Miami Grand Prix CEO Richard Cregan previously ran Formula 1’s rounds in Abu Dhabi and Russia.
Now in charge of the hottest new property on the world championship calendar, he spoke to select media including RaceFans before practice began on Friday and explained how the event will tap into America’s love of motorsport.
Q: Stefano Domenicali has said events like the Miami Grand Prix set a new standard for Formula 1. What’s your response to that?
RC: We’ve thought long on how we want to approach the grand prix in terms of what’s really important to us and what we want to achieve.
What was very quickly realised was good racing: Design a track that was going to utilise the maximum space we had here at the Hard Rock Stadium. And then second of all, on equal terms, was the customer experience and ensuring that everybody who came here left on a Sunday night and wanted to come back. So we worked back from those two concepts.
As you know, the FIA control all of the safety elements so that’s number one in terms of driver safety and then spectator safety, in case of anything happening. But then we looked at the concept, [Miami Grand Prix managing partner] Tom [Garfinkel’s] long-term vision was very much about the customer. How can we do it differently from everybody else? How can we make it better?
So we looked at different ideas. And in particular we looked at our location, Miami, in the sense of Miami being the destination, and then Miami Gardens being where the circuit is going to be and how we can incorporate various different elements of that.
Our integration with the community is obviously incredibly important and has been long before Formula 1. So this is something that we are basically continuing as a tradition of what [Miami Dolphins owner] Mr [Stephen] Ross did and Tom did and the whole team for the community.
In terms of the track itself, we work very closely with Formula 1 in terms of simulation. There’s been lots of different iterations of the track itself. But we feel that what we have and I think it’s been reflected very much in the fact that we’ve got three DRS zones, which I think reflects how good the track will be for racing itself. So we’re really looking forward to Sunday.
Q: The ‘fake marina’ attracted a lot of attention before the weekend began, but what are the other highlights around the circuit?
RC: We also have the beach, I think that’s certainly a focus for everybody. The Hard Rock beach is pretty awesome. There’s two pools out there, there is actually a beach.
Looking at the marina, looking at the beach, looking at all the different options that we have throughout the campus, we have the gondola and we have all of that. What we’re trying to do is, number one, look at Miami as the destination – what has Miami got to offer? – and then reflect that. And Tom’s vision was always to reflect Miami in the circuit itself and the offerings within the circuit.
We’ve got 32 different hospitality products. There’s restaurants, most of the restaurants that are downtown are duplicated out here by their operators. So it’s not that we’ve taken the concept they’re actually operating. So that’s a huge difference as well. There’s something there for everybody. And that’s what we’re trying to that’s what we’re trying to achieve.
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Q: Everyone is speaking about the entertainment in the build-up to the event, are you hoping they’ll be talking about the racing afterwards?
RC: You have to balance that. I think that racing is entertainment and in our case, entertainment is racing. So we have to balance that. Tom’s view on that from the very beginning was, again, going back to his vision for what we have achieved is that there is a mix and that’s obviously a mix between the racing spectacle, our support races reflect that as well, where we have Porsche, we have W Series.
Formula 1 as the pinnacle, as we know. Porsche, everybody knows a Porsche. But then we have W Series which gives female drivers a great opportunity to come up through and I think it’s something that’s going to benefit the sport.
But what we have here in Miami hopefully will be a benchmark for how you can mix that entertainment and racing and come up with a good weekend of entertainment. We’re calling everything entertainment. So the race is entertaining, the hospitality products, the support races we all want to entertain.
Entertainment seekers is what it’s all about in. The race fans, we want to make sure that we give them good racing in a comfortable situation. And I really do believe we’re going to achieve it.
Q: Can Miami, Austin and Las Vegas coexist as F1 venues in the USA?
RC: Absolutely. We’ve got three great events. I think they will have very different demographic in terms of customer base and so on. And I really believe that the US is a huge market.
What a lot of people tend forget is how big motorsport is in the US. It’s a huge country, it’s got a huge amount of motorsport fans and has done for a long, long, long time.
What we’re doing here with Formula 1 is we’re in some ways we’re igniting a passion again for F1 that was there back in the Mario days and Fittipaldi days and all of that. That’s great times. And I won’t say we’re reinventing, we’re reigniting the passion, I think, is the right way to look at it.
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Q: Did you look at other events for ideas?
RC: You always look at different races and you always see different things. Every race has its own DNA. That’s what we tried to do here. But we tried to focus very much on how we can maximise our geographical position in Miami and in Miami Gardens itself by combining that.
