday’s race.

Epp believes the U.S. can handle three events because they are so different: “It feels like the decision to make this race about Miami and everything that Miami has to offer was the right decision.

“It does separate us from Las Vegas and Austin, and frankly Montreal and Mexico and all of North America. I still think we are a unique property. We’re the first of the three, and we like our position there.

“The communication between the three races in the States is good. We haven’t seen the market softened directly because of Vegas, at least we don’t think so, and we root for the other races in this country to make sure the power of F1 continues to drive for the fanbase,” added Epp.

Hamilton: I think the sport’s got bigger here

hamilton F1 Miami Grand Prix (@f1miami) / X

F1 teams have praised the improvements Miami has made since it debuted the 19-turn, 3.361-mile course in the parking lot of Hard Rock Stadium, home of the NFL’s Dolphins. Team hospitality was moved onto the field last year after the stadium went unused in 2022, and the entire track was resurfaced ahead of the 2023 race.

The circuit has 11 pedestrian bridges, more than any other on the F1 schedule, and the width of several bridges has been doubled to improve foot traffic across the sprawling campus that is hosting concerts and parties at the same time cars turn laps.

“If you compare where we are today, three years in from we were at the beginning, it is an enormous change,” said Williams team principal James Vowles. “This was a carpark, fundamentally, that they converted into a top-tier Formula 1 track.”

Seven-time F1 champion Lewis Hamilton bristled when asked if the addition of Las Vegas to F1’s calendar had “diminished” Miami’s status as a see-and-be-seen event.

Hamilton reacted: “Diminished? No, I think the sport’s got bigger here. It’s got a lot more awareness. In every city that I go to, people are excited. It’s now a sport here in the States. Before, it was just an event that arrived once a year. Now, we’re kind of a part of the culture here, which is really, really cool.”

Max Verstappen won the first two races at Miami as well as yesterday’s Sprint Race and, after opening this season with wins in four of the first five races, is expected to win again Sunday. His dominance has led to complaints about the competitiveness of the racing.

The #1 Red Bull starts this year’s race from pole position with few, if anyone, betting against Versta[[en adding Sunday’s Miami Grand Prix victory to his illustrious CV. (Report by Jenna Fryer)