Formula 1’s first journey across the Atlantic this year takes us to sunny Florida for the 2023 Miami Grand Prix, which is one of the newest races on the calendar. As we prepare for the fifth round of the restarted season after a very boring Azerbaijan GP, there are several hot topics that will be up for discussion in the Miami paddock this weekend.
The rivalry between Red Bull’s drivers is intensifying to our delight. While the Azerbaijan Grand Prix did not provide the excitement that some were hoping for, there is still plenty to talk about. Checo Perez was victorious over his Dutch teammate, for the second time this season, closing the gap in the championship standings to just six points.
What makes this battle particularly captivating is that Perez was able to beat Verstappen fair and square, both in Azerbaijan and in Saudi Arabia, demonstrating that both drivers are performing exceptionally well. As we head into the Miami Grand Prix, Perez will be looking to capitalise on his street circuit strengths to put pressure on Verstappen once again. The competition for this years’ drivers’ championship is heating up.
While Sergio Perez is keeping Max Verstappen in check, Charles Leclerc is showing that there are other challengers to the title this season. Although it’s only the fifth round of the massive 23 race calendar, the gaps being opened up now could still be closed, especially with Leclerc’s impressive one-lap pace in Azerbaijan, which earned him two pole positions, a second-place finish in the Sprint, and third in the main race on Sunday.
This performance was Ferrari’s first podium of the year and demonstrated a growing level of consistency, as Leclerc was able to compete at the front throughout the weekend without any car upgrades. Ferrari is targeting this weekend’s race to introduce their first significant upgrades, which could put them in contention for pole position and closer to Red Bull in race pace.
Logan Sargeant’s entrance to the Formula 1 grid has brought additional excitement to American fans, who now have a full-time driver to support. With Austin and Las Vegas still to come, one could argue that he has three home races this year. However, Miami is truly Sargeant’s home race as he hails from Boca Raton, only a few minutes away from the Miami International Autodrome, located at the Hard Rock Stadium, home of the Miami Dolphins.
Although the young American has been competitive in the opening rounds of his rookie season, he has yet to achieve the desired results and score some points. Nonetheless, he reached Q2 for the first time in Baku and repeated the feat in the Sprint Shootout before a crash prevented him from participating in the Sprint race. Although he was present for Williams at the Miami track last year, he has not yet driven on it. As a result, Sargeant will face another steep learning curve, but if he can continue his good form, he’ll give his home fans plenty to cheer about.
Alpine had a tough time at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix, preventing them from showcasing their true potential. Pierre Gasly had a reliability issue during FP1 and crashed in qualifying, leaving him at a disadvantage. Meanwhile, Esteban Ocon had to start from the pit lane after changing his car’s set-up, which proved to be a gamble that didn’t pay off.
Although he ran in the top ten for most of the race, he wasn’t able to rejoin the fight for points due to a lack of late drama. Gasly finished 14th, just one place ahead of Ocon. This is the second setback for Alpine, after the collision between their drivers at the Australian Grand Prix. However, their pace at other races indicates that they have more to offer in terms of results, and they will have the opportunity to respond at the Miami Grand Prix.
Miami is gearing up for one of the most vibrant and eventful weeks on the F1 calendar. Last year’s debut race was a thrilling and intense spectacle, with the entire city getting caught up in the excitement of the sport’s arrival. This year is expected to be just as lively, with teams hosting a range of activations and events over the next five days.
Not only will there be a fantastic atmosphere in the stands, but the newly resurfaced track is also set to provide an enhanced racing experience. With a larger capacity to accommodate even more fans and a paddock situated in the field within the Hard Rock Stadium, the upcoming weekend promises to be a truly unique experience. Let’s just hope there’s less cringy spectacles this year.
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