Good racing and great fan experience — why Miami deserves F1's thanks


The hype around the inaugural Miami Grand Prix might have seemed overwhelming, but it was entirely justified — and fans benefitted, writes Chris Medland

2022 Miami Grand prix

America does entertainment really, really well

Alex Bierens de Haan/F1 via Getty Images

You might have noticed there was a little bit of hype surrounding the Miami Grand Prix over the weekend. It was subtle, but it was there.

I’m sure you’re all shocked that the day after the race there wasn’t a ‘We’re racing in Spain next!’ post from Formula 1’s official social media channels in the same way everything became about Miami from almost the moment the chequered flag fell in Imola, but for some reason it seems like the Circuit de Barcelona Catalunya just isn’t getting the same attention…

Instead, Miami is getting thanked. But should it be?

Well, yes, it should.

Before I even get onto the racing, it’s time to acknowledge something that the Americans do really, really well: Entertainment.

 Lewis-Hamilton-dressed-in-purple-with-a-fanUnless you’re involved in some form of match fixing, nobody can guarantee the quality of the sporting aspect of any event. A football match could be 0-0, it could be 4-4 (and either could be good to watch). A grand prix could be decided at the final corner on the final lap, or be a procession with all drivers performing well enough not to make a significant mistake.

That’s something America knows, and so it focuses on the bit it can control, which is everything that goes on around the sporting event.

The enormous campus at the Hard Rock Stadium was created with exactly that in mind, trying to ensure people would leave having had a great time even if the race turned out to be a boring one.

I was one of the hosts for some VIP track tours during the race weekend, spending some time standing on the back of a massive flatbed lorry and explaining certain aspects of the circuit or answering questions. From that, I learned that even many of the locals were pretty embarrassed by the fake marina that came in for such criticism pre-race, but I also got a sense of the atmosphere, which was pretty impressive.

The whole circuit (save for the “tunnel” out of Turn 16) was noisy and busy, in particular the Turn 12 complex on Sunday morning. The race organisers took inspiration from Mexico’s Foro Sol to enclose that part of the track with fans almost on top of the cars, and it worked well opposite a beach club that set the tone with music.

It won’t be for everyone, but it felt very Miami. It had the right identity.

Charles Leclerc heading towards Turn 12 at the Miami Grand Prix

Turn 12 in Miami

Carlos Sainz at 2021 Mexico Grand Prix

Mexico's Foro Sol

Ross Brawn likened it to a Super Bowl and for perhaps the first time that’s how it felt on the ground too. There could be a number of honourable mentions for the likes of Silverstone, Monaco, Austin and Zandvoort – to name a few – as races that come close in terms of an event feeling big when you’re there, but F1 was everywhere in Miami in a similar way to how Melbourne embraces its race.

What felt notable was the fact that this wasn’t F1 showing up and expecting everyone to either like it or lump it, as was sometimes the case in the past. The teams and the drivers worked hard on promotion and engagement – something all races would no doubt love to the same level – and it paid off, because it felt like the sport adapted to its surroundings and embraced them, slightly-cringeworthy NFL helmets on the podium and all.

So much was impressive for those on the ground, but no, it wasn’t perfect. There were spells of traffic issues (nothing on a Paul Ricard scale, though) that come with hosting over 80,000 people in an urban location, and also some major Paddock Club failings that will have not gone down well. But the teething problems were relatively small.

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That said, F1’s far bigger audience is not at the track, it’s watching on television. And in US terms, it was a roaring success. That’s the market this race is appealing to, and with the ABC broadcast attracting a record 2.6 millions average viewership for the grand prix itself, it’s off to a good start.

Yet that figure, within the context of a population of 330 million, shows how much room for growth there is, and why events like Miami and Vegas are making no apologies for shouting very loudly to try and get into the wider sporting consciousness in America.

Having the race on ABC obviously helped hit a new live record, as did the timezone of course, but the hype also played a big part. You might make it tough to live up to, so it’s a dangerous game to play sometimes, but by creating such a buzz around a race you make people tune in for fear of missing out.

From a racing perspective, far too much focus was on the lack of a battle between Max Verstappen and Charles Leclerc at the front, which owed a lot to Ferrari’s relative struggles on the medium tyre compared to Red Bull. But Verstappen still climbed through from third on the grid with two impressive moves on the Scuderia pair, and what went on further back was actually pretty encouraging.

You can’t judge a track on the performance differences between the teams – favourites like Spa or Suzuka will produce a dull race if there’s a second per lap between each car – but fortunately F1’s midfield is much more closely-matched this year and that was certainly the case in Miami.

Mick Schumacher passes Yuki Tsunoda in the 2022 Miami Grand prix

Schumacher passes Tsunoda on the outside of Turn 1

Doug Murray/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Sebastian Vettel and Mick Schumacher both pulled excellent overtaking moves at different places on the track – Vettel at Turn 12 on Nicholas Latifi, Schumacher around the outside of Yuki Tsunoda at Turn 1 – before their own coming together at the first corner late on. Kevin Magnussen’s move on Lando Norris at Turn 8 was similarly creative, coming after Vettel had shown a lunge into Turn 17 was also possible on the Dane.

Bar Latifi, all of the above were in an impressive fight for the lower point-paying positions, but because Verstappen had a comfortable eight-second lead at the front for much of the race it was the lack of fight between two drivers that some will define the race by, instead of the exciting one between about seven.

What the fights further back showed is that the track is one that will provide good racing, even if some tweaks might improve it further. It’s not going to rival the greatest circuits in F1, but it’s a good challenge.

The potential is clearly there, just like it is based on the crowd that showed up and audience that tuned in. The next big challenge for Miami is taking that high bar and trying to improve on it next year to keep people as engaged and interest just as high, while for races like Spain it’s finding ways to create their own unique buzz.

If that all improves quality for fans, then it’s a very positive new addition to the calendar.