Formula One’s United States Grand Prix is on course to gain a record attendance this year thanks in large part to the success of its Netflix behind-the-scenes documentary series Drive to Survive.
The race will be held at Austin’s Circuit of the Americas (COTA) on Nov. 2-3.
Last year, the circuit attracted 263,160 people across the weekend – including 111,580 on race day – which represented the fourth-highest attendance of the F1 season. This year, advance sales are tracking at an even greater clip. The Netflix series, which debuted in March ahead of the season’s start as a 10-part documentary series, has helped expose the circuit to new audiences.
“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,” COTA chairman Bobby Epstein told ESPN. “There’s a lot of reasons for that – we have the music entertainment element which has been a huge help [Pink and Imagine Dragons will play concerts during race weekend], but the fact we have built a base here at COTA is massive. We have established a good history, made it a tradition to come and race here.
“Looking beyond that, the Netflix series has been the biggest boost for US fans we have had in terms of ticket sales. All our surveys on new customers suggest it’s had a huge impact and a big benefit to F1. It 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,” Epstein said.
A second series of Drive to Survive is already confirmed for 2020.
COTA’s current deal with F1 runs until 2021 and discussions about an extension are ongoing. Epstein, though, is not looking for a long-term deal.
“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. We also can never be sure how the event or how the sport will evolve over the next few years,” 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.”
Epstein is luke-warm about the prospect of a grand prix in Miami, fearing that multiple F1 races in North America might cannibalize each other. “We have to consider the impact of another race on our continent on our race,” he said.