Distance: 5.412 kilometres
The Miami Grand Prix made its audacious F1 debut last season as a temporary circuit built from the ground up in the car park of a football stadium. Though the event was a general success, the track surface came in for criticism for breaking up over the weekend and offering inconsistent grip that dissuaded drivers from overtaking.
The problem was that the surface was made from an unusual asphalt mix of local stones that broke up as the cars pounded it. This year it’s been resurfaced to a specification closer to the F1 standard, which the sport hopes will generate more passing.
The layout was generally well received — except for the awkward and fiddly chicane before the long back straight that tended to break up the field — and as a result remains unchanged for the race’s second season. High speed, flowing and more reminiscent of a permanent track than a street circuit, it’s a challenge for the drivers and a test for the aerodynamics.
Winner: Max Verstappen (Red Bull Racing)
Ferrari scored its first front-row lockout in more than two years but couldn’t convert in the race, when Red Bull Racing’s superior straight-line speed counted for more.
Max Verstappen wielded his horsepower to great effect, passing both Ferrari drivers in the first nine laps to set up a commanding lead that only looked threatened when he struggled to warm up his tyres quickly enough following a late-race safety car and had to hold off a fired-up Leclerc to claim victory.
Sergio Pérez lands in Miami with momentum rebuilt and confidence restored following a morale-boosting win at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix to shrink his deficit to teammate Verstappen to just six points. It was the second time this season Pérez has had the upper hand over the Dutchman as he seeks to emphasise his championship bona fides.
Red Bull Racing was again the comfortable class of the field at Baku, and the sample of four races to date has given no reason to expect the RB19 will be weak anywhere but the most extreme outlying tracks, of which Miami certainly is not one.
But the battle for the final podium place remains close between Ferrari, Aston Martin and Mercedes, which have been closely matched through the season to date and for which the upgrade game will be crucial.
The Miami Grand Prix is defined largely by its tropical monsoon climate in southern Florida, with the heat and humidity influencing everything from driver fatigue to car aerodynamics and tyre life.
While we don’t know how the new surface will behave, last year the race was an easy one-stopper, with the hard tyre versatile enough to form the backbone of race strategy. A more abrasive surface, however, combined with hot weather could potentially push drivers towards making two stops, which tyre supplier Pirelli was adamant was theoretically faster last season anyway.
Strategists will also have to account for the high chance of a safety car considering the close proximity of the walls at almost every part of the track.
The heat will also force cars to run with wider cooling apertures, which in turn increases drag and reduces efficiency. Red Bull Racing’s car can afford to wear a little more drag given how efficient its car already is, so this will likely widen the gap to the chasing pack in pure aero terms.
The key overtaking opportunities are at turn 1, 11 and 17, all big braking zones at the ends of straights and all aided by DRS. Organisers are hopeful the new surface will facilitate more passing around some of the more sweeping bends by providing more grip off-line, but most of the medium and high-speed corners are too aerodynamically sensitive to facilitate cars following closely enough to launch overtakes.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author. Quotes have been obtained from team press conferences and issued press releases.