Austin's US GP "not changing recipe" amid F1's Miami and Vegas push

The fanfare around Formula 1's newest US rounds in Miami and Las Vegas may have overshadowed the country's longest-standing round, but Austin's US Grand Prix is not changing its approach.

A view of the start-finish straight

Last year, the glitzy Miami Grand Prix joined Austin's Circuit of the Americas on the F1 calendar, benefitting from the increased global appeal of grand prix racing in the wake of its Netflix boom.

This season, Las Vegas is aiming to top that with an extravagant event set around its iconic Strip, promoted by F1 itself.

But while COTA chief Bobby Epstein admitted that the new arrivals drowning out the US's longest-standing race can be "frustrating", he said the event is sticking to its guns as the "people's race".

The race's 2023 edition on 22 October will be its tenth edition since F1 returned Stateside at the then-new CoTA venue in 2012. It has been a mainstay of the calendar every year aside from the COVID-disrupted 2020 campaign.

"I don't think we're doing anything different, actually, because what's nice is that the other events as they came in each tried to establish their own identity that's unique," Epstein replied when asked by Autosport at a media roundtable if his event is having to differentiate itself from Miami and Vegas.

"We don't have to change our recipe, it's really working. One of the things we've found is that the people have defined us, it hasn't been us.

"The fans have looked at this and said, in many ways, this is what they'll call the people's race. We've seen that name a lot. It's nice to see that and we'll try and live up to that."

Epstein believes the market is now big enough to support three US races as they can synergise and raise awareness for each other.

"We saw that last year with the massive crowd that came," he explained. "That was a combination of additional exposure in the US both from the Miami race, from Netflix and from what we've done in the past.

F1 has been racing at CoTA since 2012 with this year's event the tenth at the track

F1 has been racing at CoTA since 2012 with this year's event the tenth at the track

Photo by: Steven Tee / Motorsport Images

"So, I think the other races can work sort of as a commercial and they can be very complimentary to what we're doing. It's great to see the race on in the spring in Miami in May, because it allows us to be to just get the attention of the US viewer."

Austin prides itself on providing family-friendly entertainment, taking a pioneering approach in pairing on-track action with off-track concerts. In 2016, COTA attracted Taylor Swift, while this year Queen and The Killers have the line-up of the October event.

Initially, its strategy drew some criticism from traditional race fans, but now it has become a blueprint for other races to follow as Liberty Media has pushed promoters towards providing more entertainment for a wider audience.

Epstein explained: "When we first started adding music to it, we made a lot of noise that way in the sense that the purists said: 'What are you doing, you're ruining the sport', when in fact we were just getting more value to the customer.

"Now I think in hindsight people will look at it and say we're really acting in the best interest of the fans and the family that wants to come to the event and trying to make it to appeal to a broader audience."

COTA previously expressed its desire to be the first F1 grand prix to break the barrier of 500,000 spectators across a race weekend, which Epstein believes the venue "will have the capacity for" by next year.

Because of the US GP's entertainment-led approach, he is confident that Red Bull's domination and stagnating TV figures won't necessarily arrest his event's growth.

"You have to look at when tickets went on sale for that event," he said. "If your event is in June or July and it's sold out in January, then you'd say that people aren't coming necessarily for the competition.

"I think we find people attend Formula 1 races in person for a number of different reasons."

Competition from other races in the US has increased, but Epstein vows CoTA won't change its approach

Competition from other races in the US has increased, but Epstein vows CoTA won't change its approach

Photo by: Red Bull Content Pool

To get to that number, up from last year's record of 440,000 attendees, COTA has started selling tickets on a wide variety of platforms in recent years, including retailer Costco, where three-day general admission vouchers are sold from $350.

Epstein admitted the noise around Miami and Vegas, and media coverage around the latter's $10,000 tickets and million-dollar VIP packages, has made it "hard to get our message out".

"[The media] have given so much coverage to the expensive tickets and the jaw dropping prices, and the $10,000 tickets or the million dollar packages in Vegas," Epstein added.

"We want to get our message out that there is value in a ticket to the US Grand Prix at COTA, that everything's not a $10,000 ticket. And it's been hard to get our message out.

"The fact that someone's picking up on that it's at Costco is a real plus for us and we've sold thousands of tickets that way.

"We are trying to find every way we can to tell the customer that a ticket to the US Grand Prix is affordable and there's great value in it.

"It is frustrating. I listened to a podcast this week that only talked about Miami and Vegas as the US races. And I think sometimes if you don't put yourself out there, you don't get noticed.

"But we have a pretty loyal following and I think we just have to be patient. We don't panic when something new comes along.

"Ultimately, the fans do the talking. We're in year 11 and people are coming back and we're getting bigger crowds every year. It really speaks to some of the tradition.

"And one thing you can't buy is tradition."

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