Miami recreating 'Netflix effect' for F1 fans at Hard Rock Stadium

Hamilton working with F1 to bring race to South Africa (1:14)

Lewis Hamilton says his dream is to race in a South African GP and he's pushing for it as he did for the Miami Grand Prix in the past. (1:14)

MIAMI - The second act is always the hardest. The organisers of the Miami Grand Prix know that all too well ahead of this weekend's race on the circuit which snakes around the Hard Rock Stadium.

That venue is key to what the circuit is doing differently to evolve the event this year. After being squeezed into the area outside the northern part of the stadium last year, F1's paddock is now on the Dolphins home field. On Thursday, F1 drivers joined Dolphins stars such as Jaylen Phillips in an NFL-inspired combine event on the same field they will host rival teams come August this year.

"The vibe's pretty sick so far," McLaren's Lando Norris said later that day when asked what he made of the feel of it all.

Miami can confidently boast to have done something no other race on the calendar can offer to its fans - an opportunity to replicate what Netflix's cameras have so successfully done with 'Drive to Survive' by lifting the lid on a paddock which so often sits out of sight of most who watch or attend a race. Entry to the stadiums grandstands are included with a general admission ticket.

"It's a very unique thing we bring with this GP," Tyler Epp, the president of the Miami Grand Prix, told ESPN ahead of this week's showpiece race.

"We have a state of the art facility here and the desire was to use it as much as we could.

"That access is bringing the campus pass fan, the general admission fan, inside the world. It's trying to bring a bit of the Netflix effect into the event."

Work on converting the area on the pitch from a state-of-the-art facility hosting a tennis tournament to a tightly-packed F1 paddock started in just hours after Daniil Medvedev lifted Miami Open trophy on April 2., exactly a month before team personnel first arrived for the grand prix. A team of over 1,000 people worked on the changover and not even historic rainfall in the weeks between both events stopped the transformation.

The result is spectacular, with 12 units (10 for the teams, and one each for F1 and the FIA) spread around the field. Fans can watch the F1 paddock below and, crucially, can do so in the shade, something which many fans complained was hard to find in 2022 when the inside of the stadium was closed off to the general public and used solely for marketing purposes.

The move to make something unique is smart when you are part of F1's growing calendar. Austin's Circuit of the America's, which has hosted the U.S. Grand Prix since 2012, is a great example of this. Circuit boss Bobby Epstein told ESPN last year that the toughest events for any race venue were years two through four once the novelty of year one has worn off. COTA rode the wave through some difficult years in the years following its debut and has now established itself as one of the most popular events on the current schedule.

By using the Hard Rock Stadium, and opening the stands up to fans to come and watch their favourite drivers below, Miami's organisers have delivered something no other event currently offers.

"The idea is we're inviting them in to take a look at what's happening inside a weekend. Are we going to open up the roof and let us look in? Of course not, the teams are never going to allow that and we understand that. But we do think that just seeing the way everyone is moving around, even from a 300-level viewing point, there's value to that.

"One of the feedbacks we got was access to shade, access to water. What the stadium offers is shade, seating, concessions, bathrooms. So just on the surface that should be enough for us to engage with the stadium experience."

Of course, the most fans watching the Miami Grand Prix, the success of year two will be down to how good Sunday's main event is. Last year's race was low on drama, with the tarmac of the circuit falling apart as the weekend developed. The circuit has been relayed by designer Herman Tilke's company this year. The layout of the circuit remains unchanged this year despite it not producing a thrilling spectacle in 2022.

While the boom from Netflix remains very new for F1 and its hosts, something which has always been the case in F1 will dictate the quality of Sunday's event.

"In Bahrain, we've seen much more overtaking than the last three and there was no [tyre] deg in Australia, no deg in Jeddah, no deg in Baku," Ocon said. "Let's see if there are some here with the new tarmac. I think as soon as there's a bit more degradation, there's more fights and more fun on track."

The Baku race which preceded Miami's second event is a good example of how important a strong race can be. Baku has had a mix of thrilling races and uneventful spectacles, such as last week, but the presence of the former has given the race a feeling of must-see-TV.

If Miami struggles to create something similar on Sunday, more might be needed from the venue in year three to keep momentum moving in an upward trajectory.