15/57 Leclerc sets his own fastest lap, just 100th of second slower than Verstappen’s fastest overall lap. Beckham looks on, his hair resplendent, and not a bead of sweat in these humid climes.
14/57 George Russell overtakes Ricciardo, and the Mercs are doing OK at the moment. Hamilton is slowly catching up Bottas in fifth.
13/57 A wobble from Leclerc loses a second to Verstappen, and Perez is chasing down the Ferrari of Sainz. Red Bull in the ascendancy, Ferrari seeming to struggle when the throttle is opened.
12/57 Mick Schumacher back down to 11th. Some cars coming in to change their tyres, with the hard-wear seeming not to be doing the job today, though George Russell’s Merc is improving on the same rubberwear.
11/57 Leclerc and Verstappen continue to chase each other as Daniel Ricciardo, Drive To Survive star, is going up to 12th. Sainz, in third, appears to be quicker than Leclerc, while five seconds separate the top four. That’s where the race will be won, barring calamity.
10/57 Leclerc gives chase, though Red Bull has more straight-line speed than the Ferrari. Verstappen seems to have this race within his own gift.
9/57 The Red Bull radio suggests they have spotted a problem with Leclerc’s tyres, as Verstappen, their man, closes in and seeks a DRS opportunity. And he takes it in the chicane, and blazes by at turn 17 past the pit straight. Leclerc had no answer to the Red Bull.
8/57 First man out is Guanyu Zhou, who is called in by his Alfa team and is audibly annoyed.
7/57 Mick Schumacher is up to 10th, and that would be his first ever points in F1 if he got to stay there.
6/57 The temperature is up seven degrees, say the TV blokes. That seems implausible. Hamilton is past Gasly and through into sixth, where he started the race. His team are still looking for the damage on his car.
5/57 Perez is flying as he chases down Sainz in third. Red Bull’s man, Christian Horner, says that Red Bull and Ferrari are suited to different parts of the track.
4/57 Hamilton says he has damage in his left rear.
3/57 Hamilton’s back up to seventh, breezing past Alonso without a backwards glance. Perez seems to be dropped already by the leading pack of Leclerc, Verstappen and Sainz.
2/57 Ricciardo went up four places to 11th and Hamilton is complaining that someone ran into him during that start. Fernando Alonso is seen as the culprit. Leclerc builds up a second’s advantage on Verstappen. Russell’s hard compound tyres dropping back in the pack, as are all of those on such tyres.
Leclerc gets clear and Sainz is overtaken by Verstappen, and Hamilton comes under pressure. Ferrari’s 1-2 goes immediately and Hamilton drops back two places to eighth. Bottas is in fifth, with Perez following Sainz. It’s all very bunched on the first lap. George Russell down to 15th, suggesting the Mercedes cars are struggling.
First time ever for F1 on this track, so many known unknowns, and a red flag seems likely at some point, with the safety car kept busy. The formation lap sets off, with 18 rather than 20 cars. Big cheers in the stadium as the cars whip by the stands. Lots of whooping and hollering going on.
Not long to go now, the rain has probably been washed away. Have all the celebs been cleared out of the paddock yet? That seems a little more uncertain.
Tom Stratford gets in touch: “Hey John. Brundle is making such a car crash of these paddock interviews, the stewards may have to deploy the safety car in a minute… anyway, enjoy the race!”
The Star Spangled Banner has received the usual treatment in the anthem section, whereby the singer appears to use it as a scale exercise. Meanwhile, Max Verstappen seems to be worried about the heat. Elsewhere, Aston Martin are starting in the pit lane as they had cooled their fuel too much, it appears, and to an illegal level. The cooler it is, the more horsepower, says Jenson Button.
The engines are revved and the cars have left the garages. Martin Brundle is on the grid and Mario Andretti is very chirpy, and seems to have won the chance to drive an F1 car at the Austin GP. Brundle speaks to Venus Williams, who says “we love having Lewis and all the drivers in Miami.” It’s rammed on the grid. Dj Khaled sings the praises of Miami, his home city. Patrick Mahomes, Kansas City QB is a very tall man. “This is crazy, this is spectacular.” Except it’s not Mahomes, but Paolo Banchero, as Brunds had been given duff info. Racing people in short supply as it’s flooded with celebs.
Ah, Christian Horner, a celeb himself. “We’ve got to split them,” the Red Bull principal says of the Ferraris. No Astons on the grid, says Brunds, who engages the company of a cheerful-looking chap who says he is a “social media celebrity”… Aston are indeed starting from the pit lane.
Pharrell Williams says: “I love Ferrari cars but Lewis is my brother.” He’s chatting to McLaren principal Richard Mille. Chris Medland, F1 hack par excellence, is speaking to Lance Stroll, who says the Astons have problems and had to go to the pit lane. Jean Alessi, the Ferrari man, is backing his old team but is worried by Max Verstappen.
David Beckham blanks Brundle, not for the first time. But then relents. “It’s amazing, it’s what Miami does best, the sporting occasion.”
And so to the anthems….
It’s 40 years to the day since the sport lost Gilles Villeneuve at the Belgian Grand Prix.
