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  • Reese Mautone

Miami Grand Prix Preview

Updated: May 30, 2022

A new challenge awaits the Formula 1 grid at lights out this Sunday for the inaugural Miami Grand Prix in Florida, USA.

The Miami GP will take place at the newly constructed Miami International Autodrome, a temporary circuit within the iconic Hard Rock Stadium complex, a place that is no stranger to holding large scale events having previously hosted the Super Bowl six times, World Baseball Series Championships, concerts and more.

Holding similar characteristics to Albert Park and Paul Ricard, the Miami International Autodrome circuit consists of 19 corners, 3 straights, 3 DRS zones and a street circuit-like vibe.

The Grand Prix will have a race distance of 308.326km, with the circuit’s length being 5.412km. Across the 57 laps, drivers are expected to reach top speeds of around 320km/h, with main overtaking opportunities located at Turn 11, a left-hander at the end of the first DRS zone, and the Turn 17 hairpin which follows the supposedly second-fastest straight on the calendar. This straight is 1.2km long and is estimated to be taken at the maximum top speed of around 320km/h.

Deceptively, elevation changes will be noticeable in Miami between Turns 13 and 16, primarily the Turn 14-15 chicane. This, in addition to the combination of both high-speed corners at Turns 4-8 and low-speed corners at Turns 14-16 could have an impact on the setup and downforce dependency of the cars this weekend.

The newly added Miami GP is the first of two races located in the United States this season, and is the 11th location in the United States that F1 has raced in throughout the sport’s history. The last time Florida featured on the F1 calendar was in 1959.

Heightened popularity in America has seen yet another U.S. race added to the 2023 calendar. The Las Vegas Grand Prix is scheduled to take place as a night race down the iconic Las Vegas Boulevard in November next year, exciting news for fans and drivers alike.

2021 saw the ‘Netflix Effect’ come to life at the United States GP in Austin, Texas as a record-breaking 400,000 plus fans attended the event. However, the Australian Grand Prix in March broke this record again, with an attendance of 419,114 spectators across the 4-day event.

Miami’s crowds will struggle to break this number due to its seating capacity, as well as high-priced tickets. The event will “start conservatively with 80,000 visitors” according to Miami Grand Prix Managing Partner, Tom Garfinkel.

As a result of F1’s American success, Formula 1 signed a 10-year contract to race in Miami until 2032, extending Formula 1’s presence in the U.S., a key growth market for the sport.

"We always said the U.S. is a very important area in which we need to develop our business,” the CEO of Formula 1 Stefano Domenicali said.

“There is a lot of opportunity and having two U.S. races in the U.S. means we have taken the right direction for our strategy for the future. We will keep them separate in order to give the right space to both,” he said.

“We are looking ahead, we are putting the foundations for an incredible future for Formula One. This is a milestone that we all wanted.”

According to Miami Grand Prix Managing Partner Tom Garfinkel, the construction of the Miami International Autodrome began in May 2021, funded by real estate mogul and owner of the Miami Dolphins NFL team, Stephen Ross.

The layout itself was reimagined 36-times before the final circuit was decided upon. Originally, layouts were first planned for a race in Downtown Miami in 2017, however, F1 and Apex Circuit Design switched to a new location two years later, now being held at the Hard Rock Stadium complex in the Miami Gardens.

Within the confines of the circuit, a temporary 2,230 square-metre beach and harbour set-up are featured, creating a unique experience for fans to watch the race from sandy seats or from boats situated on a blue, painted surface as opposed to the usual concept of water.

However, despite a predominantly positive reception towards the event, some local Miami Gardens residents posed fierce opposition to the Grand Prix. In an argument overruled by a court in late April, local residents were trying to halt the Miami GP due to damage to hearing from the noise.

Alan Fine, the judge called upon to grant a special hearing to block the race from happening, found that “any potential harm is avoidable” in terms of hearing damage to the residents.

