The Greatest Show on Earth

There is currently no sport in the world that comes close to the figures of Formula 1. Even moneymakers such as American football, basketball and baseball watch in admiration as crowds on five continents and the international rich & famous are captivated by the racing spectacle. have been hit. With no fewer than 24 performances on offer this year. From Monaco to Las Vegas and from Spa to Zandvoort. Jaap de Groot has been moving through this gathering of top drivers and celebrities for years and makes up the standings for The Greatest Show on Earth.
Getty Images | Red Bull Content Pool

Text: Jaap de Groot

Image: Getty Images | Red Bull Content Pool

It doesn't get any bigger than this. But not really... Every time you think the limit has been reached for Formula 1, it is crossed again. Even during the last winter break, one partner after another was signed and circuits and global metropolises often signed ten-year contracts. In the meantime, annual turnover has increased again by 25 percent from 2,6 billion dollars in 2022 to 3,2 billion in 2023. Take Ferrari, still the red crown jewel of the fastest sport on earth. The Italian parent company of Formula 1's prima donna recorded a net profit of more than 1 billion euros for the first time in history. Mainly due to the sales of the more expensive Purosangue, 296 GTB and SF90 models. On a turnover of 6 billion euros, net profit rose by 34 percent to over 1,2 billion euros. Despite significant price increases, 2023 sports cars were sold worldwide in 13.663, 442 more than a year earlier.

During the Make Your Mark Liverty Beveal in Las Vegas, prior to the grand prix, fans can admire the Red Bull racing car


It is no coincidence that the largest increase was seen in North America, where Formula 1 has experienced spectacular growth in recent years. An important impetus came from the Netflix series Drive to Survive, an in-house production of Formula 1 owner Formula One Management (FOM), affiliated with Rupert Murdoch's Liberty Media. This was a complete bull's-eye for American youth. It is not entirely coincidental that the contract with the famous film group Walt Disney Company has now also been extended, in order to be able to reach the American market even more effectively via English and Spanish-language channels. Furthermore, the movie Ferrari, about the life of founder Enzo Ferrari, starring Penelope Cruz and Adam Driver, an international box office hit. With spectacular consequences for the stock market value of the group based in the village of Maranello. The Ferrari share even scored the highest price since it was listed on the stock exchange.The 351 euros per share increased the total market value of the car giant to 68 billion euros. An increase that was not only initiated by the impressive annual figures: it cannot be seen separately from the transfer of seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton from Mercedes to Ferrari as of 2025. Which makes it clear that within the largest show on earth, image is now more decisive than performance, because Ferrari has not had that in Formula 1 for years. It further emphasizes the process that takes place on the circuits. The majority of the millions of visitors to the 24 Grands Prix do not come to enjoy the sport, but to experience the event. A development in which the Circuit Zandvoort, which returned to Formula 2021 in 1, has played a key role by transforming the three racing days into one big party spectacle. Complete with a fair, artists and crowds partying 24/7. Or as Mercedes CEO Toto Wolff put it after the first version in 2021: “Zandvoort has taken the grand prix to the next level with this unique approach.”

Max Verstappen makes donuts at the Yas Marina Circuit after winning the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix in 2023

Heavy beats

The appeal of Formula 1 has now reached unprecedented proportions. Some special experiences of this writer are an indication of how the sky the limit has become. Like the moment I unsuspectingly shuffled through the paddock in Bahrain and heard guitar sounds with a striking resemblance to those of Carlos Santana. It wouldn't be true, would it? So yes! In the middle of the desert, with the setting sun in the background, my great guitar hero stood within arm's reach on stage in front of only a few hundred spectators. Oye como va? Well, excellent! The minimum number of listeners apparently made no difference: a big name could be presented again and it was mainly for that effect. Or the time our own DJ Afrojack had to liven up a grand prix with Christina Aguilera. Not in Monaco or Las Vegas, but on the banks of the Caspian Sea in the Azerbaijani capital Baku. Also a place where, thanks to oil revenues, they do not look at a billion more or less. Furthermore, the performance of tenor Plácido Domingo on the Mexico City circuit is still firmly in my memory, I passed in the paddock of the Texan grand prix film star Keanu Reeves, director Oliver Stone, former president Bill Clinton (“Hi, where are you from? Holland? I love your apple pie!”) and I was suddenly surrounded by the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders. Not for a moment did I consider calling for help. This season, the Texan music city of Austin has again managed to capture the most impressive cast outside the track. For a three-day passe partout (cheapest set costs $300) you not only get to see fast cars every day, but you can also go to The Killers for free on Friday, to Queen on Saturday (with Freddy Mercury replacement Adam Lambert) and On Sunday our own Tiësto will provide the grand dessert after the grand prix. Just as Dutch deejays are among the regular faces of Formula 1. What to think of Armin van Buuren in Shanghai, who warmed up the Red Bull Racing mechanics with heavy beats in Max Verstappen's garage prior to the Chinese Grand Prix... Just as he did in front of almost 200.000 spectators in Mexico City. Not only the place where Verstappen has won five of the last six Grands Prix, in his slipstream Dutch dance icons such as Hardwell, Martin Garrix, Tiësto and Armin van Buuren were always allowed to stir things up.

