If you’ve watched Netflix’s Formula 1: Drive to Survive or listened to a friend gush about it, you know that America’s Formula 1 fanbase has taken off relatively recently. And now that Formula 1’s inaugural Miami Grand Prix has arrived, there’s even more to get excited about: A packed event! Potential rain-induced pandemonium! McLaren driver and perennial fan favorite Daniel Ricciardo finally soft-launching his long-time girlfriend on Instagram!
Whether you’re just getting into F1 or you’ve been marking the days until the United States second race (and definitely the sweatiest), here’s what to watch out for.
Miami’s circuit is already getting meme’d
Formula 1 fever may be new to the U.S., but this isn’t our first rodeo: the Miami International Aerodrome is the 11th U.S. track in F1 history—the most ever by one country. After annoying locals with a plan to build a street circuit through downtown Miami, the city and F1 settled on a non-permanent, 3.3-mile-long track built from scratch in the parking lot of Hard Rock Stadium (which is actually in deeply uncool Miami Gardens, not Miami proper). Besides many luxurious VIP amenities, the circuit features an extremely fake “marina” filled with dry-docked yachts and fake water. It’s getting mercilessly and rightfully meme’d.
If you’re just tuning in off a feverish DTS binge and confused why this race isn’t called the U.S. Grand Prix, that’s because the name already belongs to the annual F1 race in Austin, Texas, which happens in October. And Miami won’t be the new kid on the block for long: a third U.S. race will take place in Las Vegas during Thanksgiving weekend of 2023.
The Miami track is made for speed
The fun of a first-time track is that there’s a certain degree of unpredictability for how everything will play out. What we do know: the circuit has 19 corners, including what may be a tricky hairpin, and three different DRS zones. For the uninitiated, drivers can enable DRS (“drag reduction system”, in F1-ese) on these straightaway sections so long as they’re within one second of the vehicle in front of them; that system opens a flap on the car’s rear wing to decrease aerodynamic drag, which basically acts like a little speed boost, allowing drivers to pass opponents more easily.
It’s about to get hot. Literally
It’s gonna be sweaty, with a predicted 90-degree Fahrenheit day on Sunday—conditions that force teams to adapt their strategies. Temperatures at track level could soar past 100 degrees, which may bake the delicate tires. Plus, there’s a strong chance of rain on Saturday for qualifying, and the potential for more rain on Sunday, which could cause real havoc. Certain drivers, like Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton, tend to gain an edge when the conditions are messy.
The biggest on-track rivalry is…
…obvious: Ferrari’s speedy and high-cheekboned Charles Leclerc versus Red Bull’s ruthless flying Dutchman (and reigning Formula 1 champion) Max Verstappen. This will be extra fun to watch, because the Miami circuit is brand new, so there’s zero precedent for which teams or drivers might do well there. And as you’ll see below, Verstappen hasn’t had great luck so far in 2022.
Everyone’s also wondering if Mercedes and McLaren, who’ve struggled this season, will pull it together. Seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton is seeing unexpectedly stiff competition from his young-gun teammate George Russell. Russell’s in fourth place in the driver’s championship, with Hamilton in seventh place—roughly six places below what he’s used to.
But there’s plenty of action all over the grid
Formula 1 is 200-mph soap opera from top to bottom, and some of the lower-key rivalries and drivers trying to claim a little of the spotlight are as fun to watch as the prize fighters aiming for the title. After peacing out of Mercedes last year, everyone’s favorite Finnish coffee connoisseur Valtteri Bottas (Alfa Romeo) is in eighth place in the standings. Cherubic British driver Lando Norris (McLaren), in his basketball helmet, could be picking up momentum after grabbing a podium at Italy’s Imola race two weeks ago. And Williams’ Nicholas Latifi is a solid bet to add to his already-hefty crash total for the season.