300,000 Fans Revel in High-Speed Excess

Photos by Claire Barrett

Tickets to the recent Formula 1 Grand Prix in Miami sold for thousands of dollars a piece, as surging U.S. interest and the global wealthy drove up prices for a weekend of high-speed excess.

More than 300,000 race fans, tourists, executives and party-goers descended upon Miami for the event, sponsored by Crypto.com. It’s the racing league’s inaugural Miami event and took place across three days.

The crowds and spending are expected to have surpassed Miami’s 2020 Super Bowl and its annual Art Basel festival, according to local officials. Miami’s top hotels were charging more than $100,0000 a night for their top suites. Notable chefs offered up special dinners for $3,000 a plate, and night clubs brought in top DJs with tables at the venues going for up to $100,000 a night.

“This is going to be the biggest week in Miami history,” said Jeff Zalaznick, managing partner of Major Food Group, which sold out its dinner on Miami Beach at $3,000 per person. “We’ve never seen demand like this. It’s going to be a very hedonistic experience.”

Formula 1 has always been a sport for the rich, whether watching from their mega-yachts in Monaco or the SkyPark at the Marina Bay Sands in Singapore. Miami’s Grand Prix will mark a whole new level of spending for a U.S. sporting event — fueled by the surging popularity of Formula 1, and the post-pandemic wealth boom in south Florida.

Netflix’s hit series “Drive to Survive” has created a new generation of F1 fans in the U.S. TV ratings for the races were up 54% in 2021 over 2020, and the first two races of the 2022 season were up 47% over 2021, according to ESPN, which broadcasts the races in the U.S.

Miami organizers say many of the ticket buyers and attendees to the Grand Prix are first-time race-goers with money to burn.

The average ticket price for Sunday’s race was $2,179 — three times the average price for the U.S. Grand Prix in Austin last year, according to online ticket seller SeatGeek. Some tickets sold for north of $7,200 each. Organizers say the prices soared even higher into the weekend, with hospitality packages listed on resale site StubHub for more than $25,000.

The massive race campus built around Hard Rock Stadium for the event included a beach, dry-dock yacht marina and several VIP viewing areas. “Sand Tickets” at the Hard Rock Beach Club promised a resort-style seat for the racing action and were offered for $1,000 a piece — “beach attire encouraged.” “Deck tickets” at the Beach Club went for $2,000.

With hundreds of thousands of fans, but capacity limited to about 80,000 at the race venue itself, local hotels, restaurants and bars are said to have been overrun — and they charged accordingly. Event organizers project an economic impact of $400 million to the city of Miami Gardens, where the Hard Rock Stadium and track are located.

Local hotels also leaned heavily into the luxury.

The St. Regis Bal Harbour Resort offered a $110,000 “Diamond Package” that included an oceanfront villa, round-trip private jets, dinner and a bespoke piece of diamond jewelry from De Beers.

The five-star Faena Hotel Miami Beach offered its 4,500 square-foot Faena Suite for $120,000 a night during race weekend. The package included access to the Red Bull team’s hospitality suite, which offered one of the best viewing areas of the race.

Red Bull is currently second in the F1 team standings, behind Ferrari, and boasts current World Champion Max Verstappen as one of its drivers.

The restaurant Carbone, whose parent company Major Food Group is building an empire of glitzy restaurants stretching from Las Vegas to Miami to Hong Kong, created a special pop-up restaurant on South Beach for the Formula 1 crowds.

This event was set to play host to 200 guests a night at Carbone Beach, offering cocktails, wine, champagne, caviar, and dinner prepared by Chef Mario Carbone, as well as nightly performances by surprise guests. With a price tag of $3,000 per person per night — not including tip — Zalaznick said the dinners basically sold out.

“Honestly, I think it’s worth $6,000 per person,” Zalaznick said. “We’re way ahead of where we projected we would be.”

And the spending doesn’t stop at sundown. The nightclub E11even Miami brought in celebrity DJs such as Tiesto and Diplo for the week and offered tables for between $5,000 and $100,000 per night.