Nick van der Meulen, takes a look back at the latest addition to the Formula One Grand Prix calendar in his report F1 Review: Miami 2022.
The Americans love their street races. Indycar has a fair number of them on their calendar. F1 has raced at a number of US street circuits over the years: Long Beach, Detroit, Dallas, Phoenix and Las Vegas come to mind. The event at Miami is yet another to add to the growing list. In addition, a new circuit in Las Vegas will come into play next season.
Some concerns with regard to the circuit were raised before the race. The wall at Turn 14 was hit hard twice (both Carlos Sainz’s Ferrari and Esteban Ocon’s Alpine made heavy contact) and drivers asked for measures to be taken. There were two areas on the circuit that had been damaged by the circuit cleaner, the cleaning solvent damaging the bitumen. The issue added to the concern of the lack of grip around the circuit, with drivers asking for the circuit to be cleaned before the race. Drivers were also worried that they would not be able to put up a good show, as there were fears of a lack of overtaking (due to the track surface).
Reigning titleholder, Max Verstappen (Red Bull Racing) made most of his start to split the two Ferraris on lap 1. The Dutchman then surged past Charles Leclerc (Ferrari) to take a lead he would not relinquish, despite the Monegasque’s best intentions. The Red-Bull driver posted his third victory of the season and was a well-deserved Driver of the Day.
Teammate Sergio Perez shadowed Carlos Sainz for the final podium position. But he could not gain the position and had to settle for fourth place at the fall of the chequered flag. He was fortunate to have scored points, after a heart stopping moment for the Mexican midrace when he mysteriously lost power, which was rectified by his team on the pit wall.
Failing to deliver
Ferrari will be a little disappointed with their result at Miami after locking out the front row of the starting grid. Sainz lost out to Verstappen at the start. While Leclerc couldn’t match the blistering pace of Verstappen after losing the lead on lap 9. He posted a number of fastest laps in the attempt to close the gap to his rival, but the Dutchman was more than equal to the task. Ferrari can be consoled by the fact that both their drivers got to enjoy the podium ceremony, as Leclerc finished second and Sainz scoring points again for third.
Best of the rest
Mercedes were gifted fifth and sixth position, respectively, after Valtteri Bottas (Alfa Romeo) made a mistake late in the race, allowing both Mercedes drivers through. While Lewis Hamilton outqualified teammate George Russell, the new incumbent started the race on hard rubber. He stayed out for as long as possible, resulting in benefitting from the Virtual Safety Car, following Norris’s lost wheel. Russell managed to carve his way past Hamilton to finish fifth. He maintains his record of being the only driver to finish in the top five in every race this season.
Alpine were only rewarded with a single points finish at Miami, after a difficult qualifying session. Ocon finished an excellent eighth after starting from pit lane. He missed qualifying following his 51G crash in FP3, which cracked his mount’s chassis. Fernando Alonso had an altercation with Pierre Gasly (Alpha Tauri) late in the race. The Spaniard tagged the Frenchman in Turn 1 after an ambitious passing attempt on the brakes. Gasly was touring on track and came together with Lando Norris (McLaren-Mercedes), who was trying to pass him around the outside. The Englishman’s right rear wheel clipped the Alpha Tauri, resulting in Norris losing his tyre and bringing out the safety car.
Alonso continued to finish eighth before being slapped with two five-second penalties: one for the incident with Gasly and the other for leaving the track and gaining a lasting advantage, resulting in the Spaniard being classified 11th. As a result, Alexander Albon (Williams-Mercedes) drove another excellent race to be classified ninth. While Lance Stroll (Aston Martin-Mercedes) was awarded the final point on offer, as Daniel Ricciardo (McLaren-Mercedes) was also penalised post-race.
Still in front
Leclerc leaves US soil still leading the world championship. However Verstappen has slashed his lead to 19 points, with Perez another 19 points behind. Perez is seven points clear of Russell, while a resurgent Sainz requires six points to equal Russell’s tally.
The constructors’ championship is hotting up, with Ferrari leading Red Bull Racing by a mere six points. Mercedes lies a lonely third in the standings, 56 points shy of Red Bull and 49 points clear of McLaren.
The F1 circus packs up and returns to Europe; to Catalunya, Spain, for the sixth round of F1 world championship from 20 to 22 May. It being the home of Carlos Sainz and Fernando Alonso, both will want to produce a good showing. Will this be the venue of Sainz’s maiden victory?