“We had time to prepare them for it. And there is a motorsport culture in this city. We’ve had IndyCar races in Miami before. The route from Homestead is not far away,” Garfinkel said of the Miami Gardens residents’ dispute. The last major street race held in Miami was the Formula E Miami ePrix in 2015.

Staying committed to the ‘We Race As One’ notion, the Miami GP will first and foremost bring in business, with 4,000 jobs having been created for the local, predominantly African-American, community, and an estimated 35,000 local hotel bookings contributing to the projected $400 million in positive economic impact to the city as a direct result of the race weekend.

“People understand what it means for everyone in this area to have a world event like a Grand Prix in Miami, economically and in terms of attention value,” said Garfinkel.

So, what can we expect on track this weekend?

On paper, the Miami International Autodrome is similar to races we’ve already seen this year, so you could expect a similar setup, however, this circuit has elements which call for opposing ends of the spectrum.

Given Miami’s street circuit-like nature and challenging corners, a high downforce setup would be best utilised. Yet, when you consider the long straights and high-speed corners which lean towards a low downforce setup, according to Ferrari Team Principal Mattia Binotto, it's clear teams will need to make a compromise for the Miami GP.

There is an added value of risk during this weekend’s sessions with the absence of gravel traps, leaving a far slimmer margin for error with greater consequences. Pirelli has also allocated the C2, C3 and C4 tyre compounds for their first outing in Miami.

This weekend edges slightly in favour of Red Bull. The three straights play heavily into Red Bull’s hands, whose straight-line speed has been a key factor in their ability to remain within 11 points of their Championship rivals, Ferrari.

In combination with making further upgrades to their 2022 challenger yet again, and Ferrari withholding until Barcelona to make their major upgrades, Red Bull look set to hold a healthy advantage over the Italian team this weekend.

Despite no major upgrades coming Ferrari’s way in Miami, work towards eliminating their porpoising issues will be put in place according to Binnotto. Rumours of Ferrari unveiling a new rear wing design have been flying around the paddock, but have not been confirmed by a member of Ferrari.

“We will work on preventing bouncing and on adapting our aerodynamics package for this track, which requires less downforce. The larger upgrade will follow a little later,” the Ferrari Team Principal said.

Currently, Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc leads the Drivers’ Championship over Red Bull’s Max Verstappen by 27 points, a number that was minimised after an ambitious mistake made by Leclerc in Imola. Following the WDC top two drivers are Red Bull’s Sergio Perez (54 pts), Mercedes’ George Russell (49 pts) and Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz (38 pts).

As for the Constructors’ Championship, the front runners’ gap has only been shrinking in the past few rounds, now sitting at a slim 11 point margin. This is partly due to the resolution of Red Bull’s reliability issues, plus costly mistakes made by both Ferrari drivers.

Red Bull Chief Technical Officer Adrian Newey said the Championship fight is “finally balanced,” a blessing or curse depending on which garage you’re standing in.

Drivers and teams have shared their excitement about the inaugural Miami Grand Prix. In an interview with GQ Magazine, Mclaren’s Lando Norris made it clear that Miami is one race he's been looking forward to.

“I think it's just going to be crazy. Another race in America is always exciting, like COTA was an amazing one last year. To do another one, especially in Miami… It’s just a cool place and cool circuit,” the young Englishman said. Norris took home P3 in Imola, and has his sights set on repeating his luck this weekend.

Likening Miami’s attraction to “the vibe of Monaco,” Norris acknowledged that it “doesn’t have the historic part of Monaco,” but still feels “there will be a similar essence.”

The extra element of “celebrities wanting to be there and having this massive audience and fan base there as well,” is an element that sets Miami aside from a regular race, the Mclaren driver said.

“I think it's going to be a pretty awesome one. And it's a new circuit as well, so that's always a cool thing to look forward to.”

The inaugural Miami Grand Prix will take place this Sunday, May 8.


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