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WATCH: Five talking points ahead of inaugural Miami Grand Prix

Dutch Formula One driver Max Verstappen of Red Bull Racing arrives for the Formula One Grand Prix of Miami at the Miami International Autodrome in Miami, Florida, USA, 05 May 2022. Picture: Greg Nash/EPA EPA/GREG NASH

Dutch Formula One driver Max Verstappen of Red Bull Racing arrives for the Formula One Grand Prix of Miami at the Miami International Autodrome in Miami, Florida, USA, 05 May 2022. Picture: Greg Nash/EPA EPA/GREG NASH

Published May 6, 2022

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Johannesburg - The inaugural Miami Grand Prix is upon us, and while traditionalists have bemoaned the extravagant excess of the event, the future of F1 is here.

Here, IOL, looks at five things to consider from the event this weekend.

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5 Welcome to Miami

The intrigue around the GP has certainly been building this past week, and you should expect all the razzmatazz that only an American sporting event can dream up, however cringe it might be.

ALSO READ: Netflix’s ‘Drive to Survive’ helps F1 tame US audience before inaugural Miami Grand Prix

Don’t be taken aback by the fake marina, with towed in yachts, that sits within the track for that overly processed look, or the procession of Hollywood celebrities that will surely be focussed upon at every possible moment.

There was already a moerse party on Wednesday night at the track – which the organisers labelled an opening ceremony and a “night to remember” - because this is the USA! USA! USA! so if you are a purist you might want to look away.

For the rest of us, the importance of the Miami GP cannot be stressed enough; and if the sport is to survive, it will be there in the US where it will be secured. The American market is massive, highly lucrative and untapped regarding F1.

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An estimated 1.5m people watched IndyCar’s season-opening Firestone GP earlier this year, while the average F1 audience in the US averages just under one million. Compared to Nascar that can pull in as much as 3.6 million views per race, and you can see why Liberty Media has and will continue to invest heavily in the US market.

Miami will be the first US race of the calendar, and the drivers will return Stateside later this season for the US GP at Cota. In the future, however, there will also be a race around the strip in Las Vegas, while a GP of California is also being planned.

Perhaps one day, even New York will host a street race, so get yourself ready for an American revolution.

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4 The Sainz of the times

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The battle between Red Bull and Ferrari is simmering nicely, and you would say that at the moment the advantage is tipped the side of Christian Horner’s team. Red Bull were impervious at Imola, claiming a stunning 1-2 in the Emilia Romagna GP at the expense of a desperate Charles Leclerc.

Even so, as much as Ferrari needs a win in Miami, the Smooth Operator Carlos Sainz needs a bigger one.

The Spaniard has had a rotten time of it recently for the Scuderia, crashing out of the two previous GP. After fighting to extend his contract with the team for another two years, he really needs to start justifying that faith with a decent podium showing this weekend.

It might seem unfair to place such pressure on him, but then he is racing in a competitive Ferrari, his teammate Leclerc is outscoring him, and he isn’t in a minor team that can hide behind its failures week-in, week-out.

3 Any Given Sunday

And what of the actual track?

Well, since no one has ever driven on it, you can expect the first few days to be an exercise in caution as teams rubber in the asphalt, generating more grip as the weekend progresses. The designers of the circuit have approached the layout as a “mistake generator”, specifically noting that Turns 13 to 16 will offer driver’s opportunities to “gaine position because somebody in front overdrives …”

There will be three DRS zones, with the most likely overtaking taking place at Turn 17 at the end of the 1.2km long back-straight; and Turn 11 which terminates in a tight angle. Turn 1 might also see some wheel-to-wheel action, while Turn 4 will be where the first action takes place at the start of the race and if a Safety Car is called upon – which is highly likely.

The initial reaction to the track is that it will not be easy to overtake on, but as it is untested, that might not be the reality.

The track is 5.412km long, with a race distance of 308.326km and will be 57 laps. It features 19 corners, and speeds are expected to reach around 233km/h. Qualifying is expected in and around the 1.28-minute range.

2 They have the technology

After a tough few races during the opening rounds, Mercedes are expected to bring a new packpage to bear in Miami and it is assumed that they will fit a new front-wing and rear-wing to the W13.

It is hoped that the updates will help combat the porpoising that the Silver Arrows are experiencing, and move the set-up away from its higher stance, which has compromised both downforce and performance.

Mercedes have revealed that they will also be conducting experiments this weekend to make the car more competitive and what that entails exactly will only be known from Friday night onwards.

1 By George, you have a problem, sir

Mercedes’ problems have translated directly onto seven-time world champions Lewis Hamilton, who is so far having a mare of a season. The 36-year-old had to deal with the ignomy of being lapped by his rival Verstappen in the previous race, while also finishing way behind George Russell.

Indeed, Russell has finished ahead of his more illustrious teammate on three out of the four occasions, a fact that Hamilton will and must correct this weekend. Questions are being asked unfairly about his commitment, his talent and his skills due to his current no-show and the fact that his younger teammate seems to have a much better understanding of the W13, while also eking out better performances from the same hardware.

Hamilton revealed this past fortnight that he is working on his masterpiece and only he will decide when it is over – well, it’s time to show us some of the strokes to silence his hysterical critics.

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