How F1 got its fake marina with fake water for the yachts of the Miami Grand Prix

F1 Miami water yachts
Eva Marie Uzcategui Trinkl/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images
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MIAMI GARDENS, Florida — F1 pictured a race in Miami and envisioned sun, sand, beaches, water and yachts.

So when the inaugural Miami Grand Prix landed at Hard Rock Stadium, far from the South Beach backdrop Formula One was seeking, the promoter said don’t worry.

F1 wants boats in a suburban neighborhood?

Done. They built a fake marina. With fake water, and all.

Well, it’s not really water at all in The Mia Marina, located between turns 4 and 6 at the purpose-built venue around the Miami Dolphins’ stadium. It can be found at the corner of NW 27th Ave. and NW 199th St. in Miami Gardens, a land-locked neighborhood some 15 miles away from F1’s initial desired downtown location.

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It isn’t exactly Monaco, but the man-made marina is a 25,000-square-foot dry dock designed to look like water. The 10 yachts are real – one appears to be booked by Michael Mak, the local founder of Celebrity Sports Entertainment; one waved the British flag; another is named “Wheels” – but the water is just plywood that’s been covered in a decal.

Tickets to the “Yacht Club” started at $9,500 up to $38,000 for a four-person pass.

It’s part of a five-star weekend experience created by Tom Garfinkel, vice chairman of the Miami Dolphins and Hard Rock Stadium and managing partner of the inaugural Miami Grand Prix. He’s worked with owner Stephen Ross to turn Hard Rock Stadium into a global sports and entertainment venue worthy of the top events in the world.

Hard Rock has hosted Super Bowls, college playoff games, a major tennis tournament, international soccer, concerts and the “Rolling Loud” musical festival. From Jay-Z and Beyonce, to Serena Williams and Neymar, the biggest names have all been to Hard Rock.

And on Saturday, former First Lady Michelle Obama watched an F1 practice session from the back of seven-time champion Lewis Hamilton’s pit.

“Steve Ross had a vision and for us to truly host the world’s great big events, and for that to be true, Formula One has got to be on that list,” Garfinkel told The Associated Press. “I don’t know there’s another stadium in the world that can say they’ve had Serena Williams, Roger Federer, Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen, Patrick Mahomes and U2 and Jay-Z and Beyonce and Messi and Neymar all at the same venue.”

The event is the hottest ticket in sports right now. George Lucas was a guest Saturday, and so was Greg Norman, Michael Strahan and Jeff Gordon. The English entertainer James Corden has been in the paddock three consecutive days, and Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen was hanging outside McLaren hospitality awaiting friend Daniel Ricciardo.

“The demands from sponsors and fans has been off the charts, unlike anything I’ve seen in my time in Formula One,” said McLaren head Zak Brown, an American. “I really like where we are in North America as far as Formula One’s popularity.”

Garfinkel was pursuing a race in Miami long before F1 built a fast and frenzied American following behind the Netflix docuseries “Drive To Survive.” The race wasn’t officially added to the 2022 calendar until last season – it gives the United States two races for the first time since 1984 – but the first meetings were in early 2018.

F1 had been purchased by Liberty Media, an American company, and Garfinkel figured the U.S. might have a shot at expansion. Miami is the 11th different venue to host an F1 race in the United States, but the series had struggled to gain traction in the country until late. The U.S. went four years without an F1 event before Circuit of America’s in Austin, Texas, brought the European series back to the States in 2012.

It took years for COTA to grow, and behind the “DTS” mania last year’s race in Austin drew more than 300,000 over three days. The U.S. will have three races in 2023 when the Las Vegas Strip is added to the F1 calendar.

The buzz is “mega,” said Mercedes head Toto Wolff.

“The city is hyped – is that how you say it?” Wolff said. “Formula One is all around, the amount of guest requests we have is amazing. I think we’ve finally landed in North America.”

Attendance was capped at 85,000 a day in an attempt to create a high-end experience void of long concession waits and freedom to roam the massive grounds. A gondola can take guests from the marina to The Beach Club, where Post Malone went head-to-head with F1 qualifying.

But there have been hiccups, from congested pedestrian bridges, long walks from point to point under the hot Florida sun, and traffic snarls surrounding the stadium.

Some teams were upset Friday over the guest experience inside the Paddock Club, which cost $11,000 for a three-day pass. Brown cautioned to wait until the checkered flag before grading Miami’s first race.

“Putting on a good first-year event is a challenge to get everything right, given the size and scale and newness to it,” Brown said. “But if you look at Austin, 10 years on, they had record attendance last year. Silverstone has been around for 50-plus years and is already a sellout. So, I think putting on a great event, and then having it be sustainable over decades, I don’t say it’s easy to do, but clearly it can be done.

“Let’s just get it right, put on a good show for the fans, and I think there’s a tremendous amount of runway here.”

Santino Ferrucci will drive No. 14 for AJ Foyt Racing full time in 2023 IndyCar season

Santino Ferrucci AJ Foyt
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Santino Ferrucci will return to full-time racing in the NTT IndyCar Series next season, joining AJ Foyt Racing.

Ferrucci had made eight IndyCar starts with three teams since his last full-time season in 2020 while also racing part time in the NASCAR Xfinity Series this year.

He will drive the storied No. 14 Dallara-Chevrolet for four-time Indy 500 winner A.J. Foyt’s team, which will field the car from its Waller, Texas headquarters.

“It’s incredibly exciting to be back in the INDYCAR Series full time,” Ferrucci said in a team release. “Being a part-time driver over the last two years has been hard for me, personally. I’m a race car driver, and I want to compete. Working with different teams has been exciting, and I’m proud that no matter which car I’ve raced, I’ve always shown speed and consistency. I couldn’t be more excited to join AJ Foyt Racing in the 14 Chevy. I can’t wait to make the best of it.”

Ferrucci, 24, had finished a career-best fourth in IndyCar four times, including the 104th Indy 500 in 2020. He was the 2019 Indy 500 rookie of the year with a sixth.

In nine Xfinity starts since 2021, Ferrucci has a career-best finish of 13th at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

“I am thrilled to welcome Santino to the team,” Larry Foyt said in a release. “He’s shown a knack for getting toward the front of the field, and I think he is a racer who moves forward on race day. A.J. sees the fire in him and has enjoyed their meetings together. I think Santino’s experience will help his rookie teammate as well, so he is a great addition to our roster.”

Ferrucci will be teamed at AJ Foyt Racing with Benjamin Pedersen, who finished fifth in the 2022 Indy Lights standings. The team has yet to specify the number for Pedersen’s entry, which will be fielded out of its Indianapolis race shop.

Foyt’s two full-time drivers last season were Dalton Kellett and Kyle Kirkwood, who is moving to Andretti Autosport.