Formula One returns to Miami this weekend for just the second time, and for the first of three US-based races this season.
The fifth round of the 2023 season will see a return to the traditional Friday practice, Saturday qualifying and Grand Prix Sunday format following a revamped sprint weekend in Baku, which had two qualifying sessions, a sprint race and the Grand Prix.
Despite more competitive sessions, fans were left disappointed with the lack of overtaking in last week’s Azerbaijan Grand Prix.
Speaking to the media after the race, Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff bluntly labeled the event as “boring” before adding that “we have to analyze the weekend with the sprint format, whether there’s positives we can take out.”
Fans will be hoping that the 57 laps in Miami can conjure up more exciting racing.
How to watch
The race will begin at 3:30 p.m. ET on Sunday, May 7, with Red Bull’s Sergio Pérez in pole position having qualified ahead of Aston Martin’s Fernando Alonso.
Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz is third, while championship leader Max Verstappen will start from ninth after an error in the final session.
The race is being broadcast on ABC and ESPN+ in the United States. Click here for broadcast information outside the United States.
What happened last year
In last year’s inaugural Miami Grand Prix, Ferrari locked out the front row in qualifying with Charles Leclerc taking pole position and teammate Carlos Sainz starting P2.
However, Red Bull’s Max Verstappen came from P3 to win the race, overtaking Sainz into turn one on lap one and passing Leclerc down the main straight on lap nine. Leclerc finished second and Sainz was third.
All three were then given an extravagant police escort to the podium, before donning NFL helmets instead of the traditional Pirelli caps.
What to expect this year
Red Bull comes into this year’s race with a striking new fan-designed livery and, more importantly, a commanding 93-point lead in the constructors’ championship. The team’s drivers have two race wins each, with Verstappen leading Sergio Pérez by six points in the drivers’ championship.
Mercedes driver George Russell commented to the media after the opening race in Bahrain: “I expect they [Red Bull] should win every single race this season. That is my bet. With the performance they’ve got, I don’t see anyone challenging them.”
So far, his prediction has held true with Red Bull winning all four of the opening races, while also taking a 1-2 in three of those. Only a chaotic Australian Grand Prix, in which Pérez began from the pit lane after crashing in qualifying, has prevented a perfect start for Red Bull.
After finishing third in Azerbaijan, 21 seconds behind Verstappen, Leclerc told reporters that “Red Bull are in another league when it comes to the race.” Barring any dramatic performance upgrades from the chasing pack – or surprise events – Red Bull should be confident about continuing its imperious form.
As such, when the winner pops the champagne in Miami, they will likely be draped in Red Bull overalls, with the biggest question being whether Pérez can close the gap on his title-holding teammate and ignite an intra-team championship fight.
Following his sixth career win in Baku, 33-year-old Pérez told Sky Sports that, without his issues in Melbourne, he “should be leading the championship.”
When speaking to reporters after the Mexican’s victory, team boss Christian Horner maintained his drivers “were free to race today and, all year so far, they’ve been free,” dispelling any ideas of potential team orders favoring one or the other.
Further down the field
Ferrari and Leclerc will be hoping to build on a positive weekend in Baku after taking their first podium of the season. The Scuderia has made a stuttering start to the season but will be more confident of closing the gap on Red Bull after the Monegasque driver took pole for both the sprint and feature race.
Mercedes continues to play catch up, with seven-time champion Lewis Hamilton in P6 and Russell in P8 at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix.
The Silver Arrows have again been off the leading pace this season and aren’t expected to bring major car upgrades until the sixth round in Imola. Speaking to Sky Sports, Hamilton admitted he is “counting down the days” until the upgrades, adding that “it will be the start of something new for us.”
The Brackley-based team remains third in the constructors’ championship, ahead of a resurgent Aston Martin whose rise up the order and three podiums for two-time champion Fernando Alonso has been one of the stories of the season thus far.
Florida-born rookie Logan Sargeant will be hoping to score his first F1 points at his home Grand Prix.
The Williams driver is the first American on the F1 grid since Alexander Rossi in 2015 and will be looking to break into the top 10. The 22-year-old came close with a P12 finish in the Bahrain opener but has since not finished higher than 16th.
The 3.36-mile temporary circuit – located in the Hard Rock Stadium complex, home to the NFL’s Miami Dolphins – remains unchanged from last season in layout, but has been resurfaced after a variety of complications with last year’s tarmac.
Away from the track, the teams’ housing and hospitality units have been moved away from the traditional paddock and will remarkably now sit on the pitch of the Hard Rock Stadium.
Once again, expect F1’s glitz and glamor and the Miami sun to attract some of the world’s most famous faces to the track Sunday.