MIAMI – Hook crowds echoed through Miami Gardens, almost drowning out the sound of Formula One cars racing around a 5.41 km (approximately 3.36 miles) track called the Miami International Autodrome
Max Verstappen seemed to have managed to turn his luck around in training, quickly finding his slot to the edge to a slight seven-second lead ahead of Charles Leclerc to mid-race. The Ferrari star, meanwhile, seemed to be struggling despite constantly running to the top two during the afternoon, saying at one point “The car is so hard to drive” before heading for hard tires.
The rain had fallen through the night before, probably loosening the grip as it washed part of the tire on a brand new lap. Aside from the weather, including the heat, many drivers complained about the track, and Mercedes had a busy weekend that made everyone wonder if they had found a possible solution for porpoises.
Meanwhile, Carlos Sainz, Sergio Pérez and George Russell rounded out the rest of the top five, and in the true American way, Verstappen, Leclerc and Sainz climbed the podium with football helmets. The Dutchman has won 100% of the races he has completed and reduces Leclerc’s lead in the drivers ’standings to just 19 points.
Here are three to take away from the inaugural weekend for the Miami Grand Prix.
Hello, safety cars
Talk to any veteran Formula 1 fan about safety cars, and they might be appalled to mention the controversial 2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
Rewind forward about five months, and safety cars eventually played a role in moving the race, representing battles other than the normal 2022 Verstappen against Leclerc. As the Dutchman continued to move the advantage over the Ferrari driver, the race had a monotonous tone almost despite the fact that Leclerc repeatedly recorded the fastest lap.
That was until Lando Norris and Pierre Gasly happened.
With more than 20 laps to go, the AlphaTauri star had contact with Fernando Alonso and ran slower. Unaware that Norris was rushing past, Gasly’s front left tire slashed the driver’s rear right McLaren, causing Norris to spin. Norris and Gasly withdrew from the race, and Alonso received a five-second penalty for his move against Gasly.
The safety car eliminated the great advantage that Verstappen had over Leclerc.
Mercedes status and porpoise
The team continued to find consistency this season, and although Mercedes made some updates before the Miami GP, further tampering left it with mixed results between training, qualifying and the race itself.
One particular problem for the team is the porpoise, which refers to jumping on the suspension during high speeds, which the driver feels. Usually the cause is related to the aerodynamics of the car.
George Russell pointed out earlier that Imola was the first weekend I really struggled with back pain and, like, chest pain from the fury of bouncing. But that’s exactly what we need to do to get the fastest lap time out of the car.
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“When the car and tires are in the right window, the car is, apart from bouncing, very good for driving. But bouncing is really breathtaking. It’s the most extreme I’ve ever felt, “Russell added. “I really hope we find a solution and I hope that every team that struggles with bouncing will find a solution because it’s not sustainable for drivers to continue at this level.”
He’s coming to Miami, team updated its front wing end plates, rear wing and beam wing.
“There’s a huge amount of work going on in the background, everyone is working as hard as they can,” Lewis Hamilton said during a press conference before his first free practice. “You can see we have a new rear wing, for example. So I’m just grateful that everyone’s heads are still bowed and for the incredible hard work that everyone is putting in. “
There has been an improvement in terms of how the team ended up. Russell was right on Leclerc, and Hamilton finished in P8 in his first practice. They continued to return to the second session later that day, with time at P1 and P4.
However, their performance fell on Saturday, so during the last training session they completely dropped out of the top 10. The qualifiers went better for Hamilton, who won the P6, but Russell returned to the P12.
Team director Toto Wolff revealed after Saturday’s sessions that the team “tried something that didn’t seem like a big change” and ultimately affected the car throughout Saturday.
“At the end of qualifying, the drivers again suffered from bouncing, and bouncing has such an effect on the braking zones on what the tires are doing.”
Wolff reaffirmed on Saturday that “we believe our concept has the potential to race in the first place.” Russell and Hamilton then finished fifth and sixth during the race.
“It’s there; we just need to try to unlock it,” Russell said Sunday. “But I don’t think we still understand why it’s so unpredictable.”
Drivers are calling for a change of track
The Miami International Autodrome had an interesting track concept. It contained 19 bends with three planes, the longest of which was 1.28 km long, and included three DRS zones. And over the past 12 months, 24,000 tons of asphalt have been spilled around the beloved Hard Rock Stadium, home of Dolphin, in Miami Gardens.
Although it looked as expensive as between the various fan zones and the look of the track itself which included a turn, the drivers pointed out safety issues over the weekend.
Sainz and Esteban Ocon crashed in the same bend one day apart, but both said the collision was harder than it should have been. The Alpine driver crashed into a concrete barrier at turn 14, suffering a 51G impact.
Ocon revealed to Autosport on Saturday that Sainz mentioned this during a driver meeting and asked why there is no Tecpro barrier in the bend.
“What’s really unacceptable was 51G for what shouldn’t have been such a big impact,” Ocon told Autosport. “It simply came to our notice then [for only] one car it happened, but when Carlos complained to the race director, we were all there listening to it, and nothing was done.
“It simply came to our notice then. Carlos said the impact was too great for what it was supposed to be. It felt huge today, the impact. Honestly, it’s probably the biggest shunt in my career.
“Carlos was injured yesterday. I got hurt today too. The FIA should do more to ensure our safety. It’s important that we can race, and I will be able to race. “
Ocon said on Sunday that he feels “50%” after the race, still feeling the effects of Saturday’s collision. Some of the areas where he still felt the blow included his knees, lower back and bruises “here and there”.
But the drivers’ complaints went beyond the border. Some asked for it to be fixed. Alex Albon said it was “still very slippery”, adding “maybe an area will be added for next year.”
Russell said: “It was really hard to chase down this track. I don’t know what the hell they did with the asphalt, but it’s awful … I almost collided while getting into pit lane.
“We asked for the mixture line to be removed to enter the pit because we knew that all the balls coming out would have to go out of the corner, causing a collision. It was a shame not to see that implemented. ”
Daniel Ricciardo said he would like drivers to be able to use more trails, adding “when you follow someone, you want to be able to go a little wider, go back inside, like a cross, where you tried to cross today and get off the track … There’s just no grip from the inside.”
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