The Circuit of the Americas (COTA), home of the United States Grand Prix, recently introduced a sprint race format for the event in an effort to boost ticket sales and increase fan engagement. However, according to COTA officials, this switch has not had the desired effect on ticket sales.
The new sprint race format, which involves a shorter race distance and takes place on the Saturday of the race weekend, was implemented to add an extra element of excitement to the event. The idea was to attract more fans to the track by providing them with a thrilling competition before the main race on Sunday.
Unfortunately for COTA, this strategy has not yielded the expected results. Despite the new format and the anticipation surrounding it, ticket sales for the US GP have not seen a significant increase. This suggests that the sprint race switch may not be as attractive to fans as initially thought.
There could be several reasons for this lackluster response. One possibility is that fans are simply not aware of the changes or do not fully understand how the new format works. Without a clear understanding of what to expect, many may opt to skip the sprint race and only attend the main event on Sunday.
Another factor could be the timing of the sprint race. With the shorter race taking place on Saturday, fans may find it more difficult to attend due to work or other commitments. This could potentially limit the number of spectators in attendance, despite the added excitement.
Overall, while the sprint race switch was aimed at increasing ticket sales and boosting fan engagement, it seems that COTA has not achieved its desired outcome. The lack of a significant increase in ticket sales suggests that further analysis and adjustments may be necessary to successfully implement the sprint race format and attract more fans to the US GP.
The Austin event is one of six events chosen for the sprint format in 2023 – with qualifying on Friday, a standalone sprint day on Saturday and then the Grand Prix on Sunday.
The sprint format is intended to make the event as a whole more exciting, with action taking place on all three days – which in theory should bring in more weekend fans.
But Circuit of the Americas chairman Epstein has revealed that having a sprint race did not succeed in driving a bigger crowd on Saturday.
“It didn’t help,” he told selected media, including Motorsport.com. “It is a surprise.
“You have to decide at what time people come to the event. I think our fans come for the event as much as they come for the sport. So I guess it remains to be seen whether the sprint race is something that the fans embrace, or whether it is more controversial.
“You have people who are in favor of it and advocates for it, and you have others who say I like it the way it was. It is still an experiment at the moment.”
Photo by: Sam Bloxham / Motorsport Images
Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB19
While Epstein acknowledges that the overall trend in 2023 ticket sales may have been influenced by the dominance of Red Bull and Max Verstappen in F1, he believes this can be ruled out as the factor behind what happened.
Asked how he could be sure it was the sprint race and not the dominance of one team that was a letdown, Epstein said: “That’s probably not possible, but one didn’t outweigh the other enough.
“I guess the only way to say this is if Sunday is still as strong as last year, that probably answers the question you asked.
“Why is Sunday still so strong if it is the Max factor that influences attendance? I’d say, ‘Well, I passed that test (in strong Sunday sales) and now I say, part two is Saturday this year was a little less than Saturday last year, and yet we have a sprint race this year. So that’s the only thing that moved.”
Epstein said he wasn’t sure if this year’s evidence meant Austin would return to sprinting in 2024.
“We will work with F1 and let them decide what is best, but we are happy that it can rotate a bit,” he said.