What We Learned from the Inaugural F1 Miami Grand Prix

·7 min read
Photo credit: CHANDAN KHANNA - Getty Images
Photo credit: CHANDAN KHANNA - Getty Images
  • Max Verstappen won Sunday’s Inaugural F1 Miami GP moving from his third place starting spot to the lead.

  • Polesitter Charles Leclerc had to settle for second place.

  • Carlos Seinz made it a two for three Ferrari podium.

It was celebrities galore, an entertainment extravaganza but a relatively middling sporting contest at Formula 1’s inaugural Miami Grand Prix.
Max Verstappen closed in on Charles Leclerc in the championship with a third victory from five events, passing the title leader early in the race before resisting pressure in the closing stages following a safety car period.

Behind them Carlos Sainz retained third in front of Sergio Perez while Mercedes salvaged fifth and sixth, George Russell in front of Lewis Hamilton, as the younger Briton once more benefitted strategically.

Autoweek wraps up some of the talking points from the Miami Grand Prix.

A familiar trope from Mercedes

Photo credit: Dan Istitene - Formula 1 - Getty Images
Photo credit: Dan Istitene - Formula 1 - Getty Images

There was encouragement for Mercedes on Friday when George Russell went fastest but it departed the weekend fifth and sixth in the race, firmly third-best, and taking the points it deserved. Russell maximized his opportunities once more, profiting from the timing of a Safety Car to make gains to bag fifth, while Lewis Hamilton was less fortunate but only realistically slipped one position – which was to his team-mate.

“This weekend is where we’ve shown the most amount of promise but we’re a long way off still,” said Russell. Hamilton was slightly more circumspect as he commented that “we’re the same speed as we were in the first race, we haven’t improved in these five races, but I’m hopeful at some stage we will, just got to keep trying.”

Team boss Toto Wolff repeated a familiar mantra that “physics are not mystics and therefore you have to unpick the bones” of Mercedes’ current predicament, but conceded it was becoming frustrating to be relaying the same stance.

“It’s clear there is potential in the car and it’s fast but… we just don’t understand how to unlock the potential,” said Wolff. “It’s probably a car that is super difficult to drive, on the edge, dipping in and out of the performance window – more out than in – and dissecting the data with a scalpel is just a painful process because it takes very long and as a matter of fact the data sometimes don’t show what the drivers tell us, and certainly they have their hands full with the car. The data doesn’t show these big swings [in performance]. We haven’t had this situation before in any years that it didn’t correlate what we see on the screens with what the driver feels and that’s making it more difficult.”

Mercedes could be set for a lot more weekends of having to regarding solid points as a positive outcome, as it is not in the mix to contend with Ferrari and Red Bull.

Bottas’ disappointment shows Alfa’s progress

Photo credit: Icon Sportswire - Getty Images
Photo credit: Icon Sportswire - Getty Images

A year ago Alfa Romeo would have leapt at finishing seventh at a grand prix but that Valtteri Bottas’ result in Miami left him slightly disappointed spoke volumes about the squad’s progress. While rookie Zhou Guanyu was an early retirement due to a water leak Bottas continued his role in spearheading Alfa Romeo’s 2022 revival following his move from Mercedes. Bottas edged away from Hamilton through the first stint as he held a comfortable fifth, before dropping to seventh after the restart – having been caught out by the squabbling Mercedes drivers behind him.

“George [Russell] had the possibility to stop for Medium tires and he was closing in quickly,” said Bottas. “As he was overtaking Lewis [Hamilton] I was kind of following them in the mirrors as they were getting pretty close, if I need to close the door or something, and I braked a fraction too late, missed the apex in the corner a tiny bit, then I got to the dirty tarmac and felt awkward as I was going so slowly, understeering, hit the wall, luckily didn’t break anything or get a puncture.”

That error left Bottas seventh but his disappointment was testament to Alfa Romeo’s gains. It was a distant ninth last season but is a solid fifth in this year’s standings and has scored 31 points, 30 courtesy of Bottas.

