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How best-ever Miami GP defied fears over a Vegas F1 hangover

Year three of the Miami GP threatened to be a bubble-burster, with Las Vegas joining F1's party last year, but more fans than ever flocked to the Hard Rock Stadium.

Race action

Photo by: Rolex / James Moy

Just over five months on from a frantic – but highly successful – inaugural Vegas street race, a third Miami GP might have felt a little old hat for America's recently acquired passion for F1. Had Miami been trumped?

But fears that Sin City had stolen all the limelight were allayed by a sell-out 275,000 Miami GP weekend crowd and a plethora of global celebrities, musicians and sports stars and even a former US President (and future candidate).

When asked by an American journalist if he thought Miami's race had been diminished by the arrival of Vegas, seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton replied: "Diminished? No, I think the sport's got bigger here.

"It's got a lot more awareness. Every city that I go to, people are excited. It's now a sport here in the States. Before, it was just an event that arrived once a year. Now, we're kind of a part of the culture here, which is really, really cool.

"It's been amazing, and I think all of us are super grateful for the US finally embracing this sport and having the love and passion for it that we all have grown up with."

Hard Rock Stadium president and CEO Tom Garfinkel, who is the managing partner of the Formula 1 event and the boss of the Miami Dolphins NFL team, explained to selected media including Autosport that he felt his event is proving out F1's continued growth in the States.

"We are sold out; we're over 275,000 tickets, he confirmed. "The grandstands, suites and hospitality mostly sold out last week.

"We sort of plan things to sell out right before the race, that's how we like to do it. And we had some last-minute campus pass sales just over the last few days, but most of the tickets were already sold.

Tom Garfinkel meets Michael Andretti in the paddock

Tom Garfinkel meets Michael Andretti in the paddock

Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images

"We're still kind of trying to limit capacity a bit to make sure we can deliver the experience. I think if we put 125,000 people a day in here, traffic would get worse, concessions and bathroom [queues] and everything would get worse.

"We anticipate growing the attendance in the future, but right now we're trying to just keep delivering this great experience hopefully and grow it slowly."

As well as a packed house, celebs like Ed Sheeran, Kendall Jenner, Luis Suarez, Danny Ramirez, Tom Brady, Alexandra Daddario, Camilla Cabello and Patrick Mahomes strolled the paddock.

There was clearly no reduction in star names wanting to be seen here, and it seems that fan interest continues to be boosted by having celebrity attendees on site.

"I think the people that didn't come in year one had FOMO [fear of missing out] and wanted to come in year two," said Garfinkel of the event's celebrity pulling power. "And then the people that maybe missed the first two years wanted to come this year.

"I got so much good feedback from some of those folks. One very, very famous athlete told me it was his favourite event he'd ever attended because he could be with his friends, he got in and out easily. He wasn't being bothered for pictures and selfies and stuff. Then he ran into other friends of his that he didn't expect to see.

"He was like, 'this is the best event I've ever attended and I wanna come every year'. So, from that standpoint, I'm not surprised they're coming back and that more people are coming that haven't been here before."

For RB's sprint race hero Daniel Ricciardo, whose popularity in the US exploded thanks to Netflix's Drive To Survive, he believes that the spectacle only continues to increase.

Daniel Ricciardo, AlphaTauri VCARB01

Daniel Ricciardo, AlphaTauri VCARB01

Photo by: Erik Junius

"I love when you mix sports and the States, I think it's always a lot of fun," he said. "I'm enjoying having three races here.

"I didn't compete here last year, but I was here at the event. It felt like it was much kind of I'd say better, let's say grander than year one, which is expected.

"It's like a whole week of things now. And I feel that you know, our weeks have built out now not to the extent of a Super Bowl week but it's getting there with events and people are interested.

"There's kind of high from a Wednesday onwards, it's not just the Sunday that they're excited for the race. We had a really good crowd, a lot of young people, and I feel like a lot of a new audience coming in so it's good to grow the sport for sure."

In his role, which is second only to the Miami Dolphins billionaire owner Stephen Ross, Garfinkel gets the peruse the entire campus and is all about the details, listening to feedback and fine-tuning the experience for his patrons.

Of course, he spends most of his time in the exclusive suites and that gives him insight into what's making them the hottest ticket in town.

"I think Miami attracts so many people because it's culturally relevant," he said. "When you combine Miami with what Formula 1 is, I think that combination creates a lot of great things.

"We have an area called the Palm Club, and just looking around who was in that room and then going to Carbone Beach [an exclusive off-site supper club that attracted Taylor Swift's NFL boyfriend Travis Kelce, LeBron James and Ivanka Trump] and seeing who was in that…

"I was with people, you know, they are some of the wealthiest people in the world. There are CEOs of some of the biggest companies in the world. There are NFL players, NBA stars, music stars and they're all converging and hanging out, spending time together and we're all kind of looking at each other.

"I was with one CEO of a huge bank and he's like, 'I can't believe this room' – and he's been in a lot of rooms, you know what I mean?! So, it's really amazing to see people of different ages, backgrounds, skin colour, all kinds.

Camila Cabello, singer

Camila Cabello, singer

Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images

"You've got hip-hop stars hanging out with CEOs of banks, hanging out with some billionaire, hanging out with an actress. You're just standing there like 'this is bizarre' – but that's a lot of fun."

Garfinkel doesn't see a risk of dilution with having three events in the US, and points to his group's close ties with Vegas in particular, as they are both effectively partnered with F1 owners Liberty, rather than Austin's 'legacy' United States GP event.

"I think Miami, Austin and Las Vegas are all three very different cities with three very different cultures," he added. "And we're trying to be uniquely Miami here, and Vegas does what Vegas does and Austin does what Austin does.

"I think those differences are all positive because it means that fans can choose which one they enjoy the most. Or choose to go to all three and have different experiences at all three.

"We're just being Miami, and trying to do things a little differently, do some things that are fun across the spectrum from people that are spending $150 a day for a campus pass to people that might spend $15,000 a day for really high-end luxury experience.

"We'd love for this event to become like the Super Bowl or Wimbledon or the Masters or something where it's an event you need to attend and you need to go to.

"And I think it's got the potential to become that."

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