It is hard to imagine that just over five years ago when Bernie Ecclestone's cast-iron rule of Formula 1 came to an end, the sport would now find itself in such a strong position.
It’s fair to say that Ecclestone transformed F1 during his 40-year reign, turning it into a global spectacle for which countries would pay top dollar. It’s also fair to claim that towards the end of his watch, F1 was growing stale, unable to tap into social media's wealth of opportunity, and seeing its audiences grow older and less interested in change. All the while, ever-rising race fees drove away venues that had long been a part of the sport.
Then along came the American-owned Liberty Media Corporation who sensed F1 was ripe for growth. It was a company willing to take the sport into the choppy waters that Ecclestone had either refused or failed to conquer. Liberty's labour was just beginning to bear fruit when the pandemic struck, crippling the progress that had already been made. However, F1's owners, in conjunction with the FIA, ploughed forth in the face of adversity, determined that the show must go on. The sport was keen to prove that there was hope, and that life could continue to a certain extent.
Two years on from that initial global lockdown, F1's decision to push on is reaping rich rewards, to such an extent it is unable to keep up with the clamour of potential new hosts hoping to bring a grand prix to their venue.
The Concorde Agreement, the contract that binds Liberty Media, the FIA and the 10 teams, has provision for 24 races in an F1 season. It seems inevitable that a new record will be set next year that will surpass the 23 scheduled for this season. A definitive replacement for the axed Russian Grand Prix will also be announced in due course.
Formula 1’s social media presence has skyrocketed, there are record attendances at numerous circuits, and its audience is no longer dominated by 40-plus white males. It’s now attracting a more youthful crowd, many of whom are female.
For F1 CEO Stefano Domenicali, these are heady days. The affable Italian building on the platform afforded him by predecessor Chase Carey, who put a team in place around him to take F1 to the next level.
"If we had the chance, it would be easy to fill the calendar with 30 grands prix," said Domenicali, in an interview with this writer.
"It's not that I want to do 30 grands prix, but it really shows the level of interest that Formula 1 has all around the world, which is great.
"We are putting all our energy into providing the right DNA, with all the teams totally aligned with our vision, and with all the relevant stakeholders who understand and embrace our strategy."
In a short space of time, F1 has conquered America, previously viewed as almost impossible. Ecclestone may have made the first step when Austin was added to the calendar, but could he possibly have envisaged 400,000 fans attending across a race weekend, as was the case with last year's event?
This weekend, the sport heads to the glamour of Miami, and next year F1 will finally make a triumphant return to the holy grail of Las Vegas, with plans in place for the circuit to include the world-renowned Strip – something Ecclestone long held ambitions to achieve.
"For those saying we are pushing too far by not being respectful to our European partners. that is wrong," assessed Domenicali.
"What we are doing is pushing the system to have a different approach, forcing them to think bigger because the level of events we are adding are becoming bigger. If anyone is unable to keep pace, that's not a problem for us that we are pushing to grow.
"We have a duty of care to ensure the system has a higher level of professionalism, of business, of interest, and this is the reason why I'm here, to make sure this is happening at every level.
"It is also the reason why we are very, very happy and proud to have taken another significant step by adding Las Vegas to the calendar, another sign of how F1 now is in very good shape as a sporting and business platform.
"It's another step in the right direction of, let's say, the think-big approach F1 should have for the future."
There remain frontiers left to conquer, with Africa primary amongst them. It is expected that at some point in the near future, F1 will announce a return to South Africa for 2024, and the Kyalami circuit, in particular, that would end a 31-year absence.
F1 is now in a position virtually no one could have foreseen in January 2017 when Ecclestone finally made way and Liberty Media stepped in. It has cracked the big time.
"I want to be humble but I would say these are the signs we are heading in the right direction," said Domenicali.
"If you look around, and I'm not being at all disrespectful, of course, in terms of the international sporting platform, but I don't see any other sport with such great momentum as we have at the moment.
"It is the reason why we should be very prudent in making sure everything we do is done in the best way we can because the level of attention upon us is massive and growing, which means we have to be spot on with everything we do."
Images courtesy of Motorsport Images and Formula 1.