Formula 1

Miami Grand Prix – a new approach to Formula 1

Miami Grand Prix – a new approach to Formula 1
Formula 1’s American owners have said they want every Grand Prix to be like the Super Bowl and it made sense therefore for the Miami Grand Prix to take place on a quasi-street circuit built around the hard rock stadium which has hosted America’s most famous football game on several occasions.

This race, which got off to a dull start before delivering some thrills in the final part when a Safety Car meant Max Verstappen’s win looked under threat for a few laps, signals what might be the start of a new era for Formula 1. This was the most hyped race in the history of the sport in a country that, although boasting a long history of Grand Prix racing, has really got obsessed with it over the past couple of years, thanks to the Neflix Drive to Survive series.

The iconic Hard Rock Stadium has been the venue for several major sporting events throughout the decades. It is the annual home of tennis’ Miami Open, the home stadium of the Miami Dolphins, and has twice held Baseball’s World Series. More prominently it has been a six-time host of the NFL Super Bowl, undoubtedly America’s showpiece sporting event. And it has not just been sporting events – some of music’s finest have graced the Hard Rock Stadium, including the Who, The Rolling Stones and U2.

The winners on the podium of the iconic Hard Rock Stadium of the 2022 Miami GP. Image courtesy Hoch Zwei

Florida also has a rich history in motorsport. Formula 1’s sole visit to the state came back in 1959, when Sebring was utilised for the United States Grand Prix, but that circuit has since established itself as one of sportscar’s finest, hosting the World Endurance Championship and the IMSA category. NASCAR’s showpiece event, the Daytona 500, is nestled in the Sunshine state, while the circuit’s ‘roval’ is the home of its 24-hour race that attracts drivers from all disciplines. IndyCar, meanwhile, opens its series annually with the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. Now it was Formula 1’s turn to establish itself in Florida.

Once the location of the Hard Rock Stadium was set in stone Formula 1’s technical team swiftly got to work, using simulation tools to help form a layout that would be challenging for drivers while similarly encouraging wheel-to-wheel racing. The result is the Miami International Autodrome, which wraps itself around the Hard Rock Stadium, and features 19 corners across its 3.36 miles. There is an abundance of corner types across its layout, including a high-speed section of esses, a tight and technical section, as well as three lengthy full-throttle sections where overtaking aid DRS is expected to be in place. The presence of walls around the quasi-street circuit also meant mistakes would be punished.

Max Verstappen in the lead on the 3.36 mile race track of the Miami Grand Prix 2022 at Miami International Autodrome. Image courtesy Hoch Zwei

So a new breed of fans flocked to the Miami Autodrome, ready to get excited about everything. The circuit itself met with some criticism from the drivers. Firstly, the track was very dirty off line which rather spoilt the chances of overtaking, although by the end of the race, there had been plenty of passing thanks to the use of three DRS zones. Its safety was also called into question when Carlos Sainz and Alex Albon had two separate crashes in practice, at very high speed into poorly protected concrete barriers.

Miami also marked a breakaway from the traditional spectator mode for motor racing, in that, out of a relatively small total capacity of around 80,000, around 30,000 of them were in what one would call VIP areas. They paid a lot of money for that privilege and ensured the event was a financial success, laying the foundation stone for a lucrative money-making exercise for the promoters for years to come. As a comparison, last year’s USA GP, held at Austin’s Circuit of the Americas, pulled in 400,000 spectators over the race weekend.

One of the many well-known VIP guests that attended the Miami GP 2022. David Beckham speaks with Lando Norris at the Miami International Autodrome. Image courtesy Hoch Zwei

Formula 1 purists were less impressed with all the show and hoopla and from a practical point of view, the fake marina, the fake beach with fake mermaids and the relatively small paddock was so overcrowded with guests and celebrities you’d never heard of that team personnel were finding it hard to go about their work in peace.

However, the overall verdict is that this race was a big success and not just because the VIPs included a former First Lady, a basketball god and the greatest NFL quarterback of all time. Those who wanted to enjoy the showbiz side were free to do so, but the organisers did not, could not, interfere with the Formula 1 spectacle on track and once a few glitches are ironed out, this event will fully deserve its place on the calendar. Sure, the organisers made mistakes, but they will learn quickly and fix it in time for next year.

And if you think this race was over-the-top, wait til you see what will happen in the Nevada desert next year, when Las Vegas hosts a Grand Prix!

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