The Zandvoort Grand Prix is ​​one big party spectacle


No wonder that the international business community is also attracted by this powerful lure. The counter now stands at around four hundred companies that are directly linked to Formula 1. Once these were mainly partners affiliated with the automotive industry, now even the chic ones have Financial Times reported to the counter and is now affiliated with Aston Martin. Formula 1 is even approaching the untouchable market leadership of the NFL, the American football competition sprinkled with gold, glitter and Taylor Swift. The determined value of the 32 participating teams is 143 billion dollars; an average of 5,2 billion per organization. Formula 1 does not yet come close to that (21 billion dollars, average 1,9 billion per team), but in terms of marketing value of drivers and followers on social media, Verstappen & co are close to Patrick Mahomes and his friends. The Dutchman's income is almost equal to that of the quarterback of Super Bowl winner Kansas City Chiefs: 70 million dollars per year.The same applies to the driver and quarterback with the highest market value: Lewis Hamilton and the now retired Tom Brady. Both are also known as very successful entrepreneurs. The British driver collects substantially more than his estimated Formula 65 revenue of around 1 million dollars through his clothing line, which is part of Tommy Hilfiger, vegetarian burger chain and food delivery app. As a result, Lewis Hamilton's commercial market value is equal to that of Tom Brady: $300 million. The same applies to social media and paying spectators. The NFL averaged 70.000 fans per game last season, while Formula 1 came pretty close to that. In fact, on the Sunday of the race, extremely higher numbers were recorded at Silverstone (140.000), Austin (140.000) and Mexico City (200.000). And because Formula 1 has a considerably younger and more diverse fan base than the NFL, it does not appear that this hype will subside in the short term.

Armin van Buuren in the Red Bull garage; Viva Las Vegas! Max Verstappen steals the show in a glittering Elvis racing suit; Red Bull party during qualifying for the Monaco Grand Prix

Viva Las Vegas

A development that someone like Max Verstappen still has to get used to. The best and fastest driver in the world has pure sport deeply ingrained in his DNA; he is not particularly interested in the increasing bells and whistles on and around the circuit. That escalated a few months ago in Las Vegas, the epicenter of all the glitter and gold. With his unvarnished criticism, the 26-year-old driver ("This is only one percent about racing. I feel like a clown") overlooked the importance of his industry and did not sufficiently recognize that his mega salary is mainly the result of the increasing market value of Formula 1. By thumbing its nose at the shiny side issues as a figurehead, it was seen as a tooth through the lip of Formula One Management and the team owners. Precisely in the middle of the process in which they try to take maximum advantage of the momentum.It was significant that Max was also sternly lectured by the management of his own Red Bull. It became clear 24 hours later that this message had clearly been received. In a racing suit that was a copy of the glittering one piece set by Elvis Presley, he still stole the show on the Strip. When Max also clenched his fist on stage and the title of the Elvis hit Viva Las Vegas cried out, everything was forgotten and forgiven again. Which makes it clear that, even if you have three world titles under your belt, everyone is subordinate to The Greatest Show on Earth.

Tiesto and his wife Annika Backes-Verwest pose in front of Max's RB19 during the Grand Prix of Las Vegas

Actor and former American football player Terry Crews and Kylie Minogue in the Red Bull garage ahead of the 2023 Las Vegas Grand Prix

MASTERS Magazine

This article is from MASTERS Magazine. How passion, craftsmanship and enthusiasm can excite the senses. That is the common thread of the spring edition of MASTERS, which takes you through many catering entrepreneurs: from the big winner of the recent Michelin ceremony, Jurgen van der Zalm van Vinkeles, to 'Horecatering Entrepreneur of the Year' Herman Hell. Speaking of Michelin: what is actually the impact of the green star, which saw the light of day in 2021? MASTERS posed that question to six prominent chefs. During a business lunch in Bridges restaurant, Dennis Albada Jelgersma explains how he farms as a winegrower and celebrates life: “Not with a block of cheese and a lukewarm pipe.” The appetizing creations in Culinaire Couture prove that a good outfit is like a feast for the eyes. David Yarrow's fascinating photography is also a feast for the eyes. We get into the Lucid Air Touring to experience whether the electric car can have the same effect on the senses as the combustion engine. And we enter heaven for audiophiles: Bang & Olufsen Brussee. In short: plenty of stimuli for the reading buds. A song to enjoy!

Order MASTERS Magazine #57 here