Arie Luyendyk (69) follows the Miami Grand Prix on Sunday at home in front of the television in Arizona, United States. The former driver, who grew up in IndyCar, is hoping for a victory for Max Verstappen (25) in the Formula 1 race on the street circuit around Hard Rock Stadium. “Of course I’ll watch,” late The Flying Dutchman know from the United States. “I’m a big fan of Max.”
Luyendyk and Verstappen are two big names in the Dutch racing world. Both famous in the United States, but in two different branches of motorsport. Luyendyk won the 1990 and 1997 Indy 500 at the famed Indianapolis Speedway. The famous race is part of the IndyCar series, which takes place on circuits, street races and oval is trained. Verstappen managed to win a US Grand Prix three times at the F1 circuits of Austin (2021 and 2022) and Miami (2022). This Sunday, Verstappen will start the world championship classification at the 5.4 kilometer circuit in Miami Gardens.
The more different the races, the more different the crowd. The Indy 500 – a 200 lap race held annually at the end of May on the weekend of Remembrance Day over a distance of 500 miles (805 kilometres) – is experienced by spectators as a festival where entertainment and sports days go hand in hand. Fans sleep in RVs, barbecue in the parking lot, drink gallons of beer and view the Indy 500 as an annual outing. The cheapest tickets for the race are standing room at 40 euros. “The paddock is open and fans can see the mechanics at work for themselves. The atmosphere is very relaxed,” says Luyendyk. “The crowd is an integral part of IndyCar.”
The contrast with the atmosphere of Formula 1 in Miami is great. No picnic from the car here. Those who want to access the Miami Gardens circuit on Sunday must pay 700 euros for a grandstand ticket. Formula 1 in the United States, even more than in Europe or Asia, is in practice mainly aimed at the jet set. “Audience in the stands with milkshakes and expensive sunglasses. It’s a completely different experience from the typical American Nascar or IndyCar,” says Dutchman Robin Bilkert. As the manager of GP Incentives and Grand Prix Ticketshop, he organizes trips of all shapes and sizes to the various Grand Prix. “A ticket to the Miami paddock costs 10,000 euros. Then there are hotel and food costs. It is therefore full of all kinds of stars who want to see and be seen.
Although Formula 1 is rapidly gaining popularity in the United States, the three races this season are still in the shadow of IndyCar. There is also only one American F1 driver, Logan Sargeant (Williams). The Indy 500 was first held in 1911 and, along with the Monaco Grand Prix and the 24 Hours of Le Mans, is one of the Motorsport Triple Crown. Luyendyk became a national hero in the United States thanks to his two victories in Indianapolis and therefore has a completely different status from that of Verstappen, who triumphed in Monaco in 2021. Bilkert: “Luyendyk has become Americanized and has been adopted by the people. Verstappen is much less popular in the United States as an outsider. You’ll see in Miami, for example, that many Latinos will cheer on Mexican teammate Sergio Pérez.
Talent and audacity
Luyendyk can explain the difference between racing in Europe and the United States like no one else. Born as Arie Luyendijk in Sommelsdijk in South Holland, he grew up in the Dutch racing world with his father. As the so-called Formula Super Vee champion, he entered Formula 3 with Jan Lammers and Huub Rothengatter for Racing Team Holland in 1978. Luyendyk lacked the financial resources to really compete. Lammers and Rothengatter would later drive in Formula 1, Luyendyk looking for his chance in the United States.
There he found himself in a world where talent and daring played a more important role than a sponsor with a big bag of money. “I had a new chance in America,” says Luyendyk. “If you could show that you could drive, then you had more options than in Europe. After one race I was already offered a place, without having to pay any money for it. That’s how that it all started for me in the 80s.”
According to Luyendyk, the race in the United States itself is not much different from Europe, but the competition and opposition in the United States is fiercer and bigger. Moreover, the physical effort of an IndyCar race is enormous. Luyendyk has become a racing legend on the world famous oval, which consisted of 3.2 million cobblestones a hundred years ago. Not only by his victories, but also by setting a speed record of 382 kilometers per hour during qualifying in 1996. This record still stands and is clearer than the highest top speed ever measured in a Formula 1 race. 1. It’s 372.5 kilometers per hour in the name of Finnish pilot Valtteri Bottas, flown in 2016 at the Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez in Mexico City.
IndyCar and Formula 1 also have common ground. In fact, Indianapolis is not only a serious part of IndyCar, but also belongs to the history of Formula 1. In 1950, the oval track was one of the seven circuits in the first season of Formula 1. Although the race was a stand-alone race at the time and almost only Americans participated. Winner Johnnie Parsons played no significant role on the six European circuits. Among the 34 Formula 1 world champions, only two Americans manage to rank: Phil Hill in 1961 and Mario Andretti in 1978.
Indianapolis made a return to Formula 1 in the year 2000. With the construction of a special circuit in the inner area of the oval the organization was able to unite the two racing cultures during the United States Grand Prix. However, it was not an unqualified success. The low point was 2005, when Michelin tires proved so unsuitable that only six cars showed up at the start. In 2007, Indianapolis disappeared from the Formula 1 calendar. The Indy 500 has always been a great success and will be held for the 107th time later this month. With Luyendyk as race marshal along the track.
Indianapolis’ failure in Formula 1 symbolizes America’s love-hate relationship with the top class of motorsport. In the search for the ideal location for American Formula 1, things have gone wrong more often over the past seven decades. Nevertheless, the American circuit of Watkins Glen was a success for a long time between 1961 and 1980. A fast and difficult circuit in upstate New York. But also dangerous. After several fatal accidents, the race was cancelled. Las Vegas was on the calendar in 1981 and 1982 with a 75 lap race in the Caesars Palace parking lot. A kind of go-kart circuit, according to many drivers unworthy of Formula 1. The Phoenix circuit (where the grand prix was held in 1989, 1990 and 1991) had a different problem. There, the temperature rose so high that a large number of cars had to stop the battle because of the heat.
The negative sentiment has now turned. With Austin as the positive center. The Circuit of the Americas has enjoyed prized status within Formula 1 since 2012, but the track with its iconic watchtower has won the competition. Since Liberty Media took over Formula 1 in 2017, the specialist sport with a large British following has increasingly turned into a spectacle with global audiences. In this respect, the new street circuits in Miami and Las Vegas fit perfectly into the new concept.
The Miami circuit is smooth, but it’s also a compromise. Where in Baku, Monaco and Singapore the race takes place in the center, the circus of Formula 1 does not pass through the famous Ocean Drive in Miami Beach. The love for Formula 1 just isn’t big enough among locals to shut down the most beautiful part of town. Drivers circle the home of the Miami Dolphins in nineteen corners; the field normally used for American football is now the paddock.
The elite will enjoy the fifth race of the Formula 1 season with champagne and lobster in a special way. Luyendyk still prefers to stick with IndyCar. Where drivers and fans mingle over a beignet and a beer before and after the race.
A version of this article also appeared in the May 6, 2023, issue of the newspaper.
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