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F1: Razzmatazz but no fizz.

Bryan Edwards

Watching American motor racing always smacks of a trick when, not long before the end, a safety car comes out and everyone bunches up. Why not just to five lap sprint races because at the end of the day, that's all the racing that counts. So when one hears a TV commentator at the inaugural Miami Grand Prix say that we need a safety car to spice things up, there's a horrible sinking feeling, and a sour taste after the safety-car led debacle in the Abu Dhabi GP 2021.

Let's say one thing very clearly: on paper the Miami track looks to be exactly right for high-speed overtaking, braking zone overtaking and chicane overtaking. And it is, if there is sufficient performance difference between the cars. But Red Bull were able to take advantage of their additional estimated 15kph speed on two long straights. It was always going to be thus: the track's straights will favour high-power, low downforce cars and that, essentially, means Red Bull. Ferrari aren't sluggish so Red Cars and Red Bulls were always going to be slugging it out.

But what was not foreseen was that the track would so quickly end up as a single-file line except on the straights. Dust, debris and a large amount of "marbles" narrowed the racing line on a track that, with concrete walls in many places, is very unforgiving.

Throughout free practice, cars brushed, bounce of of destroyed themselves against the walls. There is only one blind corner but there's a wall on the exit so, again, opportunity for recovery in the event of a problem is, effectively, nil.

It is a wonderful track and the builders have done a superb job. No one should take away from the organisers any credit at all: compared to e.g. Jeddah, it's at the opposite end of the scale even though both are, at least nominally, street circuits. One part is particularly nice to see. In England, which used to have many railway lines, there are many railway bridges. The bridges are still there even though the railways have long gone. One of the delights of driving in England, even in towns, is that the roads go under the bridges rather than the bridges going over the roads. So you dive down a hill, then up again a moment later. Often the roads don't approach and leave in a straight line: you have to turn quite sharply, then the road dives, then it rises again and there's another bend. As soon as I saw the track at 13-16 I recognised the form and I was looking forward to it.

But expectations and reality turned out to be far, far apart.

There were criticisms by the drivers on Sunday before the race: in free practice, Carlos Sainz hit a wall hard; Ocon hit the same wall and his g-forces were more than 50G. His chassis cracked in the impact. The drivers complained that no "softening" was added before the race.

Some media have written extensively in criticism of the surface. But in fact, the surface gave good grip in the race: like all barely used tracks, not only new ones, it needs to be rubbered in. The track was swept thoroughly and there were a couple of support races but even so off-line it was very dusty. So is Zandvoort. The difference is that there are run-off areas at Zandvoort. Norris thought that the surface was an issue but that far more problematic was the heat that made tyre performance unpredictable.

All new tracks have teething problems with the surface. Miami avoided the usual problem of oil being released from new asphalt by, basically, sandblasting it to roughen it up and increase grip.

The race was almost as dull as racing at Abu Dhabi usually is but for different reasons. The DRS zones - three of them - detect after corners. If they detected before them then more cars would be within DRS distance. But that doesn't really help as five cars in a line found, each except the first having DRS but not enough oomph to overtake. That, basically, put almost half the field into a second category. Wheels got stuck (it was hot, so of course wheels and their nuts got hot) and pit stops lost valuable positions.

Norris, dropped far down the grid by a pit stop was unable to make progress and, eventually, when he did have a gap, Gasley took him out. That brought out a safety car near - but not too near - the end. And, once more, those who changed tyres under the safety car found themselves in a stronger position to those that had changed earlier. Some went for soft tyres, gambling that the safety car would leave them about ten laps of full on racing to go. Do you see where I'm going with this?

It was not a ploy: there is no doubt that a safety car was required after Norris redesigned his car pretty comprehensively.

The stewards were busy despite there being only one "off" requiring more than a few seconds of localised yellow flags. After the race ended, they were still making decisions. Alonso got a five second penalty then, later, got another one. That pushed him out of the points and took Albon up to 8th in his return to top flight racing.

At least a part of the reason for the DRS train that left half the field out in the cold was because Aston Martin discovered that the fuel in their cars was, er, too cold. So they took it all out, replaced it with fuel at the specified temperature and because they weren't ready they started from the pit lane - on hard tyres. Russell had struggled for ten laps to get hard tyres up to temperature but when he did, he was off like a hare. Vettel and Stroll were not hares but they were no slouches. So the queue formed behind them.

There was some good racing: actually, there was some very good racing. But once an overtaking move was completed, it seemed that the gap appeared as if by magic.

So what went wrong? Pretty much nothing but pretty much everything.

Result: Verstappen, LeClerk, Sainz, Perez, Russell, Hamilton, Bottas, Ocon, Albon, Stroll were the top ten.

Bottas had a good scrap with Hamilton for a while, and only dropped behind him at a pit stop. But then with Russell snapping at Hamilton's heels and Hamilton trying to pass Bottas again, the Finn went wide and lost two places; Russell got past Hamilton in a messy pass that saw him have to give the place back, then he immediately took it again but by then Perez was too far up the road for Russell to be chasing for fourth. And yet despite that, Russell still claims his result as "a fluke."

It's strange. There were so many good bits, often involving different teams and often at different parts of the track. It should have strung together better. That it didn't is one of life's mysteries. Another is that no one hit a wall in the race.

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