Rumored Formula One Street Race in Miami a Juicy Target for Republican Lawmakers

by | Oct 24, 2017

Florida loves racing, and Miami has always been a showcase for fast cars. Now, rumors are swirling that Miami Dolphins owner and real estate tycoon Stephen M. Ross wants to bring a big race to Miami. But before Formula One race organizers ink a deal with city and state officials to bring a race to Miami, organizers may want to make sure their vision fits with that of top Florida elected officials who have staked their reputations, and in some cases their political futures, on their opposition to corporate welfare.

Especially if the principle beneficiary is a billionaire like Ross.

There’s no better city in America for a Formula One race than Miami, but only if it’s done the right way – and that means not racing on the city’s streets and not making taxpayers foot the bill.  Florida is already home to two world-class international speedways: Daytona and Homestead International. But allies of Ross – Formula One organizers – are floating a plan to close taxpayer-funded streets so that their souped-up race cars can speed through Miami’s neighborhoods.

If the proposal requires any investment of state tax dollars – whether for event security, road maintenance, special safety precautions or construction requirements, Formula One organizers can expect scrutiny from the likes of House Speaker Richard Corcoran and a number of his Republican colleagues in the Florida Legislature. As a group, they have intentionally and aggressively sought out any targets of opportunity that fit within the definition of corporate welfare.

With Corcoran’s name in the mix as a potential gubernatorial candidate in 2018, he need to find ways to score points with red-meat conservatives. And for an ambitious pol like Corcoran, few high-profile sporting events make a more lucrative target than Formula One racing.

At its core, Formula One is a European sport, sanctioned by the French Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile, a government body that easily conjures a rivalry with the NASCAR racing series, which has become as American as apple pie. If you haven’t seen big, hairy, American winning machine “Ricky Bobby (played by Will Ferrell) in a bar fight against Sacha Baron Cohen’s French Formula One character “Jean Girard” in Talladega Nights, this scene in the movie perfectly encapsulates the way red-state voters view Formula One:

All of that to make the point that it would be relatively easy for Republicans to score political points with the conservative base in a head-to-head matchup with Formule Un (<-French!) organizers.
And that’s before we even get into the economic reasons why a Formula One street race in Miami is a bad idea. In 2015, Formula E (“E” for the electric version of Formula One) held a race down Biscayne Boulevard and it was enough of a failure that the race isn’t coming back to Miami any time soon. Formula E, compared to Formula One, is supposed to be the smaller-scale, “green” version of auto racing. But it still cost millions to convert downtown streets into a race track, the street closures were a headache for everyone, and it was even an environmental disaster for Miami, according to the Miami New Times:
In order to host Miami’s race earlier this year, organizers spent weeks — and millions of dollars — converting busy Biscayne Boulevard into a professional race track, complete with high perimeter walls. Downtown traffic was completely rerouted, and access to Bayfront Park and area museums was limited. The race itself was deemed a success, with high attendance and mostly favorable reviews, although the event drew the ire of many local environmentalists,  who called organizers hypocrites for promoting a green race while paving over part of Parcel B. 
To make things even less palatable for Miami, Formula One race tracks can stretch to nearly four miles, compared to Formula E’s one mile track. That’s four times the street closures, four times the businesses getting choked off from economic activity, four times the safety and security concerns. So while the preparations for Formula E’s big event two years earlier closed key parts of downtown Miami for several painful weeks, construction for any future Formula One event could easily require downtown Miami to sacrifice a month or more.
Unless Ross and his “Formule Un” organizers put forward a plan to address those concerns, it’s probably going to be a while before Miami has to worry about two months worth of street closures and the dangers of 233 mph race cars crashing through safety barriers on Biscayne Boulevard. If they don’t, guys like Richard Corcoran and the Florida Legislature will have no trouble turning the racing series into the Grand Prix of political scapegoating.

1 Comment

  1. Anonymous

    Race cars on race tracks. It makes sense.


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