Red Bull rocks hard at the new Hard Rock Miami circuit. Miami is the 11th venue in the US to host a World Championship for F1 and of course it came with the full glitz and glam. There were many famous faces out and about all weekend and the buildup began from Wednesday, it was one of the biggest race buildup’s I have ever seen. Ferrari have been having a dominant kick start to this season and Red Bull have followed very closely behind but could this be where it all changes? The new track has a smaller amount of low speed corners but more longer and faster straights with speeds up to 200 mph. With the opportunity for speed on this circuit, many would put bets on it becoming a Red Bull circuit due to the teams ability for rapid speed on the straights.
It was a hard weekend to read from the get go, with red and yellow flags out, many crashes and accidents across the weekend, it made the track very unpredictable. With no previous racing on this track, we had no idea who could dominate here, so all eyes were cast to the free practices. Mercedes’ George Russell came in hot and put himself in P2 and P1 in FP1 & FP2. We finally thought Mercedes had fixed the issue that was keeping the 8 time Constructors Championship team from fighting the front row. After free practice got out of the way, I think Mercedes became optimistic and it was time to get down to the nitty gritty of Qualifying.
Unfortunately for the Silver Arrows the optimism quickly wore off. The Prancing Horses tirelessly showed us the incredible results they are capable to deliver and locked out the front row, which they haven’t done since Mexico 2019. The Red Bulls secured the second row and with Verstappen filling the mirrors of Championship leader Charles Leclerc and Perez filling Sainz’s, It would be a very tasty start. Bottas put his Alfa Romeo in P5 which is the best result for the team since also 2019, Bottas must’ve had a smile with how great his performance was for the team and a sneaky bit more, as his former teammate Hamilton qualified just behind in P6. That has got to hurt for the 7 time World Champion.
It was almost time for lights out and all of the cars started getting in their places on the grid, all but minus the Aston Martins. Due to a fuel issue it meant they both started in the pit lane and after their great qualifying of P10 and P13, it clearly was not the start they had wanted or anticipated.
It was lights out and away we go! Pole sitter Leclerc had a great start off the line and managed to maintain his lead. Verstappen just behind in P3, went for a brave move on Sainz in lap 1 and pushed himself up to P2, but then a few laps later he made it up to P1, meaning Leclerc was demoted to P2. On the subject of great starts, Alonso made up 4 places from P11 and had a strong start for the Alpine team. With his teammate Ocon in last after a crash in free practice, it was absolutely the start Alpine needed.
The luck Alfa Romeo once had began to fade, as Zhou Guanyu was having a stellar race start but his time was cut short in lap 8 and had to retire due to a water leak. Another person who’s luck began to run out was Alonso, despite his great start and remaining well within the points. Alonso clipped Gasly causing damage to his car, which then became a domino effect with an even bigger collision later in the race on lap 41 between Gasly and Norris. It was like something out of a video game, Norris’ tire flew off and just rolled away like a polo mint. It was a great shame and it sadly ended Norris’ streak of no DNF’s so far this season.
There didn’t seem to be as much action up until this point, with Verstappen pulling far away from Leclerc and it reaching a 7 second gap. It seemed almost impossible for Leclerc to catch up with him.
Due to the collision between Norris and Gasly, it brought out a VSC and then the SC. Many drivers began to pit and get fresh tires especially with the tire degradation fairly high. One man it played into favour of was Russell, he had held off pitting and he had banked on a VSC or SC happening. He had a great quick pit and maintained his place in P6 and his new teammate just in front in P5. Having a safety car always makes the race that bit more interesting because it bunches everyone together and the 7 second gap Verstappen had on Leclerc disappeared completely.
The race got back underway again on lap 52 and it became very telling to those who were on older tires compared to fresher tires. Perez on fresher tires made it hard for Sainz and made him work to keep the 3rd place, on many occasions they became so incredibly close. Up and down the track there was nudges, pushing and shoving but it was Vettel and Schumacher that had a bigger collision, where Schumacher thought he had the corner over Vettel and turned in and caused damage to Vettel’s car forcing him to retire. Along with Vettel retiring it was Magnussen who shortly joined him after a shunt with Stroll.
The field up and down changed in as little as 5 laps, but what didn’t change was Verstappen’s strength to keep pushing. The World Champion must’ve been happy to see that chequered flag and take the win for the first time in Miami. Along with the win, Verstappen snagged the fastest lap and driver of the day, so it was definitely a cause for celebration. Not too far behind him was Leclerc and then followed by his teammate Sainz in P3. Although Perez put up a good fight, he wasn’t successful this time around and came in to finish in P4. Mercedes found some of the pace they once had and both cars finished in the top 10, Russell continues his streak of finishing in the top 5 and the 7 time World Champion came in to finish just behind in P6.
Former teammate Bottas finished in P7, bringing home a great result for the team especially with the bad luck for Zhou Guanyu. Ocon finished incredibly in P8 after starting dead last and not being able to partake in qualifying due to a rebuild of his chassis. It is safe to say he brought home a brilliant result for the team. Albon got a great points finish in P9 and Stroll rounded out the top 10, but both Albon and Stroll got promoted post race due to Alonso facing a 5 second penalty. The Alpine driver was handed the penalty after his collision with Gasly that dropped him from P8 to P9 at the chequered flag. However the stewards then investigated Alonso after the race for leaving the track and gaining an advantage. This then put him to finish in P11 and promoted the Williams and Aston Martin drivers. Along with Alonso having a worse ending, it was a disastrous weekend for Haas with Magnussen retiring and Schumacher coming ever so close to his first points finish in his Formula 1 career but after his run in with Vettel, it just slipped through his fingers and saw him finish last in P15.
So, now that we have experienced the new Miami track in its full glory, what can we take away from it?
Firstly, the one we all want to know the most is, who leads the championships? Those Ferrari fans can relax a little because Charles Leclerc and Ferrari still lead both but not by many, so don’t relax too much. Secondly, there doesn’t seem much room for error as we saw many times in free practice. One wrong move and that could be it, there isn’t many run off areas and especially with the speed you can accumulate on the high speed straights. Tyre degradation can be quite unforgiving due to the hot temperature in Miami and the circuit being anti clockwise, the front rights are giving up much quicker. The track is also very physically demanding and it was very evident when the drivers took their helmets off and their face said it all, especially Alex Albon with his face matching his new red hair colour. A few of the drivers have had their say on their thoughts of the new circuit and they seem to be in agreement. George Russell mentioned to sky in a post race interview, how the low speed corners ruins the circuit and it would basically be much better if they made it one longer corner. He also mentioned that the tarmac seems to be uneven and a few other drivers have mentioned it too. It seems rather odd considering it is a new circuit but hopefully it could be sorted for next year.
Now that we have experienced an action packed weekend, its time to get the sun cream out again and get ready for Barcelona in 2 weeks time.
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