We’ve had lots of events here in the last couple of days based around food, based about young people in the community. For example yesterday evening [we] organised an event where we had Lewis Hamilton meeting the young people and just showing young people that it’s possible to develop, it’s possible to be in Formula 1. We want to try to be a catalyst for that change.
In terms of US motorsport and here in Miami and looking at other races, we think we have a great mix and we’ve created our own DNA. We know that there’s lessons to be learnt and we will look at it at the end of the grand prix and we will see what we need to improve for next year, what we need to change for next year. We have a 10-year contract. So we have a lot of time to be very creative and make this a benchmark for Formula 1.
Q: Are you already planning any alterations for future grands prix? Changes to turns 14, 15 and 16? Adding more grandstands?
RC: That combination is going to be amazing. So I’m pretty sure we’re not going to touch that one!
We kept the attendance at a manageable level for this year because we want to get it right. We have to be sure that we’re going to get all the elements correct. And then we’ll see next year how we can improve.
We have the possibility to increase grandstands and then we’ll see where and if we do that. We may decide to keep the event as it is. It’s based on demand.
We’ve had huge demand from day one. But it’s also about looking at content and ensuring that there’s maybe not something extra, but something different every year. I think that’s always something for fans that they want. They want to come and see great racing, but they want to be entertained, and we need to look at different ways of doing that.
We have an amazing facility and I think we can utilise that facility even more for next year. We’re already looking at how we can utilise the actual field itself in a better way. We do the 10-day open tennis so we want to make sure that when the tennis is over, which is an amazing event, we utilise the stadium. So that’s one area we will look at for next year is that stadium and the field, how we can utilise it better.
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Q: Does the race in Miami need a different approach to previous events you’ve run in Russia and Abu Dhabi?
RC: I think it’s very different. I think whatever market you’re in, it’s like any product, you need to tailor your product to the market. But I think we have a mix here in the sense that we have a local product which is literally Miami-esque, but then you have United States-wide and then you have global.
We’ve got people coming from all over the world, it’s incredible the amount of people that are looking for passes, looking for tickets from every corner of the world. So we want to give it that flair of what people expect from Miami plus the racing.
I don’t think you can have two races which are exactly the same. That’s why people like to go to Monza or they want to go to Imola or they want to go to Spa because they’re all so different.
Zandvoort [is] an amazing circuit and a great job done there to maintain the historic element, but then create a spectacle for F1 racing. But still, it’s Zandvoort, they kept the DNA of Zandvoort and I think that’s what we all have to do as stakeholders in the business is ensure that we’re meeting those expectations from fans that we we give them that element.
If you take Spa, for example, we all know about Spa and the great racing. There’s been some modifications, we want to make sure it doesn’t interfere, but still is safe. People will go there for one reason, they’ll go to Monaco, they’ll come here. The bigger the difference [between] these races, I think the better it is for the sport, going forward.
Q: Are you happy with the repairs done to the track after Thursday’s hot laps?
RC: Yeah we’re okay with that. We had a look at that after the sessions yesterday and we’re fine. We did some localised repairs and it’s all okay. The clerk of the course, race director, everybody is happy with it so we’re in a good place.
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Q: Is this an easy race for normal fans to attend and afford?
RJ: I mean, we have 40,000 grandstand and then we have 10,000 campus pass. I think there will be a realisation of how good the campus pass is because it includes the stadium that’s inside it, includes the concourse that we’re on and you can go around the complete campus.
It’ll serve two purposes: one is it’s a price point which is available to everybody. The second thing is it will give people a focus on where they want to be next year. So they may go round and say, I like this grandstand or I like this hospitality.
Again, we’re looking at how we can develop the stadium itself and the field. The campus pass, for example, on the stadium can utilise the 300 level which has the best view of everything. You can see the whole track from up there. So I think once people get here and they see what we’re trying to do, then I think the realisation will be as to how good is is.
Q: There was a recent attempt by some local residents to block a race. A judge threw that out. Is that going to be the end of the matter? And what has been done to address the concerns of those locals?
RC: We’ve included local citizens throughout the whole process. You can’t please everybody, that doesn’t matter where you are. But I think we’re in a good place. We have a very good relationship with the community. We integrate the community in everything we do here and we will continue to do that. That’s very important to us.
Again, the young people in particular are very important, that we create opportunities where young people in this area who can develop and can also avail of motorsport opportunities, football opportunities, everything.
Mr. Ross and Tom has been doing that for years and years and we think we’re in a good place. And I think after this weekend everybody will realise the contribution that this Miami Grand Prix is making for Miami Gardens in the sense of the integration of the community.
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