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

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.”

Final 2023 Rolex 24 at Daytona results, stats


DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — The 2023 Rolex 24 at Daytona overall results were all streaks: two consecutive victories in the endurance classic for Meyer Shank Racing and three in a row for Acura.

And Helio Castroneves became the second driver to win three consecutive Rolex 24s and the first to win in three straight years (Peter Gregg won in 1973, ’75 and ’76; the race wasn’t held in ’74 because of a global oil crisis).

Starting from the pole position, Tom Blomqvist took the checkered flag in the No. 60 ARX-06 that led a race-high 365 of 783 laps with co-drivers Castroneves, Simon Pagenaud and Colin Braun.

RESULTS: Click here for the finishing order in the 61st Rolex 24 at Daytona l By class

Meyer Shank Racing now has two Rolex 24 victories and the 2022 championship since entering the premier prototype category of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship in 2021.

“I think what’s so special about this team is we are a small team compared to some of our opponents, but the atmosphere, the way we work, enables people to get the best out of themselves, and I think that’s why we’re such high achievers,” Blomqvist said. “I think there’s no egos. It’s a very open book, and that just enables each and every one of us to reach our potential. I think that’s why we’ve achieved so much success in really a short time at this level of competition.”

It’s the 16th IMSA victory for MSR.

The 61st running of the Rolex 24 at Daytona marked the debut of the Grand Touring Prototype category that brought hybrid engine technology to IMSA’s top level.

In other categories:

LMP2: James Allen passed Ben Hanley on the final lap and delivered a victory in the No. 55 ORECA by 0.016 seconds. It’s the second IMSA victory for Proton Competition, which last won at Sebring in 2012. It was the first Rolex 24 victory for Allen and co-drivers Gianmaria Bruni, Fred Poordad and Francesco Pizzi.

GTD Pro: Cooper MacNeil won in the last start of his IMSA career as the No. 79 Mercedes-AMG GT3 scored the first Rolex 24 at Daytona for WeatherTech Racing and the team’s fourth career victory.

MacNeil, who co-drove with Maro Engel, Jules Gounon and Daniel Juncadella, earned his 12th career victory and first at the Rolex 24.

“Winning by last IMSA race is tremendous,” MacNeil said.

GTD: The No. 27 Heart of Racing Team delivered the first Rolex 24 at Daytona for Aston Martin, which has been competing in endurance races at Daytona International Speedway since 1964. Drivers Marco Sorensen, Roman De Angelis, Darren Turner and Ian James (also the team principal) earned the victory in the English brand’s 13th attempt.

It’s also the first Rolex 24 at Daytona win for Heart of Racing, which has seven IMSA wins.

LMP3: Anthony Mantella, Wayne Boyd, Nico Varrone and Thomas Merrill drove the No. 17 AWA Duqueine D08 to victory by 12 laps for the team’s first class win in IMSA.


Fastest laps by driver

Fastest laps by driver after race (over the weekend)

Fastest laps by driver and class after race

Fastest lap sequence

Lap chart

Leader sequence

Race analysis by lap

Stint analysis

Time cards

Pit stop time cards

Best sector times

Race distance and speed average

Flag analysis

Weather report

NEXT: The 2023 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season will resume with the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring March 18 with coverage across NBC, USA and Peacock.