While some love the way that the series is trying to open its doors for new followers, others are not so happy with the direction.
They feel that there is a danger the championship’s chiefs are ignoring the quality of the racing that is critical to keeping the hardcore fan interested.
But while consensus on that front may not be reached for a while, there is one thing that has become crystal clear over recent months – and it is that American business is in love with F1 right now.
A recent report from F1 sponsor analysis company Spomotion Analytics has revealed that grand prix racing has, as a percentage, more American companies involved than ever before.
The 2022 season had marked the first time that F1 had a total of more than 100 US companies on its roster of sponsors across the pitlane. That is more than double the 44 that were involved when Liberty Media took over as F1’s owners in 2017.
The number dropped slightly over the winter, though, as some partnerships were not renewed. However, from the 98 that 2023 started with, a deal between Ferrari and US tech company DXC Technology that was announced shortly before the Miami GP meant the number was back at 105. Plus, with the arrival of the Las Vegas GP on the calendar later this year, even more companies can be expected to join.
While the triple-digit number of US companies is interesting in itself, what is more significant is how the balance of power has shifted between America and Europe. For that 105 number is significant, as it means that there are now more sponsors and partners from the USA than there are from the key European markets.
Sergio Perez, Red Bull Racing RB19
Photo by: Jake Grant / Motorsport Images
As Björn Stenbacka from Spomotion Analytics said: “The fact is the balance between the USA and the leading five European markets: UK, Italy, Switzerland, Germany and France, has changed. There are 104 official team and series partners from UK, Italy, Switzerland, Germany and France. That means the balance has already tipped over to the USA.”
While America’s sponsors are at a peak, the number of European partners has declined. Germany lost the involvement of six companies from last year to this, with three of them linked to the departure of Mick Schumacher.
In terms of where USA sponsors have found a home in F1, McLaren has taken pole position – with 25 of its partner portfolio coming from America. Red Bull is making big strides in the country too, with it having doubled its number of US partners to 18 in just two years.
The value that F1 puts on big US business was made clear in Miami last weekend when the honour of waving the chequered flag was bestowed not on one of the many celebrities but instead on Hard Rock chairman Jim Allen. His entertainment and lifestyle company is involved with F1 through both its sponsorship of Red Bull, as well as being partners of the Hard Rock Stadium in Miami and the new Las Vegas GP.
Allen told Autosport that F1 had transformed itself in the USA. Speaking about the success of events like the Miami GP, he said: “We are very respectful to Indy[Car] and NASCAR, but obviously, this is just a whole another level. We’re really honoured to be involved.”
He added: “I think when you have these great cities like Miami, like Vegas, which are international destinations, I think that’s the formula for success. I hope they don’t dilute the product in the United States, because there’s so many great cities here that could really benefit from it.”
Fans watch under the Hard Rock Stadium cover
Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images
As F1 tries best to plot its path between keeping both the casual and the hardcore fans happy, Allen says what is critical for companies like his is the entertainment element.
“In any sporting event, while there is the act of the sport itself and the competition, I think you need the entertainment factor,” he said.
“Frankly, when we did our partnership with Stephen Ross, for the Hard Rock Stadium, that was the conversation. We don’t want to just be football, we want to be an entertainment destination. That’s why we’re so humbled that Stephen and I were able to work out the partnership. We have everything from football to concerts to tennis and Formula 1 racing, so it’s pretty exciting. It’s a really great partnership.”
The numbers back what Allen says: US business interest in what F1 is rolling out right now is at a level never seen before.