Lagging Formula One talks now target Miami Grand Prix race here in 2020
Written by John Charles Robbins on August 14, 2018
The roar of Formula One racing engines won’t be echoing off of skyscrapers in downtown Miami next year as planned.
Prolonged negotiations have led the car racing organization to move the anticipated inaugural of the Miami Grand Prix one year to the fall of 2020.
A proposal for the city to host the race for a 10-year period was on the Miami City Commission’s July 26 agenda but was deferred to Sept. 27, at the earliest. The city manager’s office requested the deferral.
Commissioners did however approve a resolution asking the state government to help support bringing the world-renowned racing organization to the City of Miami.
Earlier this year, the public learned that Formula One World Championship Limited was considering an agreement to bring the races to the City of Miami for at least a decade.
The city commission on May 10 directed City Manager Emilio González to negotiate holding race events in Miami. The Miami-Dade County commission agreed less than a week later to authorize its chairman, Esteban Bovo Jr., to negotiate with Formula One as well.
The city’s resolution said commissioners support efforts to bring FIA Formula One World Championship racing to the city for 10 years, from 2019 through 2028, with the first Formula 1 Miami Grand Prix taking place in October 2019.
The commission further directed the city manager to continue to work to formalize the Host City Agreement between the City of Miami and Formula One and to conclude the agreement no later than July 1.
The May 10 resolution said the city would also coordinate with entities such as Miami-Dade County, Florida Department of Transportation and PortMiami to bring the race here.
The July 1 date came and went without the matter coming back to the commission for a final vote, as the city manager’s office continues to work out the finer points of a deal.
The week of the commission’s last normal meeting before the August break included release of a formal statement from the folks at Formula One titled: Formula 1 & Miami Grand Prix Proposal.
Sean Bratches, managing director of Commercial Operations at Formula 1, wrote: “In the last few months we have worked diligently alongside our promoter Stephen Ross of RSE Ventures, the City of Miami and Miami-Dade County, to realise our ambition to bring a Formula 1 Grand Prix to Miami, and we have made significant progress: however, these are complicated negotiations.
“Whilst our preference would have been to race in Miami in 2019, there was always a point by which delivering the best possible wheel-to-wheel racing experience for our fans, drivers and teams wouldn’t be possible in the time available. We have now reached that point as far as racing in Miami in 2019 is concerned.
“However, we are taking a long-term view and as a result, we have decided, in consultation with the Miami authorities, to postpone sign-off until later in the summer, with the aim of running the first Formula 1 Miami Grand Prix in the 2020 season,” Mr. Bratches said.
He said the organization is working hard to bring the best possible event to the city.
“We have always said that we wouldn’t compromise on delivering the best possible race, for the people of Miami, our fans and the 1.8 billion people who watch F1 globally every year, and if that meant waiting until 2020, then that was far more preferable than signing off on a sub-optimal race track, just to do a deal,” Mr. Bratches said.
“At every stage of this process we’ve enjoyed positive collaboration and co-operation with the City of Miami, Miami-Dade County, Port of Miami, Bayfront Parks Management, residents and businesses. As a result of these discussions, we have listened and adapted our plans, including elements of the track layout,” he said.
Formula One is the internationally popular single-seat auto racing enterprise with a season consisting of a series of races known as Grand Prix and held worldwide on purpose-built circuits and on public roads.
Back in May, city and county leaders were touting the potential benefits of bringing Formula One to Miami, but an early proposed race route was not popular with at least one county commissioner.
The proposed route had included the area behind AmericanAirlines Arena, property owned by the county known as Parcel B and home to a park.
The bayfront parcel is in County Commissioner Audrey Edmonson’s district, and she was adamant that the county board remove Parcel B from contention for any part of the Formula One course.
After much debate, and a plea from a Formula One representative not to limit the course options, Parcel B was not included in the county’s resolution in May.
A map provided to city commissioners showed the potential race course with cars looping around AmericanAirlines Arena, traversing a portion of Biscayne Boulevard, onto a half-circle entry drive to Bayside Marketplace, and onto Port Boulevard to PortMiami and back on Northeast Sixth Street.
City of Miami Mayor Francis Suarez voiced support for bringing Formula One to the city, mentioning the global spotlight and financial gains to the area.
But the mayor stressed the importance of having the community vet the entire deal, and he said city leaders must consider the concerns of the many new downtown residents.
At the July 26 meeting, commissioners approved a resolution urging Gov. Rick Scott and the Florida Legislature to make funding available to support the Formula 1 Miami Grand Prix, and directing the city manager to make the finding of available state funding a legislative priority.
The resolution notes the city is negotiating with Formula One World Championship Limited and South Florida Racing LLC to bring Formula 1 Grand Prix Championship racing to Miami.
Formula One has over 500 million fans globally, with 21 races on five continents each year, and in 2017 there were more than 1.8 billion cumulative viewers of the Formula One series races.
The planned Formula 1 Miami Grand Prix race “will bring thousands of race fans to South Florida, which, for international tourists, can easily become part of a much larger visit to the rest of Florida and its great attractions, from the West Coast to the Space Coast, to the Panhandle and all points in between,” the resolution says.
“Millions of international viewers will see the City and the greater South Florida area for four straight days of race events, leading up to the final race; and … this type of international exposure every year, for 10 years, is equivalent to Super Bowl viewership, which had 103 million viewers in 2018.
“The Formula 1 Miami Grand Prix can only help to enhance the international destination status of the State of Florida as a whole through participation in this global event,” it concludes.