George Russell and Max Verstappen rivalry could escalate after their feud in Baku, Sergio Perez can take control in the championship – and Lewis Hamilton is ready to make a protest… SEVEN things to look out for ahead of the Miami Grand Prix
- Miami will be hot and humid and the race physically one of the most demanding
- Aston Martin, Ferrari and Mercedes will all be hoping to get closer to Red Bull
- Mail Sport previews seven things to look out for in Miami ahead of the action
Formula One is back in the Sunshine State for the second time and the first of three races to be staged in the United States this year.
A debut event on the Las Vegas strip will take place in November, while Austin’s grand prix at the Circuit of the Americas has been a permanent fixture on the F1 schedule since 2012.
The Miami Grand Prix will be hot and humid and the race physically one of the most demanding of the season.
Aston Martin, Ferrari and Mercedes will all be hoping to get closer to Red Bull, while Alpine need a strong result after drawing blanks in Melbourne and Baku.
Below, Mail Sport previews seven things to look out for in Miami ahead of the action.
Sunday’s Miami Grand Prix offers Red Bull’s Sergio Perez a chance to lead the championship
Max Verstappen and George Russell verbally sparred following the sprint race last weekend
Victory will give Perez championship lead
Sunday’s Miami Grand Prix offers Sergio Perez a chance to lead the championship for the first time and rattle teammate Max Verstappen.
A third win in five races would lift the 33-year-old Mexican above reigning double world champion Verstappen and be quite a statement of intent.
Verstappen, who has enjoyed an unbroken run at the top of the standings since he won in Spain on May 22 last year, has yet to finish lower than second in 2023 and arrives in Florida with a six-point advantage.
The 25-year-old Dutch driver was only five points clear of Perez after four races last year but won in Miami with fastest lap and went on to finish the season 149 points ahead and with 15 victories to his team-mate’s two.
Perez has never won more than two races in a season but is coming off the back of a double success in Azerbaijan hoping to build momentum.
Verstappen and Russell’s feud could continue
Reigning champion Verstappen and challenger George Russell verbally sparred following the sprint race last weekend at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix.
They were battling for third place on the opening lap and the contact caused a hole in the sidepod of Verstappen’s Red Bull car.
Russell said he won’t change how he races Verstappen moving forward and has moved on
Following their confrontation in the pits, Verstappen referred to Russell as ‘Princess George’ and Russell said the two-time champion ‘let himself down’ with his reaction to the incident.
Asked Thursday ahead of the Miami Grand Prix how their relationship is moving to a new grand prix weekend, Verstappen deadpanned one word: ‘terrible’. He then quickly set the record straight.
‘No of course not,’ Verstappen clarified Thursday at the Miami Grand Prix. ‘Maybe that’s what people would like to hear, but no. It’s absolutely fine.’
Russell said he won’t change how he races Verstappen moving forward and has moved on.
Leclerc challenging for pole
Red Bull have been on pole in three of the four races, with Charles Leclerc taking the top slot in Azerbaijan.
None of Leclerc’s last eight pole positions have ended in victory, the longest such streak since Brazilian Nelson Piquet went 10 in a row in 1984-87.
Last year Leclerc set the pace in qualifying for the Miami Grand Prix with pole position for Ferrari.
However, Verstappen nipped down the inside of Leclerc on the home straight on lap nine and held on until the chequered flag.
Last year Charles Leclerc set the pace in qualifying for the Miami Grand Prix with pole position
Things can get tricky at Turn 14
Carlos Sainz spun his Ferrari at Turn 14 and crashed into the wall at the Miami International Autodrome during second practice in 2022.
In Saturday practice, Esteban Ocon had a 51g crash at the same part of the track.
After the two crashes, the drivers asked the FIA to introduce more safety at that turn. However the FIA refused.
McLaren driver Lando Norris supported the two drivers and said: ‘As drivers, we often know better than the experts where the risks lie.
‘You should listen to us every now and then. We gave our recommendation after Carlos’ accident, and the FIA didn’t react. It’s not OK.’
Hamilton’s LGBTQ+ protest
Seven-time champion Lewis Hamilton lashed out on Thursday at anti-LGBTQ measures enacted by Florida lawmakers and ripped the state’s controversial ‘Don’t Say Gay’ law with a reference to oppression seen in Saudi Arabia.
‘It’s not good at all,’ Hamilton said ahead of F1’s highly anticipated race in suburban Miami this weekend.
‘I stand by those within the community here. I hope they continue to stand firm and push back. I’ll have the rainbow on my helmet. It’s no different to when we were in Saudi.’
Hamilton regularly uses his platform to speak on issues of social justice and race, human rights and protection of the LBGTQ community.
He often races with a rainbow flag on his helmet, specifically when F1 stops at venues located in countries with restrictive laws.
Lewis Hamilton lashed out on Thursday at anti-LGBTQ measures enacted by Florida lawmakers
Rain could see Alonso bring it home
Double world champion Fernando Alonso played down the chance of an Aston Martin victory at the Miami Grand Prix.
‘Maybe not too many surprises,’ Alonso told reporters on Thursday. ‘If you have the fastest car, you can start a little bit behind and you are still maybe making some moves and overtakes.
‘If you are in any other car, as I said we are all within 1/10th so wherever you qualify you are still more or less secure in that position and there are not many overtakes after lap two or three.’
The weather could shake up the order, with scorching temperatures forecast for Saturday’s qualifying followed by rain on Sunday.
Tyre degradation, which the Aston Martins have mastered, may be a major factor in the weekend heat.
‘That will be probably the strength of our car so hopefully we can use it on Sunday if there are not many safety cars or not rain or something,’ said Alonso.
‘We could see some rain forecast for Sunday so things may change but to not see many overtakes is the nature of Formula One so it should not be a surprise.’
Double world champion Fernando Alonso played down the chance of an Aston Martin victory
A US sprinkle of pizzazz
While Miami can deliver plenty of Monaco like pizzazz, the action on the track could also be similar to Monte Carlo with precious little overtaking.
Fast X stars Vin Diesel and Michelle Rodriguez will feature in Sky Sports F1’s weekend coverage ahead of the film’s release on May 19.
There has been a massive surge in Formula One’s popularity in the United States, which for the first time will host three races this season in Miami, Austin and Las Vegas.
Some of that excitement can be traced to the hugely successful Netflix series Drive to Survive, which packaged the glitz and danger of the sport through spectacular crashes, compelling figures and storylines.
But Red Bull’s early season dominance has removed some of the shine, particularly in the US, with critics labelling the first four races as ‘boring’.
Friday, May 5
First Practice Session – 7pm BST / 2pm ET / 1pm CT
Second Practice Session – 10.30pm BST / 5.30pm ET / 4.30pm CT
Saturday, May 6
Third Practice Session – 5.30pm BST / 12.30pm ET / 11.30am CT
Qualifying – 9pm BST / 4pm ET / 3pm CT
Sunday, May 7
Miami Grand Prix 2023 – 8.30pm BST / 3.30pm ET / 2.30pm CT
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