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Monday, December 11, 2023

The components behind COTA’s F1 US GP spectator numbers dip

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Because the saying goes, the whole lot is greater and higher in Texas, however does that maintain true relating to the F1 occasion that has established its roots within the Lone Star State since 2012?

Final yr’s F1 race at Circuit of the Americas noticed a file breaking fan attendance of 440,000 however final weekend the quantity dropped all the way down to 432,000.

And now that the 2 glamorous Miami and Las Vegas races have raised the bar on what an F1 weekend can provide its followers, does the charming, family-friendly Austin race nonetheless slot in on the calendar amongst the opposite glitzy American newcomers?

Picture by: Glenn Dunbar / Motorsport Images


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COTA provides pure racing and inexpensive race tickets 

Co-owner and chairman of the Circuit of the Americas, Bobby Epstein, believes that not solely is the Austin race in a great place in comparison with the opposite two American races on the F1 schedule, nevertheless it brings two key components to its followers: pure racing and inexpensive tickets. 

Glamour and extravagance apart, Circuit of the Americas provides its followers racing in its purest kind. Not like Miami and Las Vegas, whose circuits are semi-permanent tracks, Circuit of the Americas was designed particularly for F1 with the spectator in thoughts. There are many viewing spots the place you may witness overtaking round its curves to get an ideal view of the on-track motion.  

Whereas each the Miami and Las Vegas races massively attraction to VIPs, celebrities and followers wanting extra hospitality options, Epstein claims that COTA’s method provides worth interesting to a number of forms of race followers. Talking to chose media together with Autosport in Austin in the course of the US GP weekend, Epstein defined how the opposite American races on the F1 calendar spotlight the individuality Circuit of the Americas has to supply.

“To begin with, I feel one of many issues different races are doing is proving the worth of what we have now right here, which is, it appeals to the racing purist to the informal racing fan, and to the fan of simply being mates and having an ideal expertise, even when you do not comply with racing,” he mentioned. “And I feel we have been in a position to mix these three.”  

Fans pack out the grandstands in Austin

Picture by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images

Followers pack out the grandstands in Austin

The COTA boss says he does his greatest to maintain ticket costs on the decrease facet, conserving the common race fan in thoughts whereas additionally providing a top quality timetable. 

“I do not underestimate the truth that tickets are costly, and I respect that truth,” he added. “However we try to nonetheless be on the inexpensive facet of costly and, and nonetheless give folks 35 hours of programming and people concert events after which even proper now between races.”

One of many benefits that the Circuit of the Americas has over the opposite US races is that it may well hold the ticket prices decrease as a result of it may well match extra folks within the grandstands, which is a big profit for the price-conscious race fan.

“And you may unfold the fee out totally different. And by advantage of being a everlasting circuit, our prices to function are much less,” he added.

Fans in the Fanzone

Picture by: Andy Hone / Motorsport Images

Followers within the Fanzone

Epstein additionally understands how costly F1 race tickets may be to the everyday fan and provides them an opportunity to expertise an incredible race weekend with out breaking the financial institution: “I feel it is honest for the followers to say, ‘that is costly’ and ‘present me a possibility at some worth’.

“And what we’re doing is we’re promoting a restricted quantity at $300. A ticket to say to those that mentioned, ‘I come if the value have been decrease’ – OK, this is your likelihood to point out me if the value is decrease, and it’s best to soar on it.

“So, let’s give them an opportunity. And we do need extra folks to return, and we wish to hit greater numbers.”

The starting grid ahead of the F1 Sprint

Picture by: Andy Hone / Motorsport Images

The beginning grid forward of the F1 Dash

Did the dash have a detrimental impression on fan attendance?

This yr COTA hosted the primary dash weekend format run in America and, based on Epstein, this didn’t assist draw in additional followers on the Saturday earlier than the precise grand prix. 

“It is a shock,” he admitted. “However I am additionally unsure.

“It’s a must to resolve at what level are folks coming for the occasion, which I feel our followers are coming for the occasion, as a lot as they’re for the game. So, I feel it nonetheless stays to be seen whether or not the dash race is one thing the followers are embracing, or it is extra controversial.

“You’ve obtained folks which are proponents of it and advocates, and you’ve got others that say I prefer it the best way it was. It is nonetheless an experiment at this level.”

However with a drop in fan attendance this yr in comparison with 2022, Epstein doubled down and thinks that though the Pink Bull-Max Verstappen dominance might have affected the numbers, finally, it’s the dash addition that noticed the decline, slightly than Sunday’s grand prix.  

Requested how he might be certain it was the dash race and never single-team dominance that have been a flip off, Epstein mentioned: “You most likely cannot, however one did not outweigh the opposite sufficient.

“I assume the one option to say it’s that when Sunday continues to be as robust because it was final yr, that most likely solutions the query that you just requested.

“Why is Sunday nonetheless so robust if it is the Max issue that impacts the attendance? I would say ‘properly, I handed that take a look at’ [in strong Sunday sales] and now I am saying, half two is Saturday this yr was just a little bit lower than Saturday final yr, and but we have now a dash race this yr. In order that’s the one factor that moved.”

Miami branding around the circuit

Picture by: Jake Grant / Motorsport Images

Miami branding across the circuit

Red Bull Las Vegas demo run

Picture by: Pink Bull Content material Pool

Pink Bull Las Vegas demo run

Are Miami and Las Vegas a menace for COTA?

With the Miami Grand Prix placing strain on COTA by promoting out extra seats in its sophomore yr – and planning a rise in capability in 2024 – and the Las Vegas race  additionally having excessive ticket gross sales numbers, are these newer circuits having an impression on the Austin occasion?

The Positive facet to internet hosting the extra laid-back Austin race is that by sticking to its roots, and never following tendencies, it has the chance to set itself aside from the over-the-top Miami and Las Vegas races.

Epstein stays assured that COTA can maintain its personal fanbase in comparison with the others: “I feel folks will style every race and resolve which one fits them greatest, which flavour they preferred probably the most. And hopefully, they will respect once we give them extra.

“I feel there’s much more overlap between Las Vegas and the Miami crowds. And I feel we have now to see if these two haven’t got just a little little bit of push-pull between them.

“As a result of, whereas we have now loads of celebrities and you’ve got loads of the glamour, we do not examine, come near Miami or Vegas on the glamour scale. I feel their impact on us is possibly not so nice.”

Does Austin race nonetheless slot in on the F1 calendar subsequent to Miami and Las Vegas? The easy reply is sure. Regardless of the decrease fan attendance this yr, and the US F1 pattern shifting in the direction of lavish glamorous occasions, the core F1 followers want a race that may give them racing in its purest kind, whereas providing them inexpensive tickets together with high quality programming.

They usually get that in Austin.

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