Formula One Racing Might Come to Downtown Miami Next Year

Update 6 p.m.:
A city spokesperson confirms that Miami's City Commission will vote next week on a motion directing the city manager to negotiate a multi-year agreement with Formula One by July 1 with the Grand Prix scheduled to start in October 2019. "Formula One racing has global appeal and so does the City of Miami," says Eugene Ramirez, who adds that any agreement reached by the city manager would still face approval by the city commission.

Downtown Miami residents are known as tolerant people who understand that in exchange for world-class views and easy access to the city's vibrant heart, they must live with a certain level of noise and chaos. Just kidding! Actually, the wealthy owners of bayfront condos have spent the past several years fighting to shut down nightclubs and shutter festivals to bring quiet to their neighborhood.

So those folks are sure to be thrilled with the news that dozens of tire-squealing, engine-shredding racecars might be headed their way. According to a report from the Netherlands, Formula One is close to inking a deal to bring a race to the Magic City's streets as soon as next year.

Ziggo Sports F1, which covers the European-based racing league, reports that the sport plans to cancel its Azerbaijan Grand Prix, which has been locked in controversy over its host nation's abysmal human rights record and to replace it with a jaunt through downtown Miami.

Formula One hasn't been shy about its desire to make a push into Miami. Executives from the race organization met with Mayor Francis Suarez and other city officials in November to plot out a possible Grand Prix course looping around American Airlines Arena and down Biscayne Boulevard. (The city already put the kibosh on a proposal to funnel the racecars through the PortMiami Tunnel.)

But the Dutch report suggests Formula One — which was sold to new owners for $4.4 billion two years ago and aims to expand more into the United States — is already preparing to set up shop in South Florida next season. As the website Jalopnik notes, the company has already registered trademarks for a Grand Prix event set in the 305.

If the race does come downtown, it's hard to imagine it wouldn't bring serious controversy with it. When Miami hosted a downtown course for Formula E — the electric-car spinoff of Formula One — in 2015, critics slammed the race for choking traffic and trampling green space.

In the four years since, downtown's booming condo development has lured tens of thousands of new, mostly wealthy residents to the area. And they haven't been shy about using their new political clout to bring some peace and quiet to the area.

Nearby 24-hour nightclubs have been locked in legal battles over noise ordinances, and Heart was forced to shut down in March over the conflict. Residents pressured Rolling Loud, a hip-hop festival, to move from Bayfront Park and want Ultra Music Festival gone as well.

Separately, the conservative group Better Florida Alliance has already taken out ads in the Miami Herald rallying against the race coming to downtown:

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Tim Elfrink is a former investigative reporter and managing editor for Miami New Times. He has won the George Polk Award and was a finalist for the Goldsmith Prize for Investigative Reporting.
Contact: Tim Elfrink