Don't Miss: 2021 F1 Grand Prix's Biggest Stars
The F1 craze in the United States won’t be slowing down anytime soon
A decade ago, you might’ve had a tough time finding American Formula 1 fans.
It’s not that they didn’t exist until now, it’s just that the sport has often felt like more of a European phenomenon (think soccer vs. football). However, the tide may have finally turned on our side of the pond, thanks to the combined power of esports, social media, and pandemic boredom. Those of us who wouldn’t have given F1 the time of day two years ago now find ourselves watching Grand Prix races on Sundays and binging Netflix’s addictive Drive to Survive reality series.
Sunday marked the 2021 U.S. Grand Prix, where F1 drivers competed at the legendary Circuit of the Americas, also home to NASCAR and MotoGP. This track set the scene perfectly for a highly anticipated showdown between F1’s two leading racers, Max Verstappen of the Netherlands and Lewis Hamilton of the U.K. Verstappen ultimately won out, with Hamilton claiming second place only 1.3 seconds behind him. Sergio Pérez, who races on the Red Bull team with Verstappen, came in third place ahead of Charles Leclerc and Daniel Ricciardo. For American fans who are steadily becoming more familiar with F1, it was a veritable who’s who of the sport’s biggest stars, proving that personality can be a powerful driving force behind popularity.
Right now, Hamilton is undoubtedly F1’s most recognizable name, even if Verstappen’s win has prevented him from claiming the top spot in the season standings thus far. The charismatic Brit has spent his entire career under a microscope, as the only Black driver in Formula 1’s 70-year history and an outspoken voice for social justice both on and off the track. Unfortunately, his hopes for an eighth world title might have been dashed this weekend, which is likely to increase speculation that the rivalry between Hamilton and Verstappen is more than just healthy competition. Hamilton reported earlier this week that he has “limited communication” with Verstappen, while news also broke that the Dutch driver will not be appearing in the next season of Drive to Survive. He claimed that the show was manufacturing drama for ratings – welcome to reality TV, buddy – but stopped short of denying there was real tension between him and Hamilton.
Third place winner Sergio Pérez also didn’t escape this year’s Grand Prix without a little drama, although it wasn’t the juicy, interpersonal kind. After the race, Pérez reported that the hands-free water bottle tube in his car had malfunctioned, leaving him unable to take a drink for the entire race. Meanwhile, Drive to Survive fan favorite Daniel Ricciardo had a much more enjoyable weekend in Austin, getting a chance to drive Dale Earnhardt Sr.’s 1984 Chevrolet Monte Carlo as a reward from McLaren head Zak Brown. Ricciardo came in first place at last month’s Italian Grand Prix, marking McClaren’s first big win in almost a decade. Ricciardo’s inspiring upset was the exact kind of wholesome content that beleaguered Americans crave these days, and judging from the number of fans in Austin this weekend, the F1 craze here won’t be slowing down anytime soon.