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MIAMI, FLORIDA - MAY 04: Sergio Perez of Mexico driving the (11) Oracle Red Bull Racing RB20 on track during qualifying ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Miami at Miami International Autodrome on May 04, 2024 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

Montoya: Times have changed Formula 1 has outgrown Europe

MIAMI, FLORIDA - MAY 04: Sergio Perez of Mexico driving the (11) Oracle Red Bull Racing RB20 on track  during qualifying ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Miami at Miami International Autodrome on May 04, 2024 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

Juan Pablo Montoya believes that Formula 1 is gravitating more towards America now and in the future, a reality that Europeans, the traditional fanbase of the sport, have to deal with.

F1 is booming globally, beyond Europe with well-established Grand Prix weekends in Asia and the Middle East. The United States remained the last great unconquered market for F1, but not anymore.

For decades the F1 flirted with the USA but never seemed to get it right. In the age of Liberty Media, very much an American company, the changes are apparent. Sponsorship from the States has boomed, Ford is getting involved, Cadillac is backing Andretti Global and involvement is set to grow.

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Asked, during an interview with Formule1, if the Americanisation of the sport is a problem for F1, Montoya said: “People in Europe need to understand that Formula 1 has become a global sport. It has outgrown Europe.

“It used to be a European sport with a few distant races, but times have changed. Other requirements are also imposed. If our generation had to choose between a race in Spa or, for example, Miami, most would choose Spa-Francorchamps. Because of the history and nostalgia.

“But what Miami is doing with the sport is much better in the bigger picture. The racing is better, the overtaking is better, the show is better. I also hear the criticism and of course, it is a sport, but what many Europeans forget is that we have sponsors. And fans. The sport is obliged to put on the best possible show that makes everyone happy,” explained 48-year-old Montoya.

Monty: Drivers tend to complain a lot

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However, Montoya conceded: “Don’t get me wrong, Spa is a beautiful place and a fantastic circuit. But you also have to put yourself in the shoes of the fans. You don’t see much because it is full of trees. Spa is a great race to watch on TV at home, but not to attend live.

“Again, I love Spa and I’m not saying this is a race that should be removed from the calendar, but nowadays it’s about the experience. And I think the people at Liberty Media understand that very well,” reckoned Montoya.

Modern ‘pop-up’ circuits such as Miami and Las Vegas are tolerated but not widely favoured by drivers. Red Bull triple F1 World Champion Max Verstappen has made it clear he does not enjoy race weekends on street venues turned into GP tracks.

But Montoya is not convinced they have a case and ventured: “Drivers tend to complain a lot. Especially beforehand: ‘This is bad. That is not nice. Why do we have to do this?’ This is distracting.

“Once they have experienced it and noticed that there is nothing wrong with it, you don’t hear them anymore. Drivers should just complain. That is apparently second nature to them,” added Montoya, a seven-time F1 winner during a five-year career in the top flight with Williams and McLaren.

F1 has already visited Miami this year, a race won by McLaren’s Lando Norris. The Grand Prix goes to COTA for the 12th time in October, and for a second time the modern version of Las Vegas takes place a month later.

Big Question: Is the Americanisation of Formula 1 a good or bad thing for the sport?