Despite the lack of spectacle, Miami will remain a must


The most outstanding performances of the Miami Grand Prix were not those of Max Verstappen, Charles Leclerc or Esteban Ocon, although they were all very solid in the race. It’s more about Martin Brundle, whose rise up the grid for Sky Sports F1 has helped make sense of the craziness of this new celebrity-filled event.

The British journalist slalomed between the Williams sisters, Pharrell Williams and Patrick Mahomes… who turned out to be Paolo Banchero, future NBA star. A pretty entertaining moment of television. Brundle’s slightly puzzled look at the whole spectacle really felt like witnessing a bizarre journey where no one knew what was going to happen.

The fake marina that has caused so much talk in Miami.

The fake marina that has caused so much talk in Miami.

It could only happen here. I’ve lived in Miami for over seven years now, so I wasn’t surprised to hear about the fake marina, the cable cars above the runway, or the Hard Rock Beach Club (with fake mermaids lounging ), where a parking lot was built in the middle of paradise. It was so Miami-worthy.

Despite all the criticism about the Americanization of F1, the sporting aspect and the spectacle have not budged. No attempt was made to alter this facet, with no timeouts or dancers on the track during the safety car period. Sure, there were world-class DJs spinning their music between sessions, but anyway, it’s all happening here against a background sound.

What if Pirelli gave drivers on the podium American football helmets instead of caps, in the heart of an NFL stadium? They did well cowboy hats in Austin, fur hats in Sochi and sombreros in Mexico City.

Former NBA legend Michael Jordan on the grid.

Former NBA legend Michael Jordan on the grid.

For anyone at Hard Rock Stadium, being lucky enough to be on the same site as Michelle Obama, Michael Jordan and Tom Brady made the day unforgettable even before the opening laps. Elsewhere in the world, the urge to be there was palpable on social media, whether or not you knew who these celebrities and influencers were frolicking about.

For spectators in Miami, there is a good chance that they paid a handsome price for this privilege. SeatGeek revealed that tickets for the race had an average resale price of €2,325. For comparison, tickets for the United States Grand Prix in Austin are just over €960. In other major disciplines in the country, those for the Daytona 500 in NASCAR are selling for €300 and those for the next edition of the Indianapolis 500 Miles for €350. A friend of mine bought six tickets and then sold four. Result of the operation: a profit of nearly €3,000!

Without wanting to brag, I slipped into the East Paddock Club, which offered a sensational view of the Turn 1 braking zone, which I had spotted as a perfect vantage point on my previous visits to the site, while the circuit was under construction.

The East Paddock Club stands.

The East Paddock Club stands.

The TV production was not ideal in Miami, and in particular it missed the first corner of the first lap of practice: almost all the drivers accelerated too much and made a mistake! The public loved seeing mistakes follow one another, and even when the drivers figured out the braking point (which was clearly earlier than their simulations had led them to believe), Charles Leclerc and Yuki Tsunoda were able to perform their pirouettes.

I was in the VIP seats thanks to F1 sparkling supplier Ferrari Trento, who revealed that 50,000 bottles of their sparkling wine were consumed by the 200,000 fans at the circuit and in the Miami area during the race weekend. Caps Red BullMercedes or Ferrari seem to be the must-have item on South Beach’s Lincoln Road right now. In my opinion, a successful and popular F1 is a good F1, especially in a market it has struggled to break into for so long.

Fans on the terraces of Hard Rock Stadium.

Fans on the terraces of Hard Rock Stadium.

But if you feel uncomfortable with the display of VIPs showing off their cash, rest assured: a major failure on the part of the hospitality provider led to a lack of food on Friday. Seeing rich people being denied things, especially when you consider the price they paid for prime seats, is pretty unimaginable. But you didn’t get a chance to hear about it, because the food was plentiful in the media center!

The number of women who attended the race was a huge positive for me throughout the weekend. It was the first time I had seen such diversity on a circuit, and they weren’t dragged along by their husbands or boyfriends (in many cases, it was even the other way around). The female contingent all around the venue seemed totally engaged in the event and knew exactly who to cheer for and why. This partly explains the increase we saw in the latest F1 fan survey: the impact of the Drive to Survive series has been overwhelmingly positive for women’s interest in the sport, and not just for the American public in general.

The stands were full in Miami.

The stands were full in Miami.

In television, live coverage on the ABC network generated an audience of 2.6 million viewers, a record for F1 in US history (the previous was 1.7 million for Brazil, in 1995), but that was a little less than the impressive number of viewers for NASCAR on FS1 at Darlington, which started at the same time.

One thing that struck me as odd was the weekend schedule. In addition to clashing with NASCAR, delaying the Miami start to late afternoon in May was conducive to thunderstorms. F1 was lucky with the wind going in the right direction, but the sky only cleared in the evening.

With the Spa debacle still fresh on people’s minds, the usual protocol for dealing with American thunderstorms is to halt the race and evacuate crowds from the stands until lightning stops within 10 miles for 30 minutes. This scenario would have been catastrophic for the show. Apparently a « very detailed plan in place » for lightning was in place, but no one would tell me what it really was…

Lewis Hamilton driving the Mercedes W13.

Lewis Hamilton driving the Mercedes W13.

The drivers loved being in Miami, but found fault with the circuit. For me, the fact that the track was different was a key part of the success of this event. We needed a strong argument, especially with the circuit drawn in the streets of Las Vegas which will arrive next year. The stadium provided a unique backdrop, and the unusual track surface gave drivers and teams a hard time.

I did a lap on Friday, and from the passenger seat of an Aston Martin Vantage, the contrast between the fast, flowing sections and the twisty sections that follow the hairpin at Turn 11 was huge. Again, this aspect sets the circuit apart from others, and I don’t think it’s a bad thing that the drivers complain about this famous chicane: they are supposed to be the best in the world, there is no reason to having to make a track « easy ».

Fernando Alonso and Stefano Domenicali.

Fernando Alonso and Stefano Domenicali.

As Stefano Domenicali said: « If they are not happy, there are many other sports. Just kidding! ». Lots of truths are told jokingly, Stefano… The F1 CEO then added: « As always, we have to look in perspective, in a broad sense. What we’ve been through this weekend is huge for the sport. » Quite right too. The Miami Grand Prix could not be content with on-track racing to justify its presence on the calendar, because the sport here is nothing without the spectacle around it.

Venus Williams on the starting grid.

Venus Williams on the starting grid.

Even if we could have guaranteed battles like Villeneuve and Arnoux’s in Dijon in 1979, combined with the chaos of the accidents at Silverstone in 1973 with Max Verstappen crossing the finish line backwards, people would still have talked about this incredibly awkward silence between Brundle and Venus Williams on the starting grid. Like Monaco, which even has a real marina, this race should be celebrated for what it is: a unique event that should never be considered the norm.

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