“The race pace was very close to Mercedes I think, so it is good to see,” he said. “It was a race with no DNFs ahead so fighting for fifth position with this car is good to see.”

Team boss Frederic Vasseur added that “it shows how much progress we have made this year that we’re actually a bit disappointed with P7 – which is a really good result in itself. We were really strong out there today and we ran most of the race comfortably in P5, just behind the two Red Bulls and Ferraris.”

Albon’s lucky red hair?

Photo credit: Mark Thompson - Getty Images
Photo credit: Mark Thompson - Getty Images

Alexander Albon caught the eye in Australia when he turned up with red hair. It wasn’t a bold fashion statement but simply that during the build-up he had been visiting an orphanage in Thailand and the kids there put some red dye in his hair, and Albon was in on the antics. He then went and scored a point in the race. It largely faded in time for Imola but ahead of the race in Miami Albon got it dyed professionally – and he left the weekend with his second point of the season after rounding out the top 10. Albon showed encouraging pace throughout practice but a disappointing qualifying left him only 18th, but he stayed out of trouble and maximized the strategy to sneak a point. That became two when Fernando Alonso received a post-race penalty.

“Super happy,” said Albon. “If you look at the whole weekend this is less surprising than Melbourne, we were in the top 10 in two practices, we were there, on pure pace. To get P10 is where we should have been all weekend, we lucked into it with some collisions but we were right behind them, I’m happy. It was a really strong weekend for us, the anomaly was qualifying, we need to understand where to get the performance back.”

Albon has ensured that Williams has not missed the presence of George Russell this year and it is also enormously positive for Formula 1 that all 10 teams are in the mix for regular points.

Please let us watch the action

Photo credit: Icon Sportswire - Getty Images
Photo credit: Icon Sportswire - Getty Images

Formula 1 is obviously not just a race and that was evident in Miami through the plethora of sporting stars present throughout the weekend. And naturally the TV cameras gravitate towards that during the build-up, or even afterwards, to cash in on the showbiz element. But jeez, please let us watch the actual grand prix. When Max Verstappen passed Charles Leclerc early on a replay was immediately shown – despite the action being shown live – and which meant we missed what Leclerc was doing. He’d come very close to fighting back along the back straight but the replays denied us watching that live. There were also multiple crowd shots at the expense of action, and cutaways to celebs or guests watching from their exclusive vantage points. Did we need to see David Beckham’s uninteresting reaction to Lando Norris’ accident? Was there any benefit to looking at will.i.am not really wanting to engage with the cameraman? Miami was evidently an influencer race, with an impressive guest list, and sure, show that off. Publicise it. It may help the sport’s growth among casual fans or the previously unmoved. But do that before and after the race. When there’s a grand prix on please let us watch the 20 guys do their thing. That’s what race fans want to watch. It’s such a simple thing not to mess up.

F1 Miami Grand Prix Results

  1. Max Verstappen, Red Bull, 57 laps

  2. Charles Leclerc, Ferrari, +3.7 seconds

  3. Carlos Sainz Jr., Ferrari, +8.2

  4. Sergio Perez, Red Bull, +10.6

  5. George Russell, Mercedes, +18.5

  6. Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, +21.3

  7. Valtteri Bottas, Alfa Romeo, +25.0

  8. Esteban Ocon, Alpine, +28.3

  9. Fernando Alonso, Alpine, +32.1

  10. Alexander Albon, Williams, +32.3

  11. Lance Stroll, Aston Martin, +37.0

  12. Yuki Tsunoda, AlphaTauri, +40.1

  13. Daniel Ricciardo, McLaren, +40.9

  14. Nicholas Latifi, Williams, +49.9

  15. Mick Schumacher, Haas, +1:13.3

  16. Kevin Magnussen, Haas, +1 lap

  17. Sebastian Vettel, Aston Martin, +3 laps

  18. Pierre Gasly, AlphaTauri, +12 laps

  19. Lando Norris, McLaren, +18 laps

  20. Zhou Guanyu, Alfa Romeo, +51 laps