Formula One’s US Grand Prix is set for its highest ever attendance this year, with the Netflix behind-the-scenes documentary series Drive to Survive credited as major contributing factor by race organisers.
Last year, the Circuit of the Americas (COTA) in Austin attracted 263,160 people across the weekend – including 111,580 on race day – which was the fourth-highest attendance of the 2018 Formula One season.
Now, according to COTA chairman Bobby Epstein, that number is on course to be broken based on advanced sales, with Drive to Survive cited for the part it played in exposing the circuit to new audiences.
Epstein told ESPN: “We are on track to have the biggest attendance of any race so far – the reserved seats already sold out in July. We are thinking of where we can build new grandstands to accommodate more fans.
“The Netflix series has been the biggest boost for US fans we have had in terms of tickets sales. All our surveys suggest it’s had a huge impact and a big benefit to F1. It was really was a stroke of genius to get that put on.
“It’s why we broadened what was offered on a weekend, in order to bring different people to the event, but the Netflix series has reached people we might never have reached otherwise.”
Drive to Survive has received positive reviews from both viewers and Formula One owners Liberty Media, with season two due to premiere next year featuring all ten teams for the first time.
The US is a big growth market for the global motorsport series. ESPN’s ratings have been strong and Liberty Media want to add a second race there, with talks over staging events in Las Vegas or Miami continuing. Epstein appeared to be wary of a second US race, fearing it could lead to oversaturation. “We have to consider the impact of another race on our continent on our race,” he said.
With regards to the existing US Grand Prix, Epstein said that discussions between Formula One organisers and the COTA about extending its deal beyond 2021 are ongoing, but he would favour a short-term agreement.
“I think a shorter deal is better for both parties, you don’t want to get locked into something that you don’t like down the line,” he added. “What I will say is, I think there will be an F1 race at COTA for as long as the track is there, that’s the benefit of building a permanent facility.”
This year’s US Grand Prix takes place on 3rd November