The Formula One world is abuzz with the news that Hollywood actors Ryan Reynolds, Rob McElhenney and Michael B. Jordan will lead a staggering $218 million investment in the Alpine F1 team.
The play of the American actors surprises a bit. Alpine is a French team run by two French riders, Esteban Ocon and Pierre Gasly, and not a household name in the US But the decision to lend money and stars to the cause represents a vote of confidence among Hollywood luminaries. in the future of Formula One and the enormous potential of the American market.
It adds to the growing ties between Formula One and the US film industry, painting a brighter future for the sport through its penetration of American popular culture. Brad Pitt is starring in a Formula One-themed movie he’s making with Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton, a seven-time world champion. And Netflix’s «Drive to Survive,» which is fueling American interest in the sport, has been confirmed for a sixth season.
“What they are thinking is that it is mutually beneficial. When these different areas of media mirror each other, they will cross over and bring fans from one to another,” said Grant Wiedenfeld, associate professor of media and culture at Sam Houston State University in Texas and author of the 2022 book “Sports Movies.” of Hollywood and the American dream.
«Maybe there’s some aspect of the business, but I don’t think it’s [Reynolds’] accountant telling him to go invest in this. It’s this crazy idea of ’Wow, this is an interesting scene to be in,’” Wiedenfeld said. “There is a sense of adventure in it. … It’s unexpected, and that’s what makes it exciting for him and for the public to follow.”
With a record three American races on the calendar, plus an American team in Haas F1 and an American driver in Logan Sargeant, the seeds for future growth are planted. But the US viewership still lags behind that of NASCAR and other sports, such as professional soccer.
“We have seen a significant increase in social media with Formula One in the last year. It has a different appeal than NASCAR or IndyCar, the national leagues, probably because of its diversity, the diverse location of the drivers and the racing,» Wiedenfeld said. «I’d be surprised if he can move NASCAR out of its prime position, but I think he’ll definitely have a foothold.»
The Reynolds-led firm, Maximum Effort Investments, said it focuses on «unlocking value through the power of storytelling, and we believe there is tremendous untapped potential in Alpine Racing.»
Reynolds needed no introduction to Alpine’s stars.
“I must say that I am personally a fan of him and his work!” Gasly told reporters on Thursday before this weekend’s Austrian Grand Prix. “He is definitely one of my favorite actors. And yes, definitely very excited to meet him at some point in the season.»
Gasly said US investors and the companies they are taking on will help “expand, enhance” the Alpine team’s vision.
“They got very good experience in other sports as well (NFL, NHL, in American football, in many other disciplines) that we will try to use as much as we can to improve our strength,” he said.
ocon said motoring that the news was «fantastic» and that he and Reynolds have exchanged WhatsApp messages since the deal closed.
But if Reynolds and McElhenney believe they can bring championship glory to Alpine in the same way they did to Welsh minor league soccer club Wrexham, they have a long way to go.
Eight races later, Alpine sits a distant fifth in the 2023 manufacturers’ standings, taking a step back from last year when it finished fourth. It hasn’t won a championship since 2006, when it was known as Renault and secured back-to-back titles with Fernando Alonso at the helm. The sport’s new cost cap rules mean that the cash input cannot be used directly to upgrade the car.
Alpine was the subject of personal drama last year when Alonso abruptly left for Aston Martin and, shortly after, reserve driver Oscar Piastri turned the team down to McLaren. The behind-the-scenes details of the chaos were documented in «Drive to Survive.»
Alpine CEO Laurent Rossi said in a statement that the acquisition of a 24% stake in the team by US investors will «advance our marketing and media strategy» as well as help build new equipment and facilities for try to achieve their goal of «catching with the best teams».
For Hamilton, the movie with Pitt is not his first brush with Hollywood. He said vanity fair that Tom Cruise, whom he calls a friend, asked him to play a fighter pilot in «Top Gun: Maverick.» He was elated by the prospect, until he learned that filming would conflict with his career duties. He turned down Cruise in what he described as «the most disturbing call I think I’ve ever had» to make.
Hamilton still hasn’t let it go.
He said motoring news this month that he’s not sure he’ll be on screen in the new movie with Pitt and that he’s playing more of a supporting role in terms of «making sure it’s diverse, making sure the sport looks the way it’s supposed to look in the future in terms of being more accessible.”
“I will wait for my film debut later, because I will need to train and practice. I don’t want to suck at it,” she joked. He then added, “If ‘Top Gun 3’ ever happens, I’m going to be in it. And I’ll miss the race, just so you know.»