Story By: PAOLA ARGUETA / F1 MIAMI GRAND PRIX – MIAMI GARDENS, FL – After months of anticipation the brand-new Miami International Autodrome roared into life on Friday with a busy day of action both on and off the track. Topping the timesheets after two hours of free practice was the Mercedes of George Russell.
The British driver completed 18 laps to set the fastest time of 1m 29.938s, just 0.106 seconds ahead of the Ferrari of World Championship points leader Charles Leclerc.
Both practice sessions were held in beautiful sunny conditions with the thermometer reaching 93 degrees F when the F1® cars emerged from the pit lane for the first time. As the thousands of fans around the 5.41km track enjoyed the South Florida weather, they were treated to a dramatic day of action as the drivers got up to speed at Formula 1®’s newest venue.
In the first few minutes of first practice, a couple of drivers spun including Leclerc, who pirouetted his Ferrari at Turn 1. His team-mate Carlos Sainz also rotated at Turn 4 late into the session and suffered a front-right puncture. FP1 was briefly suspended following a crash for Alfa Romeo’s Valtteri Bottas. The Finnish driver spun turning into Turn 7 and hit the barriers opposite the MIA Marina and didn’t take part in afternoon practice. In the closing stages, the track began to ramp up with grip and Leclerc finished fastest with a 1m31.098s lap just 0.071s quicker than George Russell’s Mercedes.
Things started to heat up in the second practice hour in the afternoon. The Miami Gardens venue once again proved to be an exciting driving challenge for the world’s best racers. Just 18 minutes in, another red-flag was flown after Sainz crashed coming out of Turn 13 and mechanical issues reduced Max Verstappen’s track-time to just a single lap in the afternoon.
Between the two F1® free practice sessions, the all-female W Series racers took to the track for their 30-minute familiarization of the Miami International Autodrome with the fastest time being set by British racer Alice Powell.
The Miami International Autodrome is hosting the inaugural Formula 1® Crypto.com Miami Grand Prix this weekend and featured a number of events in the build-up to the first on-track running. Race week activities got underway on Wednesday evening with the Opening Party with Musical Performances presented by Heineken® that wowed fans with a spectacular concert and F1® driver and team principal introductions from the podium.
That was preceded by the official opening of the track when the first lap was completed by Formula 1® Crypto.com Miami Grand Prix Managing Partner Tom Garfinkel who drove a McLaren Senna supercar around the 5.41km circuit with Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross as his passenger. The pair were followed on-track by both McLaren F1 Team drivers Lando Norris and Daniel Ricciardo who piloted a pair of McLaren Elvas. Afterwards Formula 1® Crypto.com Miami Grand Prix Ambassadors Emerson Fittipaldi and Juan Pablo Montoya gave passenger laps to both celebrities and Miami Dolphins players.
Yesterday, a selection of F1® drivers took a visit to the state-of-the-art Baptist Health Training Center, home of the Miami Dolphins, to try their hand at some of the tests and drills that players do on a regular basis. The drivers measured their vertical jump height on the Hawkin Dynamics Force Plate, their speed on a laser-timed slide race and tested their field abilities with a 10-15-yard throw into a net as well as kicking field goals. They were also provided with a Dolphins shirt with their name and number as a momento of the day.
The cross-over between the Miami Dolphins players continued as two players took part in a pitstop practice with Alpine on Friday morning. LB Jaelan Phillips and DT Christian Wilkins took control of the wheel gun to help the mechanics change the tyres on the Alpine car. Both players were excited to help the crew by changing all four tyres in two seconds. “It’s like game day,” said Wilkins. “You get some pressure but you have to perform when it’s time.”
Current Dolphins player Tua Tagovailoa and the legendary quarterback Dan Marino also got the chance to commemorate the inaugural Formula 1 Crypto.com Miami Grand Prix when they presented FIA President Mohammed Ben Sulayem, Liberty Media CEO & Chairman Greg Maffei and Non-Executive Chairman Chase Carey with the famous Dolphins jersey in the paddock. The action in Miami Gardens continues tomorrow with qualifying ahead of the 57-lap Formula 1® Crypto.com Miami Grand Prix on Sunday.