Formula 1 returned to Miami for its second race around the Hard Rock Stadium at the Miami International Autodrome. But how did the event fare in Year 2? Autoweek breaks it all down:
For the majority of those watching, internationally via TV, the Miami Grand Prix was not a thriller—the second successive year that the race has been so-so.
Though for context, 2023 is hardly shaping up as a classic, and other circuits—more acclaimed for action than what is essentially some lines drawn through a car park – have delivered duller races. The Miami race itself was like watching a decent enough film where you already know the ending.
There was more engaging action further down the field while, despite initial fears, drivers were able to run off-line at the resurfaced Miami International Autodrome. Softening the apex of the fiddly Turn 14/15 chicane was also well-received by the drivers. That resurfacing should help MIA in the long-term, given that the track surface was new for 2023, and had little time to rubber in owing to the lack of support series.
“It’ll have a little more longevity and will change over time,” said Miami Grand Prix Managing Partner Tom Garfinkel. “This climate, the sun and humidity, will affect the track but as it ages it is supposed to get better.”
World Champion Max Verstappen said “it’s a street circuit – you can’t expect it to be amazing off-line – but overall I think it was a lot more fun to drive compared to last year. The tarmac has been a lot better. I think a good improvement was made to the chicane this year.”
Sergio Perez, runner-up to Verstappen in the race, described off-line through Turns 7 and 8 as “like ice” but emphasized “the rest of the circuit has been a very good improvement (on 2022).”
Garfinkel is also receptive to a larger support package next year. There was only Porsche Carrera Cup North America alongside Formula 1, with 2022 support W Series not racing in 2023. Compared to some rounds it was thin; for example, last month’s Australian Grand Prix had Formula 2, Formula 3, Supercars and Porsche Carrera Cup, creating a packed on-track festival from Thursday morning.
One success was the creation of the ‘Team Village,’ with the 13 hospitality tents (the 10 teams plus Formula 1, the FIA and tire supplier Pirelli) shifted onto the football field inside the Hard Rock Stadium.
It meant more space for personnel, freeing up additional room in the paddock (behind the pit garages), which was at times a congested mess in 2022. Fans were able to view the Team Village from the 300 Level of the Hard Rock Stadium, which had the Formula 1 logo and Miami Dolphins logo imprinted on the artificial turf, and it enhanced the atmosphere as driver movements were rapturously received.
It also improved the off-track TV spectacle with presenters in a roomier and lighter environment—facilitated by Miami utilizing its unique selling point of the Hard Rock Stadium—compared to the congested and darker paddock.
There was also the novelty element of setting up camp in such an arena while the location of the 13 units meant there was more of a communal feel than when all the units are spread out in a line behind the garages.
A ‘Team Clubhouse’ which was located inside the stadium between the Team Village and the paddock, provided food and drink for personnel, which was a bonus, while there was also a café in the paddock. A maze-like media center was also relocated to utilize the media boxes that overlook the football field.
Enhanced Paddock Club a Home Run
This isn’t an element that directly impacts most race-goers, but Formula 1’s Paddock Club and hospitality areas rake in the big bucks.
Last year there were teething issues with the temporary structure while one area was affected by a catering supply setback that created an ugly scene.
For 2023, a permanent three-story facility was constructed atop the existing garages, a new catering supplier was brought in, while access was improved as the new building was also connected to the Hard Rock Stadium entry points.
“It’s effectively like building a 90-story skyscraper on its side in six or seven months,” said Garfinkel on the scale of the achievement.
The structure was what the Miami GP ideally wanted in place for 2022, but had to target 2023 instead given time constraints and the Hard Rock Stadium’s other endeavors.
Now that the permanent facility is in place Garfinkel, who is also the vice president and CEO of the Hard Rock Stadium and Miami Dolphins, has ideas for the 51 weeks of the year where Formula 1 isn’t in town.
“We’d like to turn it into a bit of a mini convention center for Miami, bus people from the beach and downtown here,” he said. “Obviously these suite walls are temporary so this is one big building, it ties back into the stadium, we’ll do some things around football games.
“I’d like to leave the driver signs up above the garages and for football games we’ll do some premium tailgating down there so someone can rent out Lewis Hamilton’s garage.”
The Fans Count
The official attendance for the weekend was put at 270,000, a 40,000 increase on 2022, with around 90,000 on hand each day of the three-day race weekend.
The figures for the first two days were greeted with some skepticism, owing to some sparse-looking grandstands, but Garfinkel attributed that to fans who were milling around the campus rather than staying seated all day.
There were, however, reports of no-shows who had complimentary tickets, as well as those with multiple day packages only being present on Sunday.
In the campus grounds there were additional footbridges, while the width of most were also doubled, after bottlenecks occurred last year. There is still scope for capacity to grow, with a figure of over 100,000 a day put to Garfinkel, but he was cautious due to the trade-off involved.
“We want to grow a little bit every year as we operationally get better and better to make sure people have a good experience,” he said. “What I don’t want to have is long lines of concessions, long lines of bathrooms, two hours of traffic in and out of here. I’ve experienced that at other events and that’s not what we want to do."
Setting the Bar for Vegas, COTA
Miami was Formula 1’s shiny new toy in 2022, but that has since been usurped by the addition of Las Vegas later this November.
That is set to be bigger, brasher (and tawdrier?) than anything seen so far in Miami. There were fears that Miami’s second year could feature a dip of interest or attendance, which would not be an atypical occurrence for second-year Grands Prix. But given the fan attendance, the VIPs that came to the race, and the atmosphere around the venue, there was little evidence that 2022’s pizzazz was not replicated.
The impending arrival of Las Vegas, and Austin’s long-standing popularity as the U.S. GP venue, prompted fears that three events in one country could dilute the market, but that has so far seemed off the mark.
“I’m a believer that all ships rise with a rising tide,” said Garfinkel. “I think having three Grands Prix is great, I think the more people come out and experience these events in the U.S., experience Formula 1 racing, the more fans there’ll be.
“(The three U.S. events are) all different, they have different virtues and reasons to go—Vegas will be a night race on the strip in November, this is very different, then there’s Austin, Texas; they’re all different things—it’s the same cars, drivers, competition, but everything around it can be different and it gives you reasons to go. Montreal’s different from Singapore, which is different from Silverstone."
What's Next for Miami?
Miami has smoothly navigated the difficult second album and is hopeful of fewer unknowns for race three in 2024.
As Garfinkel explained, there will not be the stress of having to construct an entire new building, the hospitality areas are unlikely to change for 2024—after some were evolved for 2023—while there is now a blueprint of how to deconstruct the tennis stadium inside the Hard Rock Stadium in quick time for the installation of the Team Village.
Miami is set to retain its early May date on the 2024 calendar though the exact schedule has yet to be determined, as Formula 1 has to juggle 23 other promoters. Garfinkel also revealed that Miami has “had some discussion” with Formula 1 over the prospect of a night event and is “certainly open-minded to it” though cautioned that there are a lot of factors involved.
A Miami night race would be early hours for Formula 1’s core European audience, which would be a significant hurdle.