Motor racing - F1 to race at Austin's Circuit of the Americas until at least 2026

Formula One F1 - United States Grand Prix - Circuit of the Americas, Austin, Texas, U.S. - October 24, 2021 General view as military helicopters do a fly by before the start of the race REUTERS/Mike Blake

Feb 18 (Reuters) - The Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas, will stay on the Formula One calendar as host to the U.S. Grand Prix until at least 2026, after agreeing a five-year contract extension with the sport.

The venue, which returned to the calendar last season after a COVID-induced year off, saw the season's largest live attendance figures with 400,000 fans turning up over the course of the weekend.

"The United States Grand Prix has become one of the biggest and greatest events in the world," said the Austin circuit's founding partner Bobby Epstein in a statement.

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"We are extremely proud it has found a home in Texas -- at Circuit of The Americas -- and are grateful to the millions of fans who visited us over our first decade."

The Texan track, which keeps fans entertained with live performances by headline music acts, hosted Formula One's return to the United States in 2012 after a four-year absence.

Its contract extension, which includes the 2022 and 2026 seasons, comes at a time of surging popularity for the sport in the previously hard-to-crack but key market, driven largely by Netflix show 'Drive to Survive'.

Miami is set to debut on this season's calendar in May as part of a "milestone" 10-year-deal, giving the sport at least two races in the U.S. for the next five years.

American companies have also been stepping up their involvement in F1, whose commercial rights were bought by U.S.-based Liberty Media in 2017.

World champion Max Verstappen's Red Bull team recently announced a title sponsorship with software giant Oracle which, sources told Reuters was worth $300 million over five years.

Retail giant Walmart are also among the team's partners, while U.S.-headquartered multinational Cognizant are joint title sponsors of the Aston Martin team.

New York-based investment group MSP Sports Capital has a significant minority stake in McLaren while Dorilton Capital acquired Williams in 2020, making them the second U.S.-owned team after Haas.

"I want to thank the promoter for their ongoing dedication and enthusiasm for Formula One," said the sport's chief executive Stefano Domenicali.

"Together we are continuing to grow the excitement around our sport in the U.S. following the huge success of Netflix, the work of ESPN, and the incredible season we had in 2021."

The 2022 U.S. Grand Prix is scheduled for Oct. 23

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Reporting by Abhishek Takle; editing by Clare Fallon

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