The Miami Grand Prix is one of the newest on the calendar, with Formula 1’s recent explosion of popularity in the USA one of the mains reasons the first event was finally held here in 2022. Previous bids to host a Formula 1 race in Miami have failed, so let’s explore the Miami F1 history to understand what led to Miami finally host an F1 race.
Plus we’ll take a look at the future of the Miami F1 with the contract that the event promoters have recently signed with Formula 1.
Formula 1 races held in the USA
Before we look at the Miami F1 history, let’s familiarise ourselves with all of the other venues in the USA that have held Formula 1 races in the past:
- Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Indiana: 1950 – 1960, 2000-2007
- Sebring International Raceway, Florida: 1959
- Riverside International Raceway, California: 1960
- Watkins Glen, New York: 1961 – 1980
- Long Beach, California: 1976 – 1983
- Las Vegas, Nevada: 1981 – 1982, 2023
- Detroit, Michigan: 1982 – 1988
- Dallas, Texas: 1984
- Phoenix, Arizona: 1989 – 1991
- Circuit of the Americas, Texas: 2012 – 2019, 2021 – present
Some of those venues such as Long Beach, Detroit, Dallas and Phoenix were hosted on temporary street circuits. The others were held on permanent race tracks.
The Indianapolis F1 events from 1950 – 1960 were actually shared with the Indy 500, where F1 drivers entered the infamous 500 mile race as a points scoring round of the Formula 1 world championship. When they returned there from 2000 onwards the F1 was its own event using the road course on the inside of the oval.
The Las Vegas races in 1981 and ’82 were held around Caesars Palace. In 2023 F1 will return to Vegas, shutting down the strip for a whole weekend to bring racing back to Sin City.
Before the Miami Grand Prix, the only other Formula 1 event ever to be held in Florida was the single round at Sebring in 1959, over 150 miles away from Miami. It would be over 60 years before F1 racing would return to the sunshine state.
other Miami Grand Prix
Whilst no Formula 1 event has ever been held in Miami, the ‘Grand Prix’ title isn’t solely reserved for the F1 boys.
Since the early 1900s there have been numerous other Grand Prix events held in Miami. In 1925 a man called Carl Fisher, who built Indianapolis Motor Speedway, saw the potential for some winter racing in Florida. He constructed Fulford-Miami Speedway, a 1.25 mile oval track made of wooden boards with 50 degree banked turns.
In 1926 it hosted the first ever Grand Prix of Miami where the American Automobile Association Champ Cars raced for 300 miles in front of over 20,000 fans. Unfortunately the track was destroyed later that year by a hurricane and wasn’t rebuilt. Whilst it would be almost 60 years until racing would return to Miami, Carl Fisher definitely got the ball rolling.
Over the years a number of Grand Prix of Miami have taken place for non-F1 events:
- 1926: Fulford-Miami Speedway, AAA Champ Cars Grand Prix of Miami
- 1985 – 1988: Tamiama Park Street Circuit – CART Champ Car World Series Grand Prix of Miami
- 1995: Bicentennial Park Circuit – CART Champ Car World Series Grand Prix of Miami
- 1996 – 2010: Homestead Miami Speedway – Indy 300 CART / Indy Car Grand Prix of Miami
- 2002 – 2003: Bayfront Park Street Circuit – CART Grand Prix Americas
- 2015: Biscayne Bay Street Circuit – Formula E Miami ePrix
Whilst Champ Car, CART, Indy Car and even Formula E had raced in Miami, Formula 1 had never held a race here.
Enter Liberty Media, F1’s new American owners, and their desire to make F1 great again in the USA.
Bringing F1 to the USA
The official F1 United States Grand Prix has been held at Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas, since 2012. The purpose built race circuit had seen fairly steady attendances of around 100,00 fans across the weekend in the first few years that it opened.
In 2017 Liberty Media Corporation bought the rights to Formula 1 from Bernie Ecclestone. They saw a massive opportunity to increase the viewership of F1 across the world, reaching younger viewers and other people in countries where the sport wasn’t that popular.
With their takeover they installed Chase Carey, an American executive who had worked at the top of some of the world’s biggest news and media outlets, as Chairman and CEO of Formula 1.
With American owners and now an American CEO and Chairman, Formula 1 was perfectly placed for an all-out assault on growing its presence in the USA. Their goal was not just to increase the audience at the US GP at COTA, but to add more US races to the calendar.
They commisioned NetFlix to produce the hugely popular Drive to Survice documentary and ever since the attendances at the US Grand Prix at COTA have skyrocketed. 2022 saw over 400,000 fans attend across the 3-day weekend.
the first bid for a Miami F1 race
The Miami F1 history starts in 2018 when a proposal was put together to hold a race on the downtown streets in 2019, near the Port of Miami, Biscayne Boulevard and what at the time was the American Airlines Arena (home to the Miami Heat NBA team).
The map below shows the proposed route for the circuit. It includes a long straight on a bridge over Biscayne Bay to the Port of Miami, before coming back on itself via a tight hairpin and then going around the arena and Biscayne Boulevard.
This initial design proposal was met with a lot of criticism from drivers who said the circuit looked pretty dull. A revised design was issued which added a little more to the east end of the circuit, removed the section around the arena and added some extra chicanes.
Unfortunately local opposition to holding a race in the downtown area was too strong. The proposal was rejected by Miami city officials and the potential Miami F1 contract slipped away.
Tom Garfinkel, CEO of the Miami Dolphins NFL team, had been involved in the bid to bring F1 to Miami. He understood that the traffic, construction and disruption to local homes and businesses around Biscayne Boulevard would be major and was reason enough not to hold a Grand Prix there.
But he wasn’t done yet. He had one more potential venue up his sleeve.
Miami F1 race in a parking lot
The Miami Dolphins are based at the Hard Rock Stadium near Miami Gardens. The stadium is surrounded by a huge amount of land used for parking lots and tennis courts when the Miami Open is held there.
Garfinkel saw an opportunity to squeeze an F1 circuit in around the stadium. Apex Circuit Design had been involved in some of the initial design proposals for the track downtown, and now they turned their attentions to the new circuit around the Hard Rock.
The world’s greatest racing @f1 has never been to S. Florida. Imagine people coming to this region from around the World in May. Multiple passing zones and world-class clubs and amenities. Barcelona, Monaco... Miami... make it happen. pic.twitter.com/OxxUP4NFUN— Tom Garfinkel (@TomGarfinkel) October 15, 2019
After numerous iterations of the circuit design and with much legal wrangling with local residents, Miami-Dade city commission finally gave approval to host the race in Miami Gardens around the Hard Rock stadium. The Miami F1 contract was awarded to Garfinkel and the rest of the team involved in making the race happen.
The Miami F1 circuit layout stayed within the confines of the Hard Rock Stadium campus and crosses over the Florida Turnpike in a couple of places.
The initial date planned for the first race was 2021, but delays in the process meant that it slipped back a year.
In May 2022 Miami F1 history was made. The first ever Miami F1 Grand Prix was held in front of hundreds of thousands of fans.
F1 Miami contract
Not only did the promoters get approval to hold the race in 2022, but they were awarded a 10-year F1 Miami contract.
Over 230,000 fans attended the 2023 race, up by around 30,000 from the inaugural event in 2022. An estimated $400 million is brought in to the local economy by the event each year. So hopefully we’ll see the Miami Grand Prix on the F1 calendar for even longer than the 10 years.