Miami Gardens, Fla. (AP) – DJ’s spinning at the beach. Drinks flowing in the marina. Celebrities roaming the grounds in the shadow of an NFL stadium with fans nearby trying to catch a glimpse of some real Netflix stars.
Formula One, the sleek, wealthy globetrotting series that has exploded in popularity in North America, formally opened its three-day Miami Grand Prix on Friday with a must-be-there vibe and the promise of more to come. There are two F1 events in the U.S. for the ﬁrst time since 1984.
Promoters wanted this event even before F1’s popularity soared behind “Drive To Survive,” the wildly popular Netflix series that has made F1 the hottest property in motorsports. The enthusiastic reception on a hot, humid day in South Florida didn’t surprise seven-time champion Lewis Hamilton, who is credited for “manifesting” this event in 2017 when he chose Miami as his dream destination for a new race when American company Liberty Media bought the series.
“I think (it’s) perhaps more a cultural thing here in the States,” Hamilton said. “It’s the NBA. It’s NASCAR, IndyCar and in my 16 years coming over here, it’s been such a slow build, trying to bring awareness to the sport. The Americans have to wake up at odd times in order to watch grand prix.
“But I think the new step that’s been taken into bringing awareness, you know, the Netflix show, it’s really brought in that amazing fanbase,” Hamilton said. “And now maybe it’s time to start focusing on how we can include more people here because it’s such a diverse country.”
Max Verstappen won the race for Red Bull on Sunday, having passed Charles Leclerc for the lead on lap nine and then delivering a controlled and dominant drive to the flag. It was a consummate display from the Dutchman with Ferrari simply unable to match their pace.
But not before Hamilton dipped into the Roe v. Wade debate shortly after arriving in the United States. He protested a ban on wearing jewelry while racing by sporting three watches, eight rings and multiple necklaces in Miami.
And as the seven-time world champion prepared for Formula One’s debut in South Florida, Hamilton hosted former ﬁrst lady Michelle Obama in his pit for practice and qualifying.
Hamilton remains as much a change agent 16 years into his career as when he became the ﬁrst Black winner in F1 in 2008. The British racer is now 37 years