'It's now a sport here.' The Formula One auto racing spectacle is back in Miami Gardens.

David J. Neal, Miami Herald on

Published in Auto Racing

MIAMI — Auto racing’s international circus, Formula 1, comes to town this week for the Miami Grand Prix, visit No. 3 to the Miami International Autodrome next to Hard Rock Stadium after two years of showing F1 can be as Miami as pastelitos and infuriating traffic.

Fast, expensive, overflowing with the rich and internationally famous — yes, Taylor Swift and Travis Kelce are supposed to be here — some parts fake and playing a role in questionable political ethics.

Why seven-time F1 world champion Louis Hamilton not only dismissed the idea that the addition of Las Vegas diminishes Miami’s status on the schedule, he did so almost jumping at the question like hitting the gas off the starting line.

“Diminished?” Hamilton said. “No, I think the sport’s gotten bigger here, a lot more awareness. Every city I go to, people are excited. It’s now a sport here in the states. Before, it was just an event that arrived once a year. Now, we’re kind of a part of the culture here, which is really cool.

“I think all of us are super grateful of the U.S. finally embracing the sport and having the love and passion for it that we all had growing up.”

F1 even took over a block of Lincoln Road with the Williams team’s fan experience where Cafe Nexxt used to be. Racing Miami’s doing steady business selling F1 team merchandise (old-school McLaren t-shirts for $40, Red Bull pullovers for $200) and Alpine Racing having a show car from 2020, a driving simulator and a merchandise stand.

Black bags from Racing Miami hung from as many hands as any red, pink or white bags from other stores on the trendy shopping strip.

In Wynwood, Swarm Entertainment’s free racing fan fest began Thursday and runs through Sunday.

“Miami’s a party city,” Miami’s Francisco Cruz said while walking with friends on Lincoln Road, draped in Formula 1 merchandise.

“Bling, bling,” Cruz’s friend, Midtown resident Santiago Salamanca, said, “It’s going to be full and people want to be seen. There’s more action, more DJs. There’s boats, parties.

“All the races are the same,” Salamanca continued. “What’s the difference between each track is the experience.”

What’s different about Miami?


As for the track and the experience, the 3.36-mile, 5.412-kilometer course isn’t the first F1 track built in a U.S. parking lot, but it’s the first with some run-off areas colored ocean blue and a turn that sweeps around yachts and a faux beach. That’s one of 19 turns on a course that two-time world champion Fernando Alonso said presents a challenge for setting up the car.

“You have two very long straights with the third sector being high speed as well. Then, you have a completely different part of the circuit from Turn 11 to 16, which is only in second and first gear,” Alonso said. “Also, it’s the hottest race of the calendar so far this year. So, in terms of engine cooling, breaks, temperature, all these things will be new for the first time in 2024.”

Alonso later said driving the Turn 11 through 16 phase “is the speed of Monaco,” Formula 1’s most glamorous locale, but a street course that packs 19 turns into only 1.95 miles (3.145 kilometers).

About that “all the races are the same ...” well, yeah.

Red Bull’s Max Verstappen, winner of the last three F1 world titles, has qualified on pole (fastest qualifier) for all five races this season and won the four he has finished. Verstappen’s Red Bull teammate, Sergio Perez, is second in driver points this season.

In fact, the driver standings go Red Bull first and second; Ferrari third and fourth (Charles Leclerc, Carlos Sainz); McLaren Mercedes, fifth and sixth (Lando Norris, Oscar Piastri); Mercedes seventh and ninth (George Russell, Lewis Hamilton); Aston Martin Aramco Mercedes eighth and 10th (Alonso, Lance Stroll).

This isn’t unusual over the history of F1, no matter the era.

F1 and IndyCar differences

While F1 can claim by far the greatest worldwide fandom, these aren’t the cars and drivers that race in The Greatest Spectacle in Racing, the Indianapolis 500. Both cars are open-wheel (no fenders), open cockpit cars with front and rear wings helping with aerodynamics.

But, Formula 1 cars are about 40 pounds lighter with engines that produce 250-300 more horsepower and have power steering. This leads to superior cornering speeds, meaning the F1 cars zip about on road and street courses much more quickly than IndyCars. But, on ovals, which F1 cars don’t run, IndyCars achieve higher speeds.

Sunday’s Grand Prix will be 57 laps or two hours, whichever ends first.

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