It’s taken a while for Formula 1’s longstanding ambition to establish a bigger presence in the US, but it looks like that moment is here with the impact of Netflix’s Drive to Survive and the extension to three American races from 2023.
Inevitably, this move has IndyCar fans weighing in on what it could mean for their series, and the media polling teams and drivers on their opinions.
So far, these opinions in the IndyCar paddock have ranged from “F1 is a threat to IndyCar’s growth” to “it doesn’t matter because two of these three races are after the season. of IndyCar, and a more followed F1 is likely to attract more people. on IndyCar television coverage or by attending races than he will get out of it”.
It certainly didn’t help bring fans of the two series together when Liberty Media President and CEO Greg Maffei said TV coverage of Miami F1 would be better than that of the Indianapolis 500, pushing a corner further at a time when the debate was constantly in the news.
At the Indy 500, The Race sat down with Mark Miles, president and CEO of the company that owns the IndyCar Series and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway – Penske Entertainment Corp – who also attended Miami and hosts relatively often Liberty reps at Indy.
So what does IndyCar think of F1’s expansion into the US?
“I guess the first thing is they’re just doing what they said they would do in 2017,” Miles told The Race.
“I think one of the Chases [Carey, former CEO of Liberty Media] The first statements, when asked in the American market, were that their ambition was to have three races. At that time, it was interesting that it was Miami, New York and Vegas.
“And they’ve stayed the course and now they can announce they’ll have three, including Vegas next year.
“You didn’t ask that question, but I think it helps us. More success in open wheel racing will only elevate us and I honestly think our momentum over the past few years could have only been helpful in achieving their aspirations for these three races.
Miles adds that sometimes F1 and IndyCar compete, but he says the two series also work together on a number of projects.
“Competition is good too. Everyone digs deeper and improves faster,” Miles added.
“I think it’s a good thing.
“The reality is that I think it’s pretty widely known that Liberty Media was one of the finalists to buy this whole business [in 2019/20].
“And so we spent a lot of time with Greg Maffei, with Chase and his team. And always stay in close contact.
“I saw Greg in Miami, then I saw him again recently at a sports conference and it’s very nice.
“So we’ll learn from each other and we’ll compete sometimes, and we’ll help each other sometimes. We’ve had conversations, for example, deeper within organizations about sustainability, what they do, what they think about, what what we think about.
“Again, it’s kind of about sharing best practices.”
He adds: “I just don’t see us as a direct competitor. It would be different if they said their ambition was to have 20 races here. But I don’t think that’s on the cards for them. And they recognize it because of their own strategic imperatives.
The cross-pollination between F1 and IndyCar is probably more extensive than we think.
For example, the president of IndyCar, Jay Frye, is a member of the FIA single-seater commission and therefore regularly rubs shoulders with many personalities involved in F1.
Although there is a school of thought that there can be too much motorsport and if there are races going on one after the other it can be difficult to maintain the public, Frye is a fan motorsport at heart and sees benefits with his “high tides lift all boats” analogy.
“I gotta know all these guys [on the single-seater commission] very well, over several years,” Frye told The Race.
“A great group of people, they do a great job.
“I am one of those [who think] high tides lift all boats.
“I’m a motorsport fan, I watch it all. I think there are a lot of people who are like that. So when they’re on in the morning, sometimes we go right after them, even if it’s on different networks. If you’re a motorsport fan, that’s pretty cool. Right?
“You have a day full of errands.
“So from my personal perspective, again, they are good people. There are things we come and go to help learn about, there are things we do that interest them, and we help them with their show and vice versa. So, for me, it’s been a great relationship.
Where this “great relationship” could have been slightly twisted is in Maffei’s comments ahead of the Miami GP.
“If any of you are watching the Indy 500, and I’m certainly not biased because we’re investors and owners of the team that won the Indy 500 last year, but look at the difference in coverage and strength of F1 coverage is relative to Indy 500 coverage,” Maffei told Bloomberg.
“I think you would leave thinking that the experience of F1 on TV is a much better experience.
After seeing Maffei twice after these comments and discussing it with him, Miles was able to explain to The Race his thoughts on what was said.
“I saw it in Miami and I was like, ‘Hey, what’s up with that? “, says Miles.
“And he said, ‘Look, I’m not saying the 500, it’s a great race, we loved having a car that won it, I just think it’s a fact, if you look at the cover here and put it aside next to the 500’. He didn’t think there was any comparison.
“I said, ‘Well, let’s compare’.
“Honestly, people say things, but I dare anyone to watch – I’m not saying [FOM] or their cover here. I think those are great aspects.
“But it’s hard to improve on NBC’s coverage of 500. It might not be exactly the same. It’s not exactly the same for all IndyCar races.
“But he picked the wrong one when he picked the 500 as a basis for comparison.”
Television coverage of the Miami race has been criticized by fans for skipping overtaking or on-track battles in favor of less exciting ones, and shifting to crowd reactions to events taking place on the track instead of s stick to these images on track.
However, airing on ABC – which is free to most people in America – it attracted the largest US TV audience for an F1 race with an average of 2.7 million viewers.
It’s still below the Indy 500’s 5 million-plus, but it’s a huge number for F1.
After watching both, the Indy 500 coverage offers less statistical information and things like visor cameras, but the general coverage was much better than that offered by the Miami GP. Even with fewer personnel and capital resources at least during the season.
I’m sure this debate will resurface, but IndyCar and F1 seem happy to work together and happy to distance themselves when necessary.
There certainly doesn’t seem to be any animosity from the IndyCar side. “High tides lift all boats.”