The overall drivers’ standings after four races so far
- 1) Charles Leclerc, Ferrari, 86 points
- 2) Max Verstappen, Red Bull, 59
- 3) Sergio Perez, Red Bull, 54
- 4) George Russell, Mercedes, 49
- 5) Carlos Sainz, Ferrari, 38
- 6 Lando Norris, McLaren, 35
- 7) Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, 28
- 8) Valtteri Bottas, Alfa Romeo, 24
- 9) Esteban Ocon, Alpine, 20
- 10) Kevin Magnussen, Haas, 15
- 11) Daniel Ricciardo, McLaren, 11
- 12) Yuki Tsunoda, AlphaTauri, 10
- 13) Pierre Gasly, AlphaTauri, 6
- 14) Sebastian Vettel, Aston Martin, 4
- 15) Fernando Alonso Alpine, 2
- =16) Guanyu Zhou, Alfa Romeo, 1
- =16) Alex Albon, Williams, 1
- =16) Lance Stroll, Aston Martin, 1
A reminder of those Miami grid positions.
- 1) Charles Leclerc, Ferrari
- 2) Carlos Sainz, Ferrari
- 3) Max Verstappen, Red Bull
- 4) Sergio Perez, Red Bull
- 5) Valtteri Bottas, Alfa Romeo
- 6) Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes
- 7) Pierre Gasly, AlphaTauri
- 8) Lando Norris, McLaren
- 9) Yuki Tsunoda, AlphaTauri
- 10) Lance Stroll, Aston Martin
- 11) Fernando Alonso, Alpine
- 12) George Russell, Mercedes
- 13) Sebastian Vettel, Aston Martin
- 14) Daniel Ricciardo, McLaren
- 15) Mick Schumacher, Haas
- 16) Kevin Magnussen, Haas
- 17) Guanyu Zhou, Alfa Romeo
- 18) Alex Albon, Williams
- 19) Nicholas Latifi, William
- 20) Esteban Ocon, Alpine
Rain is falling in Miami, and a track that is already a little wet through the humidity, may cause problems, making the road a bit greasier than the drivers would like. It’s hot out there, and the track may not be the easiest even in the dry. There were a couple of heavy crashes in practice sessions and a couple of drivers have been complaining, and concerned about their safety.
“I’m sorry to be critical but I told the FIA yesterday that my crash in second gear shouldn’t feel that hard, but today my neck was a bit in pain,” Carlos Sainz said on Saturday. “I told them *Let*s put Tecpro there* because it*s a very hard concrete wall.”
This isn’t F1’s first flush in America. Some of you may remember Mario Andretti, who spoke to Giles Richards.
Andretti’s opinion rightly still carries weight. He won the F1 championship with Lotus in 1978 but his career was long and successful across so many disciplines. He remains the only driver to have won the F1 title, the Indianapolis 500 and the Daytona 500. He was named US driver of the year in three separate decades: 1967, 1978 and 1984.
Why so many famous faces here? The answer is Drive To Survive, the Netflix series.
F1 is holding two races in the US for the first time since 1984, with Miami and the US GP in Austin. Next year it will add Las Vegas to the mix. The sport’s owners, Liberty Media who took over F1 in 2017, have made no secret of their ambition to build F1’s profile in the US and Drive to Survive has been vital.
Team principals have acknowledged the part the TV show has played in bringing their sport to a wider audience, even while some drivers such as Max Verstappen have criticised that it is played for dramatic effect to sell a narrative.
To say this is a celeb extravaganza is to put it mildly. Michael Jordan is doing his last dance, Serena Williams looks ace, Pharrell Williams looks happy, Will-I-Am has got a feeling it’s going to be a good, good night, and Michael Douglas has the same basic instinct, Tom Brady has touched down and David Beckham got a bend on to be here. Some real Don Johnson values in his get-up.
Rhythm is gonna get’cha
Rhythm is gonna get’cha
Rhythm is gonna get you
The rhythm is gonna get you tonight
No way, you can fight it every day
But no matter what you say
You know it the rhythm is gonna get’cha
Gloria Estefan and her Sound Machine, Crockett & Tubbs, Steve Van Zandt, Dan Marino, Tony Montana, The Rock, Gentle Ben, Jon Secada, Police Academy 5, Phil Neville: yes, it’s probably time to shake out the Miami cliches before the big race itself, though a first F1 race here since 1959 is quite the occasion, as America, via Netflix, has becomes the latest territory the fastest vroom-vroom cars in the world of sport have conquered.
What’s at stake, beyond Lewis Hamilton’s battle to keep his body piercings on in the cockpit? Well, Charles Leclerc looked highly accomplished in qualifying where Max Verstappen did not, as the world champion was forced into a mistake when pushing too hard on his final lap. In the drivers’ championship, Leclerc leads Verstappen by 27 points, a handy advantage, and he has Ferrari teammate Carlos Sainz alongside him on the starting grid, with Verstappen in third with Red Bull oppo Sergio Perez in fourth.
It’s hot out there, humid, too, and that could make for some fine entertainment. Reliability could be an issue for all the teams – just ask Hamilton’s Merc team even if he did make sixth on the grid this time – and may be the deciding factor.
Moon over Miami
Shine on my love and me
So we can stroll beside the roll
Of the rolling sea
Moon over Miami
Shine on as we begin
A dream or two that may come true
As the tide comes in