► The glitziest race in a while
► But not the most interesting
► Here’s Curtis’ take
This weekend saw the F1 circus descent upon Florida for the first ever Formula One Crypto.com Miami Grand Prix. Featuring 19 corners over 5.4km of track, the new circuit surrounds the Hard Rock Stadium, but also features a fake marina and beach area – as well as a podium that appears to have been stolen from Asgard.
Before the race, social media was wash with celebrities, sponsor activations and one-off helmets – but on Sunday the race didn’t really deliver. Like the previous event it had all increasingly familiar hallmarks of a 2022 race; Ferrari and Red Bull fighting at the front, Red Bull speed mixed with poor reliability – and Mercedes in a third-team No Man’s Land.
To find out exactly what happened, and what it could spell for the first of the season, keep reading for eight things we learnt from Miami GP.
1. F1 feels a little artificial
The Miami GP isn’t the only American race on the calendar – the Austin GP has been around since – but you’d be hard pressed to tell from the messaging around the last race. A large amount of the grid had special helmets themed around everything-USA, while a few teams revealed special one-off liveries to celebrate the event. It was probably the most corporate, polished race-build up we’ve had in ages – the race itself felt like a sideshow.
2. Red Bull is fast but fragile
Max Verstappen won again, but not without another technical scare on the RB sister car. Later in the race, Perez complained of power loss on the radio, and although he finished the race he did so with 26bhp less than optimum. Without that deficit he would’ve surely challenged for the win with his fresh rubber. It was another scare for a team that seem to have a fast car, but one that doesn’t always stay together.
3. Ferrari needs to change its strategy
Charles Leclerc appeared to have slightly better pace than Verstappen this weekend, but not where it counted – once again he was held at arm’s length due to the Red Bull’s huge top speed advantage. It’s a firm trend in 2022; Ferrari has the corner speed and RB has the straight-line speed – and it seems the latter is far more useful. If Ferrari doesn’t sort out its top speed issues and tyre management, it won’t be winning either championship.
4. Carlos Sainz the next Barrichello?
If Leclerc has taken things up a gear this year, then his teammate Sainz has a box of neutrals. Another unforced error on Friday meant the Spaniard started the weekend on the back foot, and it also meant that he had even less chance of catching his in-form team mate. He lacked pace compared to Charles in the race and was only just able to hold off Sergio Perez’s compromised Red Bull. Sainz will want to beat Leclerc – and soon – but the Scuderia will be happy to have him continue as Leclerc’s rear gunner for the remainder of the season.
5. A false dawn for Mercedes
Earlier this year, Mercedes targeted Barcelona as the deadline to save or jettison its 2022 season, but it had several experiments to carry out in Miami to focus its development direction.
Initially the signs were good; for the first time in a while, Mercedes had a strong FP1 and FP2, even finishing first and fourth in second practice. However, things were back to normal on Saturday, and a race finish of P5 and P6 (with some safety car luck for Russell) suggested nothing had improved.
However, it appears Mercedes found something at Miami, at least for a while – but whether it can translate that to Saturday and Sunday remains to be seen.
6. Alonso get a bit too racy
Fernando may have the enthusiasm and energy of someone half his age, but this weekend he seemed to have the race craft and experience of a much younger driver, too. Not one, but two moments of contact (first Hamilton and then Gasly) looked clumsy – and the latter earned the Spaniard a five-second penalty.
7. Bottas shows his ability
Valtteri Bottas once again showed his speed in the Alfa Romeo, qualifying in P5 before posting a solid P7 in the race. The late safety car – along with George Russell’s fortuitously-timed switch to mediums are the only things that stopped a P5 this weekend.
It’s further proof that he was always good as Lewis’ teammate, and just had issues in the race – especially with wheel-to-wheel combat. However, with performances like this, Bottas will be well in front of the ultra-competitive midfield anyway.
8. Missiles bad, jewellery worse
This weekend saw lots of talk of the FIA’s recent decision to remember its jewelry ban. Seemingly directed at Hamilton, it was a good example of how disconnected F1 can be sometimes, and just how bad it can look to passing onlookers.
Dubious issues around safety aside (Grosjean wore a watch and ring in his infamous 2020 incident) it’s odd that items such as wedding rings are allowed while nose rings or other piercings aren’t.
More alarmingly, it sets a rather ridiculous set of public priorities for the sport; if the comms around Jeddah and Miami are anything to go by, earrings are more of a threat to drivers than missile attacks.