Formula 1’s Miami Grand Prix was a short of on-track drama, but high on off-track movers and shakers. Here’s some of what you may have missed from South Florida:
Leclerc Surprised by Baseball Experience
Ferrari’s drivers had different sporting experiences during the build-up in Miami. Charles Leclerc professed his love for American culture, telling Autoweek the country “isn’t scared to do something of their own” with the Miami GP. He also had a trip to the Miami Marlins game and threw a few pitches: “It was fun, I really enjoyed it, and catching is much more difficult than I thought!”
On race day Leclerc also had a special guest for his usual warm-up of playing around with a soccer ball—none other than David Beckham briefly replaced Leclerc’s trainer in having a kick around with Leclerc.
Meanwhile, Carlos Sainz was heavily invested in Real Madrid’s match in the Champions League last Wednesday but rued “I was in the middle of a Shell event and I had to miss those five minutes of chaos!” he said, referring to his team turning around the tie against Manchester City in extraordinary fashion.
Plenty of A-Listers
Miami was always going to be heavy on the celebrity list. The paddock was packed through much of Saturday and Sunday, making even short walks problematic, while the grid on Sunday was jammed.
Among the attendees across the weekend were Michelle Obama, Michael Douglas, Bad Bunny, Mila Kunis and Ashton Kutcher, Karlie Kross, Dwayne Wade and Gabrielle Union, Eileen Gu, Juan Martin del Potro, Matt Damon, Dan Marino, Tom Brady, Michael Jordan , DJ Khaled, Pharrell, Venus and Serena Williams, James Corden, Paris Hilton, Patrick Mahomes, and Paolo Banchero among others.
From a motorsport perspective ex-F1 legends—notably Mario Andretti, Mika Hakkinen, and Jenson Button—littered the paddock, as did a plethora of IndyCar drivers, some of whom were former F1 racers catching up with old friends.
“The helmet we had on the podium,” said race winner Max Verstappen, referring to the NFL-inspired lid, “we needed that in the paddock!”
Vettel: Act Now or Swim Later
Sebastian Vettel’s proactivity on social issues has been evident in recent years, from embarking on bee preservation projects in his native Germany and trying to understand waste management in England to promoting messages relating to equality and diversity.
At Miami’s opening party Vettel was the only driver not in team kit as he donned a shirt that read: “Miami 2060—First Race Underwater,” along with a cartoon of a helmeted driver wearing a snorkel, with a further message of “Act Now or Swim Later.”
Miami—and its surrounding region—is at chronic risk of flooding in the event of rising sea levels. Vettel also sported a helmet throughout the race weekend that carried the same message, while as he had done since the opening round the German stripe on his helmet was replaced by Ukraine’s blue and yellow.
Vettel is this Thursday due to be a guest on Question Timea show broadcast by the BBC in the UK, which usually deals with political and social matters, providing another opportunity to demonstrate his grasp of global issues.
Andretti Seeks Support for F1 Team Bid
Michael Andretti was in the paddock in Miami striving to drum up support for his prospective 2024 Formula 1 team.
Work continues at the facility in Indianapolis, alongside a base in the UK, as Andretti waits to hear whether his entry will receive the green light. At this stage the biggest push back is from some of the other Formula 1 teams, who are worried about the financial implications of expanding the grid beyond the current 10 entrants, and thus losing a lucrative piece of the pie—even with the anti-dilution fee of $200 million.
Andretti has big backing behind his project and is trying to convince existing entrants that his intended team will be tackling Formula 1 properly and be additive and not detract from the existing share. Alpine—which is lined up to be Andretti’s engine partner and technical collaborator—is evidently supportive, as is McLaren, whose CEO Zak Brown is involved in Walkinshaw Andretti United in Australia’s Supercars series.
The other teams are lukewarm at best and downright negative at worst. It could be some time before this situation is resolved.
Herta Begins McLaren Journey
IndyCar front-runner Colton Herta was assimilated with McLaren in Miami ahead of his planned run in the team’s 2021 car later this year.
Herta was linked with an Alfa Romeo seat if Andretti acquitted a majority stake in that team—which fell through last October—and again he has been singled out as its desired candidate if Andretti’s attempts to join Formula 1’s grid for 2024 successful prove. An exact schedule for Herta at McLaren has yet to be outlined but he was involved with the team in Miami to gain a further understanding of how the team operates, and will soon have a seat fit in Woking and carry out simulator runs.
“It is great for us to test young drivers that we think have talent and deserve to get such a test, and Colton is definitely one of them,” said McLaren boss Andreas Seidl. “The results he is producing in IndyCar speak for themselves. Now we are in the process of preparing him for that test. Jumping into a Formula 1 car is a big challenge, for various reasons—the physical side, and how quick these cars are.”
Per Formula 1’s regulations each team must field a driver without race experience during two FP1 sessions this year and it was hinted that Herta, and Arrow McLaren SP driver Pato O’Ward, are candidates for those runs.
Young American F1 Hopefuls Make the Rounds
Formula 1 has been without an American driver since 2015 and while Herta speculation rumbles along some other US talent were involved in Miami.
Red Bull young driver Jak Crawford, fresh from back-to-back podiums in Formula 3, had a weekend integrating with the squad as part of his driver development, while Floridian Logan Sargeant was present with Williams in between his duties in Formula 2 and also took part in some of the TV coverage.
Haas, meanwhile, had Kyffin Simpson in the garage throughout the weekend. Simpson, 17, with dual American-Barbadian nationality, won’t last year’s Formula Regional Americas Championship and is currently competing in Indy Lights.
Audi, Porsche Could Boost German GP Hopes
The prospective entry of VW brands Audi and Porsche could boost the chances of Formula 1 returning to Germany.
The country was a mainstay on Formula 1’s calendar but struggled financially during the 2010s, was absent in 2015 and 2017, and dropped off the schedule for good after 2020. Audi and Porsche are in line to enter Formula 1 in 2026 under new engine regulations and Formula 1 chief Stefano Domenicali suggested that could be good news for the German Grand Prix.
“I mean, the German landscape is for sure a very interesting landscape on which no matter who will be the promoter,” he said, referring to the chances of Formula 1 taking on promotional duties at more events after Las Vegas. “Something that could happen soon (could) be very important to (help Germany get) back on the calendar.”
For now though, Formula 1’s main focus is on securing a return to South Africa, potentially as early as 2024, in order to ensure it has a presence on every inhabited continent.
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