The success of the Mexican Grand Prix is proof that Formula 1 races can still attract bumper audiences if fans are given exactly what they want, claims its race promoter. Jonathan Noble investigates.
Alejandro Soberon believes the sell-out success of F1's return to the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez, plus the high praise the event got from leading figures, shows what can be achieved when spectators are treated as the primary concern.
"I don't know if F1 has anything to learn from what we did, but what I know and what I know from 25 years of experience in live entertainment, is that the fans come first always," he told Motorsport.com.
"If you do something that the fans approve of and the fans enjoy then you are in for a long ride. If you displease fans, then you have a big problem. It is all about the fans…"
Mexico has bucked the trend of many other events in being able to sell out, and delivering a grand prix that already looks set to secure its place as a long-term fixture.
Soberon, who is also president of live events company CIE, said that the priority for his organisational team was to ensure that all spectators had a great time – and will want to return in 12 months' time.
"I think you go back to something when you have a good experience, and I think people had a terrific experience," he said. "The initial experience we have from every single sponsor, and ticket holder, was when are you going on sale for next year?
"It is a shame the event has finished. Now we have to look at how can we expand, and we are enthusiastic – because the event went far beyond the core fans.
"The event generated over two billion digital impressions on social networks. Everybody was sharing their experience, and commenting how they were thrilled to be there. People who were not there were jealous – so it has become an interesting combination."
Much of the success of the Mexican Grand Prix came from the 30,000-seat stadium section – where the atmosphere was unlike anything else seen in F1.
Soberon revealed that the genius idea of placing the podium right in front of the fans here, rather than over the pits, came up in a one-off conversation with Bernie Ecclestone earlier this year.
"We were talking about our original plans, to have the podium like it is at a regular track [over the pits]," he said. "But then with the success of the Paddock Club, we had to build an additional area and, while we were talking about that, the idea of moving the podium came up.
"I think Mr. Ecclestone has a great eye and he just got the idea immediately. It captured his imagination.
"Then when his television team came to Mexico and started studying it deeper, everyone concluded that it was the way to go. And it was unbelievable.
"Nico Rosberg [race winner] said that he was so touched by his experience on it, and he couldn't believe what happened with everyone chanting his name."
But while the stadium was the main focus, Soberon made clear that organisers pushed hard to guarantee fans in other parts of the track were also given something memorable.
"We focused a lot into the experience that we wanted to give people for buying a ticket," he said. "Whether you were in the main grandstand, or the stadium area, everybody would tell you that they had been in the best place.
"They were showing off to each other that their ticket was the best one – and this is a consequence of a balanced set-up."
Bigger and better
Soberon's biggest headache right now will be on how to make the Mexican Grand Prix even bigger in the future – with businessman Carlos Slim Domit having said that he expects the event to grow.
"Carlos Slim is right when he says it will get bigger and better," he said. "There are many things to learn and things we can improve next year.
"But I think we can create a better experience than this year. I am sure the fans will find more, not less, and let's not forget that we will have two Mexican drivers on the grid which is going to be fantastic.
"I think the level of excitement and happiness we saw was not artificial. You cannot produce artificial things in front of 300,000 people. It is what it is.
"So if they looked happy, it is because they were happy and they showed it. If they had been disappointed they would have shown it."