F1 Miami Grand Prix organizers added a new level of glitz and showbiz to its driver introductions on Sunday.
Some drivers thought it was cool to have celebrities such as LL Cool J and will.i.am participate in the pregame show.
Other drivers thought the added time taken for driver introductions distracted from their preparations.
There was a glitzy grid ceremony during the build-up to Sunday’s Miami Grand Prix – and a lot of the drivers weren’t exactly enamored by the procedure.
New regulations were recently implemented, extending the grid procedure by 10 minutes, in order to allow for a driver presentation at selected Grands Prix. The first of those came in Miami, with a temporary gantry erected on the grid, through which drivers were introduced in reverse championship order by LL Cool J.
The drivers were flanked by cheerleaders as well as an orchestra—conducted by will.i.am —playing ‘The Formula’, a new song produced by him and Lil Wayne in conjunction with Formula 1.
Due to the revised format, drivers had to be in position 23 minutes prior to the start, rather than the previous 16 minutes, before assembling as usual for the national anthem after their respective introductions.
Formula 1 previously trialled such an introduction, when legendary ring announcer Michael Buffer MC’ed the build-up to the 2017 US Grand Prix at Austin, but Miami was the first such razzamatazz introduction ceremony since that day.
“I guess it's the American way of doing things, doing sport,” said Mercedes’ George Russell, who is a Director of the Grand Prix Drivers’ Association body that represents all current Formula 1 racers.
“Personally, it’s probably not for me. But you know, that's just my personal opinion.
“It is distracting because, you know, we were on the grid for half an hour in of our overalls in the sun. I don't think there's any other sports in the world that 30 minutes before you go out to do your business that you're out there in the sun, all the cameras on you, and making a bit of a show of it. I can appreciate that in the entertainment world, but as I said, we only want the best for the sport.”
McLaren driver Lando Norris was particularly scathing as he said “none of the drivers like it” before adding that “as drivers we all just want to do is sit down and focus on what we need to focus on and not do so much TV and everything. It's a business at the end of the day, so it’s what we’ve got to do. Adding more and more stuff like this, no driver likes it.
“We do so much. There’s a limit to how much we should do. We’re here focus on doing the job and not just be in front of a camera all day.”
Aston Martin’s Fernando Alonso added that he was “not a big fan of those kinds of things just before the race” and suggested that “if have to do it I think we need to remove some of the other stuff we are doing like the [drivers’] parade lap.”
Alonso was also irked that the introductions gave Miami fans an additional spectacle.
“[I think] we have to do it everywhere because I don’t think that the Miami fans are better than the Italian fans in Imola, or in Spain, or in Mexico, or in Japan. I think we need to make everyone with the same rules and [have] the same show before the race.”
Other drivers were receptive to the introductions but want changes if it is run again at future events.
“It was too long—sometimes you need to be down and in your bubble,” said Alpine’s Pierre Gasly. “It was good to try and I’m sure we’ll do small tweaks for next time.”
Charles Leclerc agreed that “I think it could have been organized a bit better, and the time we have spent there could have been made better, but I think for fans it’s always nice to have a different way of introducing us on the grid.”
World Champion and race winner Max Verstappen explained that “I think this is just a bit of a personality thing, right? Some people like to be more in the spotlight, some people don’t. I personally don’t. I prefer to just talk to my engineers, walk to my car, put the helmet on and drive. But of course, I understand the entertainment value. So I just hope, of course, we don't have that every single time, because we have a very long season, so we don't need an entry like that every time.”
Seven-time champion Lewis Hamilton was a fan, saying “I think it’s cool that the sport’s continuously growing and evolving and not just doing the same stuff as in the past—they’re trying to do things.
“I listened to LL Cool J and he’s there, that’s cool, you look over and there’s will.i.am, Serena (Williams) and Venus (Williams) standing there. I thought it was cool.”