Miami Gardens, Fla. ( Associated Press) — From the party scene to the weather, the Miami Grand Prix was hot, but it faced nearly impossible expectations.
Celebrity viewing was top class, certainly for a motorsports event. Paris Hilton was using a portable fan to cool herself while dancing in front of the McLaren garage on race day. Serena and Venus Williams in summer costumes hold hands as they navigate the pre-race grid. Bad Bunny, Puerto Rican entertainment icon, made an eye-catching entrance in a pink suit while hanging out with Red Bull’s Mexican driver Sergio Pérez.
There were also plenty of bells and whistles, from a food hall, art installation, hammocks, chaise lounges to cabanas and a man-made beach. But did Formula One’s debut in this charming, cosmopolitan city measure up to a good event?
It all depends on personal expectations. The expectations were so high, after all.
F1 is looking to tap into the thriving North American sponsorship market as the series’ popularity has grown over the past three years. The United States was given two F1 races this season for the first time since 1984 and will have three next year, with Las Vegas – the most spectacular city of them all? — The host is playing.
Miami received a 10-year contract for their extraordinary event at Hard Rock Stadium, where promoters built a 3.36-mile circuit through the parking lot and then went off the charts, creating the scene around it. Tickets never went on sale to the general public because the initial interest and ability to create an enjoyable – and exclusive – customer experience was capped at 85,000.
The track was woven around the stadium, under a highway overpass and around a mock marina featuring 10 boats and a mini-Monaco backdrop. The vast circuit had gondolas to ferry fans, and a beach club that held musical acts over a three-day weekend.
The incident was joined by many in the Netflix behind-the-scenes documentary “Drive to Survive” on F1. Each episode covers a complete story – sometimes multiple races – and is credited with uncovering the glamorous F1 world for Americans. Netflix and F1 also waited for the series to arrive in Miami last week to announce that “DTS” had been renewed for two more seasons.
The racing, alas, was just fine, the 57 mostly uneven laps on the track drivers did not like. Fernando Alonso said drivers complained to the governing body FIA that “tarmac is not F1 standard” and that promoters had to redo sections of the track twice before Sunday’s race.
The asphalt “almost feels like gravel,” said Max Verstappen, the reigning world champion who won for the third time through the first five races of the season. He also said that chicken karts were suitable for races and not F1 cars.
“In the four laps I did on Friday, I almost knocked myself out because I hit the first curb and your head jumped from left to right, like at least five, six times, but really bad,” Verstappen said. “It’s too slow and I think our cars look better if it’s a bit more of a flowing combination.”
The good news is that promoter Tom Garfinkel said ahead of Sunday’s race that organizers would listen to all feedback and make any changes necessary to improve the event, including track changes.
He was also familiar with other areas that fell short – hospitality inside the F1 paddock was not up to series standards on opening day Friday; Pedestrian bridges across campus were closed; Shadows can be hard to find – and that said, it will all be addressed, even if the race doesn’t turn a profit in its first year.
“The spending far exceeded our expectations,” Garfinkel said. “But that was because we were trying to do everything we could to be first-class, to be on brand for what Formula One is and the kind of event we wanted to organize.”
The incident still had some of that classic F1 backroom drama with the FIA insisting it would enforce a ban on drivers wearing jewelry while competing. Seven-time champion Lewis Hamilton protested, wearing three watches, eight rings and several necklaces, but eventually removed everything except a few holes before getting into his car.
The FIA granted Hamilton an exemption for the next two races so that he could plan to have a piercing that he could not surgically remove. The Briton must have all his piercings removed or be fined $308,000 (£250,000) by the Monaco Grand Prix on 29 May.
Hamilton is experiencing a terrible season by his standards. His dispute with the FIA sparked speculation that he would leave F1 and suggested he could not budge on the issue, saying on Friday: “If they stop me, so be it. We have a spare driver.” “
Jewelrygate is a type of off-track drama that attracted fans to “DTS” and helped F1 capture American audiences. Hamilton was sixth on Sunday, one place behind Mercedes teammate George Russell and the fourth time in five races he has been behind Russell this season.
If nothing changes, the next time fans see Hamilton race in Miami, it could be a recap on Netflix in Season 5.
More Associated Press Auto Racing: https://apnews.com/hub/auto-racing and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports