As we get closer to the Miami Grand Prix, there is a lot of excitement in the US about the second, as soon to be third, race in America. With the growth in interest for F1 in the US, the Miami GP is trying capitalize on the new fan base and young generation with amenities and entertainment. Time will tell how successful the event will be.
Despite that, there is no doubt F1’s growing popularity in America is partially driven by the Netflix Drive to Survive series. Drawing new fans into the sport has been its main goal and it’s worked a treat. But there is one thing to keep in mind, America already has an open-wheel racing series that has been around as long as the hills called Indycar.
Former F1 racer and current Indycar pilot Alexander Rossi, says that the new interest in F1 is a threat to Indycar.
“Sure, it is, especially when you look at U.S. market share. With three races, it’s something we need to be aware of, certainly continue our development and plan in terms of what we’re doing with the series, with the driver personalities, the teams, the representation we have out there. I think it’s certainly a moving target.”
There will be some collateral impact on Indycar as younger fans, and no offense, will see very little difference between the two series as far as cars go. What will be different is the teams and personalities they watched on Netflix versus the names they hear in Indycar. There won’t be that familiarity.
The natural question might be, would or does Indycar need a similar series like Drive to Survive (DTS) in order to raise its brand and appeal to young fans? Rossi said:
“you start to have a potential issue when you get into a scripted-type situation,” but otherwise, “I don’t see that there would be any negative to it.
“There’s so much that happens outside of just being a racecar on a racetrack on Sunday that people want to know. We have the ability to show that. I think IndyCar is more welcoming and the personalities are more open to kind of sharing their thoughts and feelings than maybe Formula 1. I think it could come off really, really well.
“I think we all have to remember we are an entertainment property ultimately. That is what we are. That’s why we always talk about ‘the show’. That’s why we’re always interested in improving that with car updates. It’s talks and conversations we always have. I think IndyCar is aware of that.
“The on-track product is not necessarily the issue, right? It’s creating that buzz around it that we lack, that we struggle in.”
One of the reasons it might be difficult to find the same kind of success with an Indycar version of DTS is that some of that property’s success was due to Covid 19 lockdown with people seeking entertainment while being stuck in their homes. With the lockdowns over, there is less time to binge watch random shows. To be honest, many people stumbled into DTS and F1 fandom because they were bored and binge watching just about anything to pass the time.
Here is the thing, Indycar is much more approachable with far better fan access to the series than F1. That’s always been its appeal. One of the surprising elements of F1 is how sequestered it is from the people who support it and make it all possible. Indycar isn’t like that. It welcomes its fans to the paddock and engages them on the weekend.
Indycar should be a natural for new race fans and while it doesn’t race in exotic locations around the world, it does need to consider a re-branding and appeal campaign based on awareness and differentiation.
I don’t think a DTS style series could hurt Indycar but it can’t be a “me too” product. It needs to have a different angle and different appeal. That’s much easier said than done.
I don’t think there is anything wrong in riding the F1 wave of general racing enthusiasm and to be controversial, I think Indycar might do well to have a presence at F1 races for brand awareness.
You could argue that they are direct competitors but they really aren’t. F1, next year, will have three races in the US. Indycar has 17! There is a much better chance for a new race fan to attend an Indycar event than an F1 race.
Indycar should know its DNA and its differences and it should help potential fans understand those nuances. Indycar’s bigger issue is driver personalities and media exposure. They should pick the most camera-friendly drivers and put a regular media blitz on American TV, news and entertainment shows.
The biggest race of the year for Indycar is coming up and they have done very little in terms of media engagement and marketing events around it. Look at the difference the Miami GP race is getting with exposure and brand presence versus Indycar’s signature race at Indy.
You could argue that F1 is doing too much creative crowing about itself with DTS and its scripted drama but in contrast Indycar is doing too little crowing and that’ s a good place to start.
One of my personality flaws is that I am terrible at shameless self promotion. Indycar should not be like me, it should be promoting itself and I would start by trying to get a presence at the F1 race with an Indycar experience in the vendor areas at US races. Why not? They aren’t really competitors but they are similar enough to appeal to F1’s new fans.