Miami—Formula One fans, it’s almost time for lights out in the Sunshine State.
Planning for the inaugural Grand Prix began in 2019, but ground wasn’t broken until April ’21. Over the last 12 months, 24,000 tons of asphalt has been poured around the beloved Hard Rock Stadium, home of the Dolphins, in Miami Gardens. It joins the Formula One schedule as the second race in the United States (the U.S. Grand Prix at Circuit of The Americas in Austin is the other). However, a third will be added in 2023—Las Vegas.
Hard Rock Stadium has become a global entertainment powerhouse, hosting the likes of the Miami Open, the 2020 Super Bowl and ’21 College Football Playoff national championship. Jay Z, Beyonce, Coldplay and U2 have all hosted concerts in this historic venue, and now, some of motorsports’ finest will zip around a 5.41 km (approximately 3.36-mile) track called the Miami International Autodrome.
With the race set to kickoff at 3:30 pm ET on Sunday, here’s what you need to know coming into the new track.
What have I missed this season?
There is a new battle for the world champion and constructors’ titles—Charles Leclerc vs. Max Verstappen, Ferrari vs. Red Bull. The two squads have been going back and forth as their 24-year-old superstars exchange wins, ultimately tied at two a piece.
Leclerc won the season-opening race in Bahrain, finished second behind Verstappen who secured the victory in Saudi Arabia, and found his way back to first in Australia. However, he dropped to sixth in Imola on April 24, while Verstappen cruised to the win. Meanwhile, the Dutchman retired early in both races that Leclerc won.
Mercedes has struggled to find consistency in its car despite George Russell being the only F1 driver to finish in the top 5 of every race this season. One particular problem for the team is porpoising, which refers to the jarring bouncing on the suspension during high speeds, which the driver feels. Typically the cause is related to the cars’ aerodynamics.
The young Brit highlighted that Imola was “the first weekend where I’ve been truly struggling with my back and like chest pains from the severity of the bouncing. But it’s just what we have to do get the fastest lap times out of the car.”
“When the car and tires are in the right window the car, except for the bouncing, feels really good to drive. But the bouncing really takes your breath away. It’s the most extreme I’ve ever felt it,” Russell added. “I really hope we find a solution and I hope every team who’s struggling with the bouncing finds a solution because it’s not sustainable for the drivers to continue with this level.”
Coming into Miami, the team updated its front wing endplates, the rear wing and the beam wing.
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“There’s been a huge amount of work going on in the background, everyone working as hard as they can,” Lewis Hamilton said during a press conference before free practice 1. “You can see we got a new rear wing, for example. So, I’m just grateful for everyone continuing to keep their heads down and for the amazing hard work that everyone is putting in.”
When asked, “Do you think you’ll be close to the pace?” the seven-time world champion said, “I don’t anticipate much change in that sense.”
What does the track look like?
The Miami International Autodrome will feature 19 turns with three straightaways, the longest being 1.28 km in length. There will be three DRS zones, and per Formula1.com, qualifying lap times are expected to be approximately a minute and 28 seconds.
For those Florida natives out there, royal palms are still around the track, but officials have made sure there are no loose boughs and iguanas will not be falling near the track.
As Ferrari’s Leclerc highlighted when speaking with Sports Illustrated, keep an eye on Turns 11–16. He described the area as “tricky” with “corner after corner, very tight.”
Beyond the track itself, there are a few areas that’ll likely catch fans’ eyes, such as the marina. Yes, those 10 yachts are real and were transported to be placed inside of Turns 6, 7 and 8 for the dry-dock marina.
How do the drivers feel about the Grand Prix?
I think it’s safe to say the drivers have embraced the Miami lifestyle.
What are the race times?
- Practice 1 – Friday, May 6 – 2:30 pm – ESPN2
- Practice 2 – Friday, May 6 – 5:30 pm – ESPNEWS/ESPN3
- Practice 3 – Saturday, May 7 – 1:00 pm – ESPNEWS/ESPN3
- Qualifying – Saturday, May 7 – 4:00 pm – ESPN
- Miami Grand Prix – Sunday, May 8 – 3:30 pm – ABC
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