Game of Thrones actor and Formula 1 fanatic Liam Cunningham professed his admiration for America and the grand shows which the country delivers, but warns Formula 1 against straying too far into the “tinsel and fairy dust”.
After struggling for decades to truly make a mark in the United States, now Formula 1 has seen its popularity explode in the nation, a trend triggered by the success of Netflix’s hit docuseries Drive to Survive.
That led to a second United States-based race joining the fold in 2022 as the Miami Grand Prix made its debut, while for 2023 that increased to three as the Las Vegas Grand Prix joins Miami and the United States GP held at the Circuit of The Americas.
The first of those rounds has already been and gone with Formula 1 having made its second visit to the Miami International Autodrome, where the pre-race activities sparked debate as each driver was given their own grid entrance, complete with pyro, cheerleaders, an orchestra and rapper LL Cool J on the mic.
The response from the drivers indicated it was far from a rousing success.
And while Cunningham spoke very highly of the nation and “extraordinary” events like the Super Bowl, he urged that there is a “balance” which Formula 1 must strike in order to maintain its “dignity”.
Asked on the Formula For Success podcast for his take on F1’s growing American audience, Cunningham replied: “It’s huge, [but] you’ve got to be really careful about it.
“And I suppose we got an indication of what it would be at Miami when the drivers were coming out, and they had the cheerleaders and all that sort of stuff.
“Now Listen, Americans are fantastic, the Tinseltown thing, and the Super Bowl is extraordinary, you’ve just got to be very careful about the dignity of the sport. I mean, it’s not NASCAR, it’s not Indy, it’s Formula 1, it’s the pinnacle.
“And I don’t think Formula 1 has to bow to what the American media people say is required, you can still do things that are elegant and you don’t need to bow.
“I love the optimism and the positivity of the Americans and they love putting on a show and they want to make it bigger. And I know the whole Drive to Survive thing, I just worked for a year with Netflix, and it’s wonderful to get that support now and when America was really difficult to break, nobody thought a documentary on a stream would be the thing to do it.
“And now there’s three races in the States this year and it’s wonderful, but you’ve just got to be a bit too careful that you’re not putting too much tinsel and fairy dust all over it. I don’t think it requires it. The balance between entertainment and sport is very difficult.”
There is quite a wait until Formula 1 next visits America with the United States Grand Prix set to take place on October 22.
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