South Beach home to F1 fan festival, concerts for Grand Prix

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 displays, simulation racing and an appearance by a former Miami Heat star.

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

The Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team’s 2021 W12 car, a 9-foot-long vehicle, is on display in the sands of South Beach to celebrate the Formula 1 race 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 thumped and fans wearing hats from Ferrari, Red Bull Racing, McLaren and Aston Martin F1 teams wandered the beach. Former Miami Heat star Glen Rice and mascot Burnie greeted fans after Heat dancers performed on stage. A slam dunk contest took place on a basketball court set up for the event.

The event is free from 12 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. and ticketed concerts will be held from 6 p.m. to 11 p.m. featuring artists that include Jamie XX, Disclosure and Kaytranada. Food and drinks are also available.

The city of Miami Beach sponsored the event with about $375,000 in waived city services and permitting costs.

SEE PHOTOS: Miami Grand Prix Day 1

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

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

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

Artist Mad Dog Jones stands next to the replica Mercedes Formula 1 car he painted during the Day One of the FTX Off the Grid Fan Fest on the sands of South Beach to celebrate the F1 race weekend 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 surged in the last two years with the popularity of Netflix’s documentary series “Drive to Survive.”

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

In town with his dad for the race, 15-year-old Virginia resident Carter Nabors said it was his first time in Miami and the buzz surrounding the race was electric. Drivers have filmed social media videos hyping up the race and designed special helmets for the occasion, featuring neon and pastel colors, palm trees and even a nod to the Miami Dolphins and the Jim Carey movie “Ace Ventura: Pet Detective,” which is set in Miami.

“It’s been incredible,” Nabors said. “It feels like this race is so special.”

An exhibit of Mercedes Benz cars are on display 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 got into F1 during the pandemic and drew him into the fandom. He bought three-day race passes for $750 each for Carter’s 16th birthday next week. They sold their Friday practice tickets and said they were going to enjoy some free events around Miami Beach, including pop-up shops on Lincoln Road, before heading to Hard Rock for qualifying Saturday and the race Sunday.

“He owes his parents a lot,” the elder Nabors said about his son, with a smile. “He’s going to be so nice to us.”

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

Profile Image of Martin Vassolo

Martin Vassolo covers the politics and government of Miami Beach for the Miami Herald. He began working for the Herald in January 2018 after attending the University of Florida, where he served as the editor-in-chief of The Independent Florida Alligator. Previously, he was a general assignment reporter on the Herald’s metro desk and a political reporting intern.

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