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F1’s Growth in the United States is a ‘Perfect Storm,’ according to Alpine F1’s CEO

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Laurent Rossi, the CEO of Alpine F1 Racing, is the first to admit he didn’t watch the first few episodes of the Netflix series Drive to Survive about Formula One. “My buddies told me I should watch it,” Rossi said in a Zoom interview two days before this year’s F1 US Grand Prix in Austin, Texas. “‘No, sorry, I watch the races and that’s plenty,’ I explained.

F1’s Growth in the United States is a ‘Perfect Storm,’ according to Alpine F1’s CEO

But then I watched it and said, ‘Wow, guys, it was really well done.’ ‘This is hilarious!'” Rossi is relieved that American fans have taken to the show more enthusiastically than he did at first. Drive to Survive, according to Rossi, is part of a series of events that has helped Formula 1 expand its presence in the United States. With at least one contributing element to the development, not everyone is on board. Max Verstappen, the current F1 championship points leader, has spurned the cameras and the Netflix series’ producers, claiming that he isn’t a fan of “false” content or made-up rivalry. At the very least, Verstappen is contributing to the growth of Formula One in the United States, at least on the track. His victory at the US Grand Prix in Austin on Sunday came in front of a record-breaking weekend attendance of 400,000 spectators. “It was like a perfect storm, or a perfect alignment of stars,” Rossi added. “In reality, COVID was vital in our success. Because few sports could run with supporters in the stadiums or on the premises while COVID was in place, and (F1) could. You may still watch Formula One from the comfort of your own home. It’s almost as amazing as being able to watch it from the stands. This allowed us to continue when many other sports had ceased to exist. There was also the Netflix show, as well as other (series) on drivers from time to time.

The sport has altered, as people have discovered. There has to be some substance behind it. The game has evolved. It caters to the needs of society as a whole—greener, more sustainable, inclusive, and diversified.” Toto Wolff, the Mercedes team chief, admitted that he was mistaken about Drive to Survive and the influence it would have on new fans, especially in the United States, at least early on. “At the beginning of Netflix, we were hesitant because we wanted to focus on on-track performance, and I was wrong,” Wolff said in Austin. “It’s undeniably a huge success.” It was the number one documentary on Netflix for a long time all around the world, and it’s now part of Formula 1, and you can see how useful it is. Yes, we’re a sport, and we need to stick to the sport’s ideals and avoid gimmicks—but sport is also entertainment, and I believe these guys have given us a new perspective, a new depth. … we’ve gotten a lot of positive reaction from fans, especially in the United States.” McLaren Racing’s chief executive, Zak Brown, an American with a background in marketing, concurs. Brown stated, “I think Netflix has been amazing for Formula One.” “It has a far greater fan base than it has a younger fan base. It has had a significant impact in the United States. I can only judge the sport based on what I’ve seen, so I can’t really comment to what happens in other teams. I believe it is real with a dash of theatrical, which is exactly what television is. I believe it is accomplishing what we as a sport want it to accomplish, which is to attract a large number of new fans. I believe it has been a big success.

Rossi also praises Liberty Media, an American shareholder, for the sport’s expansion into new areas. He believes that Liberty’s approach to budget caps will help to level the playing field in the long run, while he acknowledges that the large teams in the sport are still far ahead of the midfield teams. Rossi also claimed that the new algorithms for assigning prise money to the teams (one of the sport’s best-kept secrets) have relieved some of the financial demands on the lesser teams, as money is distributed more fairly among the 10 teams than in previous years. “It’s not simply the spirit of racing; (Liberty) recognised the need to better commercialise the sport, including cost limiting.” Rossi remarked. “Everything is in perfect harmony. For the time being, we have the same goal in the United States that we do in the rest of Europe, which is to raise awareness—more than awareness—simply to make the brand known.” Even those focused on their own teams and tasks at the US Grand Prix were taken aback by the enormous crowds in Austin. The F1 performance in Austin was one that Rossi believes might be replicated in various stadiums across the United States. Miami will join the Formula One party next year. In addition, a group is in the early stages of attempting to bring a third event to Vegas.

“We all want to improve the sport’s entertainment value,” Rossi remarked. “Like actors in a show, we have people who are putting their best foot forwards to amuse more people.” It’s the ideal combination for a fantastic presentation and tremendous fun. More races, in my opinion, would be beneficial.” Which takes us back to Rossi and Netflix. “They’re bringing more people to Formula One, which means more sponsors and money,” Rossi explained. “They did that because they did something really well—they showed the human part of the sport—the midfield drives, the coaches, the tension.” This is really cool. This is the actual world. People may recognise each other. They understand that it isn’t always glitter and glam. “So, sure, I’m pumped. “The triumph and everything else,” Rossi remarked. “I’m not sure what will be said.” Is that object going to be spun? “However, I’ll be a bystander.” Hopefully, I won’t be too uncomfortable.”

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