F1’s Miami GP leaned into the ‘joke’ with its fake marina — and created a symbol

MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. — Walk through Gate 9, over the Turn 6 bridge, across a short fan zone, and you will encounter a vibrant, eye-catching aqua blue. The surface is smooth and serene. Four yachts are docked on it, all surrounded by a lovely marina.

A picturesque environment. The kind that makes you feel like you could be in a tropical oceanside setting — except for one notable thing.

While the yachts are real, the water they “float” on is fake. Plywood is laid down and then covered in blue vinyl material, complete with waves and ripples designed into the covering to create the impression that the yachts are floating. Thus, the Miami Grand Prix appears to have a waterfront backdrop despite being located in Miami Gardens at the landlocked Hard Rock Stadium, also home to the NFL’s Miami Dolphins.

“We joke about this a lot internally,” said Tyler Epp, Miami Grand Prix’s president, according to Business Insider. “We never took ourselves too seriously with the marina. We’re not sitting on the Pacific Ocean or the Red Sea like the Formula 1 race in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. But Miami is so much about boats, beauty, culture — and credit to the team, who wanted to create an opportunity for people to experience that in a unique way.”

Dolphins owner Stephen Ross and club CEO Tom Garfinkel originally envisioned the Miami Grand Prix in downtown Miami. Had this plan come to fruition, the scenic waterfront setting indelibly linked to Miami would’ve occurred naturally. However, pushback from city officials scuttled those plans, necessitating a Plan B.

And just like that, the idea of racing along the ocean vanished with the shift to Hard Rock Stadium. After all, it’s hard to showcase the ocean when the Atlantic is several miles away.

“We have been very committed to, from the beginning, the brand of Miami,” Miami Grand Prix president Tyler Epp said in 2023. “We’re going to create Miami as the lens for which people are viewing the race.”

02 ColorBlock TwoPhotos Even 2

The Miami GP has gone all-in on creating a Miami marina atmosphere. (Jordan Bianchi/The Athletic)

Thus, the idea was born to create the kind of visual associated with South Florida by creating a replica marina, complete with a yacht club. In the third year of the Miami Grand Prix, the setting inside Turns 6, 7 and 8 has become an identifying symbol linked to the race.

Organizers admit the setting is tongue-in-cheek. Since being publicly unveiled in 2022, the marina has been subject to plenty of jokes and memes across social media. But they, and those partaking in the revelry in the marina, will tell you that’s OK. What has been created is a fun atmosphere that accomplishes the goal of giving the circuit as close to an authentic “Miami feel” as it can despite the obvious restrictions.

“This is as unique a viewing experience as you’re going to find,” said Harris Glaser, president of Midnight Express Powerboats, who’s purchased two of the four available slips. “And, honestly, when you’re up top and look down, it does look like water. The dock aesthetic helps, too.”

As Glaser speaks, qualifying for Saturday’s sprint race is underway, with cars buzzing through every few seconds. Not that too many folks seem to be paying close attention. The on-track action is secondary — at best.

Instead, most seem to enjoy the festivities on this sunshine-baked afternoon.

On the other side of the “water,” a DJ is playing a constant stream of hip hop from 50 Cent (“Just a Little Bit”) to Snoop Dogg (“Drop It Like It’s Hot”) to Lil Jon and The East Side Boyz (“Get Low”) among the rotation. The thumping music compels some attendees to dance on the boat decks. And if you desire an adult beverage, there is no shortage of options as each of the two Midnight Express yachts has assorted bottles of hard liquor and beer on ice.


Even if it’s a facsimile, the vibe still has a very Miami feel—exactly what race organizers pitched Hasler when they approached him about the opportunity three-plus years ago.

With Midnight Express based in Miami and its powerboats appealing to a similar high-dollar consumer that likely would find the Miami Grand Prix’s marina environment appealing, Hessler thought it made sense. He quickly signed on, becoming the first to do so. He politely declined what he paid to have two of his boats lifted into the marina to (essentially) serve as suites for him and his guests, but that he’s been doing this all three years indicates he’s found the investment worth it.

“It’s expensive,” Hessler said. “Very expensive.”

Although the “water” may be fake, these boats certainly are not. Both Midnight Express boats are working vessels, each featuring five 450-horsepower engines. On Tuesday, they will be transported from the circuit to a dock in the Atlantic, 10 miles away.

No, the Miami Grand Prix doesn’t abut an actual body of water as initially intended, but race organizers got creative to achieve their objective. And the finished product more than serves its purpose.

“It’s the Monaco experience in Miami,” Glaser said. “It’s pretty incredible to pull something like this off.”

Madeline Coleman contributed to this story.

Top photo: Jordan Bianchi/The Athletic

Source link

About The Author

Scroll to Top