Formula 1 will not be the only sporting activity over the weekend in Miami, but can the pinnacle of motorsports compete with the likes of NBA and hockey?
With Formula 1 drivers facing off at the Miami Grand Prix, the Florida Panthers making a surprising Stanley Cup playoff run and Miami Heat facing the New York Knicks in the NBA – there is no shortage of sporting buzz this week in South Florida.
But sport fans may have to look to the Panthers and Heat for some genuine excitement, warned Aston Martin’s double World Champion Fernando Alonso, with the Miami Grand Prix shaping up as another Red Bull victory parade.
“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.”
Red Bull are again the team to beat
Once again in a league of their own, Red Bull have won every grand prix this season, with three of the four races one-two finishes.
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.
Double World Champion Max Verstappen (93) leads Red Bull teammate Sergio Perez (87) in the drivers standings and a resurgent Alonso a distant third on 60 points.
The weather could shake up the deck, with scorching temperatures forecast for Saturday’s qualifying followed by rain on Sunday.
The other ace Alonso and teammate Lance Stroll might have up their sleeves is tyre degradation, which the Aston Martins have mastered and 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 1 so it should not be a surprise.”
There has been a massive surge in Formula 1’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 U.S., with critics labelling the first four races as “boring”.
“I’ll do my best to not make it boring but at the end it’s a sport,” said Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc. “It’s like in every sport sometimes a team is just better than others.”
Lewis Hamilton understands complaints on lack of competition
Mercedes seven-time World Champion Lewis Hamilton said he understands fans frustration over the lack of action but that it is not his job to convince them to watch.
“It’s not boring for me, I’m challenged every single day trying to get back to the front,” said Hamilton. “But as a racing fan watching I can understand because there’s not as much competition as perhaps they are used to with the NFL and NBA.
“They have tried to bring the teams closer but it never seems to work,” the Briton maintained.
Hamilton’s teammate George Russell had a tongue-and-cheek solution, forget about Red Bull and dive into the battle for third place.
“The competition we’ve got at the moment between Ferrari and Aston Martin, at every race we go to it’s really close between us in qualifying, the pace is really close in the race,” said Russell. “If that was the fight for the victory it would probably be one of the most exciting seasons we’ve seen in a long, long time.
“It’s obviously just a shame that there’s two more cars well out in front. So forget about those two (Red Bulls) and just watch the race for P3. It may be a bit more exciting,” Russell added. (Reporting by Steve Keating)