South Beach hosts F1 Fan Festival and Grand Prix concerts

As the Miami Grand Prix kicked off Friday with practice sessions at Hard Rock Stadium, Formula 1 fans gathered on the sands of South Beach for a festival featuring car shows, sim racing and a appearance of a former Miami Heat star.

The FTX Off the Grid event, a city-sponsored three-day weekend festival between Sixth and Ninth Streets on the beach, kicked off Friday afternoon with a crowd of racing fans eager to celebrate the premiere Formula 1 racing in the Miami area. The event was co-hosted by the Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team, which showcased an authentic car the team raced last year with former driver Valtteri Bottas and a replica of the 2022 car designed by the artist Mad Dog Jones.

The Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team’s 2021 W12 car, a 9-foot-long vehicle, is displayed in the sands of South Beach to celebrate Formula One racing weekend ahead of Sunday’s Miami Grand Prix, Formula for day one of the FTX Off the Grid Fan Fest on Friday, May 6, 2022. Pedro Portal [email protected]

An arsenal of conventional Mercedes cars lined the sand as electronic beats pounded and fans wearing Ferrari, Red Bull Racing, McLaren and Aston Martin F1 team hats strolled the beach. Former Miami Heat star Glen Rice and mascot Burnie greeted fans after Heat dancers performed on stage. A slam dunk contest was held on a basketball court set up for the event.

The event is free from 12 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. and paid concerts will take place from 6 p.m. to 11 p.m. with artists which include Jamie XX, Disclosure and Kaytranada. Food and drinks are also available.

The City of Miami Beach sponsored the event with approximately $375,000 in canceled city services and permit fees.

SEE THE PHOTOS: Day 1 of the Miami Grand Prix

Elliot Taylor, a Mercedes F1 team mechanic, greeted fans and answered questions about the 2021 W12 car, a 9-foot-long speed machine. Bottas took third place behind the wheel last year, and the Mercedes team came first in the constructors’ championship.

“I think they’re quite surprised by the size of the car,” Taylor said.

The W12 will flex its throttle Saturday and Sunday as it rolls down Ocean Drive at 11 a.m.

Artist Mad Dog Jones stands next to the replica Mercedes Formula 1 car he painted during day one of the FTX Off the Grid Fan Fest on the sands of South Beach to celebrate the weekend of F1 race on Friday May 6, 2022. Pedro Portal [email protected]

Taylor said the fan reception to the Miami Grand Prix has been incredible, noting that American interest in the sport has grown over the past two years with the popularity of the Netflix documentary series “Drive to Survive”.

“It’s good to see so many people interested.”

In town with her father for the race, 15-year-old Virginia resident Carter Nabors said it was her first time in Miami and the buzz surrounding the race was electric. Drivers filmed social media videos racing and designed special helmets for the occasion, with neon and pastel colors, palm trees and even a nod to the Miami Dolphins and Jim Carey’s film “Ace Ventura: Pet Detective”, which takes place in Miami.

“It’s been amazing,” Nabors said. “I feel like this race is so special.”

A display of Mercedes Benz cars is displayed on the sands of South Beach ahead of the Miami Grand Prix for the FTX Off the Grid Fan Fest on Friday, May 6, 2022. Pedro Portal [email protected]

His father, Stuart Nabors, said Carter entered F1 during the pandemic and lured him into the fandom. He bought three-day passes for $750 each for Carter’s 16th birthday next week. They sold their Friday practice tickets and said they would enjoy free events around Miami Beach, including pop-up shops on Lincoln Road, before heading to Hard Rock for Saturday qualifying and the race Sunday.

“He owes his parents a lot,” the eldest Nabor said of his son, with a smile. “He’s going to be so nice to us.”

This story was originally published May 6, 2022 7:23 p.m.

Martin Vassolo covers Miami Beach politics and government for the Miami Herald. He started working for the Herald in January 2018 after attending the University of Florida, where he served as editor of The Independent Florida Alligator. Previously, he was a general duty reporter at the Herald’s subway counter and a political reporting intern.

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