F1 drivers demand changes for Miami Grand Prix circuit
MIAMI—The roar of the crowd echoed through Miami Gardens, nearly drowning out the sound of Formula 1 cars rolling down the 5.41 km (about 3.36 mile) track called Miami International Autodrome.
Max Verstappen appeared to be able to reverse his luck in practice, quickly finding his rhythm to take an easy seven-second lead over Charles Leclerc at the halfway point. Meanwhile, the Ferrari star appeared to struggle despite his constant chase for the top two spots throughout the afternoon, at one point saying “The car is so hard to drive”, before looking for hard tires.
Rain had fallen the previous night, probably loosening the grip by washing away some of the rubber on the brand new circuit. The weather, including the heat, aside, many drivers complained about the track, and Mercedes had a topsy-turvy weekend that leaves everyone wondering if they’ve found a possible fix for porpoising.
Meanwhile, Carlos Sainz, Sergio Pérez and George Russell completed the rest of the top five, and in American style, Verstappen, Leclerc and Sainz took to the podium wearing football helmets. The Dutchman has won 100% of the races he has completed and reduced Leclerc’s lead in the drivers standings to just 19 points.
Here are three takeaways from the opening weekend of the Miami Grand Prix.
Hello, safety cars
Talk to any veteran Formula 1 fan about safety cars, and they might cringe and reference the controversial 2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
Fast forward about five months, and the Safety Cars finally played a part in moving the race around, presenting other battles outside of the par 2022 of Verstappen against Leclerc. As the Dutchman continued to push his lead over the Ferrari driver, the race took on an almost monotonous tone despite Leclerc recording the fastest lap on several occasions.
That is until Lando Norris and Pierre Gasly arrive.
With over 20 laps to go, the AlphaTauri star made contact with Fernando Alonso and was running slower. Unaware that Norris was speeding past, Gasly’s front left tire clipped the McLaren driver’s right rear, spinning Norris. Norris and Gasly both retired from the race and Alonso was given a five-second penalty for his move on Gasly.
The safety car eliminated the large lead Verstappen had over Leclerc.
Mercedes status and porpoising
The team has continued to find consistency this season, and while Mercedes made some updates ahead of the Miami Grand Prix, other tinkerings have left it with a mixed bag of results between practice, qualifying and the race itself.
A particular issue for the team is porpoising, which refers to the jerks bouncing off the suspension at high speeds, felt by the rider. Generally, the cause is related to the aerodynamics of the cars.
George Russell previously pointed out that Imola was “the first weekend where I really struggled with my back and, like, chest pains from the severity of the rebound. But that’s exactly what we need to do to get the car’s best lap times.
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“When the car and the tires are in the right window, the car, except for the rebound, is really fun to drive. But the rebound really takes your breath away. It’s the most extreme I’ve ever felt. “I really hope we find a solution and I hope every team that’s struggling to bounce back finds a solution because it’s not sustainable for drivers to continue at this level.”
Coming to Miami, the team update its forward wing endplates, rear wing and beam wing.
“There’s been a huge amount of work behind the scenes, everyone is working as hard as they can,” Lewis Hamilton told a press conference before the first free practice. “You can see we have a new rear wing, for example. So I’m just grateful to everyone for continuing to keep their heads down and for the hard work everyone is doing.”
There has been an improvement in terms of finishing the team. Russell was right on Leclerc’s tail and Hamilton finished in P8 in the first practice. They continued to bounce back in the second session later in the day, clocking P1 and P4 respectively.
However, their performance plummeted on Saturday, falling entirely out of the top 10 during final practice. Qualifying went better for Hamilton, who grabbed P6, but Russell was back in P12.
Team principal Toto Wolff revealed after Saturday’s sessions that the team “did try something that didn’t seem like a big change”, and it ended up affecting the car throughout Saturday.
“At the end of qualifying, the drivers still suffered with the rebounds, and the rebounds have such an effect on the braking zones as on what the tires do.
Wolff reaffirmed on Saturday that “we believe our concept has the potential for us to race ahead.” Russell and Hamilton then finished fifth and sixth during the race.
“It’s there; we just have to try to unlock it,” Russell said Sunday. “But I think we still don’t really understand why it’s so unpredictable.”
Drivers request lane changes
Miami International Speedway had an interesting track concept. It featured 19 corners with three straights, the longest being 1.28 km long, and included three DRS zones. And over the past 12 months, 24,000 tons of asphalt have been poured around the beloved Hard Rock Stadium, home of the Dolphins, in Miami Gardens.
While it seemed as expensive as it was between the variety of fan zones and the layout of the track itself which included passing through the toll road, drivers pointed to safety issues throughout the weekend.
Sainz and Esteban Ocon crashed at the same corner a day apart, but both said the crash was harder than it should have been. The Alpine driver had hit the concrete barrier at turn 14, suffering a 51G impact.
Ocon revealed to Autosport on Saturday that Sainz brought up the subject at the driver’s meeting and asked why there was no Tecpro barrier in the corner.
“What’s really unacceptable was 51G for what shouldn’t have been such a big impact,” Ocon said, according to Autosport. “Not having it and [for only] a car happened, but when Carlos complained to the race director, we were all there listening to him, and nothing was done.
“There was a discussion last night. Carlos said the impact was way too big for what it should have been. Today was huge, the impact. It’s probably the biggest shunt of my career, to be honest.
“Yesterday, Carlos got injured. I was also injured today. The FIA should push harder for our safety. The important thing is that we are able to run, and I can run too.”
Ocon said on Sunday he felt “50%” after the race, still feeling the aftermath of Saturday’s crash. Some of the areas where he still felt the impact included his knees, lower back and bruising “here and there”.
But the complaints of the drivers have exceeded the barrier. Some have called for it to be repaved. Alex Albon said it was “still very slippery”, adding “maybe a resurface for next year will be added”.
Russell said: “It was really tough racing at this track. I don’t know what they did with the tarmac, but it’s horrible… I almost fell in the pit lane.
“We asked for the pit entry shuffle line to be removed because we knew with all the balls coming out of the corner it was going to cause a crash. It was a shame not to see this implemented.
Daniel Ricciardo said he wanted the riders to be able to use the track more, adding “when you’re following someone you want to be able to go a bit further, come back inside, like criss-cross, where today today you tried to criss cross and you are off the track… It’s just that there is no grip on the inside.
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