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F1: Miami Grand Prix and SEVEN things to look out for ahead of the race

One of Formula One’s most highly anticipated races of the season is nearly upon us as the fifth round of the world championship brings the inaugural Miami Grand Prix.

Despite F1 being set to race around the Hard Rock Stadium for the first time on the purpose built track, already it’s become a venue many want to be seen at following the sport’s recent popularity explosion due to the success of the Netflix series Drive To Survive that has brought the sport to the attention of a more casual audience.

But while even the casuals have something to look forward to this weekend, so do the sport’s diehard supporters as Sportsmail looks at seven things to look out for at the Miami Grand Prix. 

F1 drivers gather on stage outside the Hard Rock Stadium on Wednesday for the opening party ahead of the inaugural Miami Grand Prix that will host the fifth round of the F1 season

A purpose built track has been constructed to tour around the stadium for the event

A purpose built track has been constructed to tour around the stadium for the event

Red Bull hoping to stay on top

There were notions that the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix was heading towards Ferrari  last time out, but ultimately it ended with a comfortable Red Bull one-two with Max Verstappen leading home Sergio Perez on the territory of their championship rivals.

There are few clues which of the teams will have an advantage in Miami given there is no data from the circuit.

But a key factor to note is while Red Bull could be continuing to make their car faster by trimming excess weight on the car, Ferrari are not expected to hit back easily at least with team boss Mattia Binotto having claimed they will bring no major upgrades to the United States.  

All the momentum is with Red Bull right now who if they have ironed out their early reliability problems from earlier in the campaign could take the lead in the constructors championship for the first time this season while Max Verstappen could take more chunks out of Charles Leclerc’s 27-point advantage in the drivers’ standings.

Red Bull duo Max Verstappen (centre left) and Sergio Perez will hope their team remains on top after recording a one-two finish at Imola last time out

Red Bull duo Max Verstappen (centre left) and Sergio Perez will hope their team remains on top after recording a one-two finish at Imola last time out

Ferrari’s fork in the road

Get out your history books and look for the last time Ferrari drivers battled each other for the world championship. To save you a bit of time it hasn’t really happened since Jody Scheckter saw off Gilles Villenueve to win the 1979 title.

Generally speaking, Ferrari tend to back their best (prancing) horse and depending on what happens in Miami that could happen five races into this season.

Charles Leclerc leads the standings on 86 points but following two dreadful races after spinning and crashing out in Australia and at Imola respectively, Carlos Sainz is already on the back foot with just 38 points.

Ferrari have plenty to fear with the resurgence of Verstappen and if they do have a slightly inferior car, they may have to start using Sainz as a wingman for Leclerc in the same way Verstappen has quite an effective rear gunner in Sergio Perez.

We are not quite at that stage yet, but another poor performance from Sainz in Miami in contrast to his team-mate could put him severely on the back foot in the title challenge points wise and he may lose backing from his Ferrari team to tussle with his team-mate.

Ferrari though may have to choose to focus on Charles Leclerc (right) instead of Carlos Sainz (left) if the Ferrari star has another disastrous race in Miami

Ferrari though may have to choose to focus on Charles Leclerc (right) instead of Carlos Sainz (left) if the Ferrari star has another disastrous race in Miami

Sainz (back) has retired from the previous two races to put him on the back foot this term

Sainz (back) has retired from the previous two races to put him on the back foot this term

Miami is the new Monaco – with overtaking

It’s very rare for a new Formula One race to generate such a buzz, and the excitement that is building off track for the Miami Grand Prix is finally leading many to believe the sport is very much on the brink of cracking America.

Admittedly, it’s been a major goal for owners Liberty Media since they took over from Bernie Ecclestone in 2017 to raise the sport’s profile stateside and some of the biggest names are queuing up to make sure they can be seen at the track this weekend.

Among the high-rollers expected on a pre-race grid that will be deliberately packed are LeBron James, Michael Jordan, Dan Marino, David Beckham, James Corden, the Williams sisters, Pharrell Williams and Wyclef Jean. 

David Beckham will be one of many stars in attendance for the Miami Grand Prix this week

David Beckham will be one of many stars in attendance for the Miami Grand Prix this week

Tennis stars Venus (left) and Serena Williams will also likely be in attendance for the race

Tennis stars Venus (left) and Serena Williams will also likely be in attendance for the race

It’s about as close to the Monaco Grand Prix as you can get in terms of its glitz and glamour but it may also have another trump card up its sleeve in that the racing might actually be good.

That the narrow and confined streets of Monte Carlo produce some of the worst grands prix in recent years is not a fresh take, but the new track around Miami’s Hard Rock Stadium offers hope that the weekend can be glamorous for the casuals and exciting for the petrol heads.

Turns 1, 11 or the long back straight into 17 look like offering genuine hope of on-track action. 

The new Miami circuit is set to offer many overtaking opportunities around the track

The new Miami circuit is set to offer many overtaking opportunities around the track

Monaco is still the ultimate glitz and glamour race on the grid but offers poor race action

Monaco is still the ultimate glitz and glamour race on the grid but offers poor race action 

Mercedes’ Miami boost

Mercedes’ woeful start to the season (by their standards at least) goes on but they may finally get a performance boost this weekend.

George Russell may have maximised the team’s possible result with a supreme drive to fourth at the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix but the seven time world champion Lewis Hamilton was left struggling well outside the points on one of his worst weekends in over a decade.

Their porpoising that sees the car bounce at high speeds has already been long known but the team behind the scenes have been working furiously to try and eliminate the issue.

There appears to be no overnight fix – at least for the moment – but trackside engineering director Andrew Shovlin suggested that upgrades to the struggling W13 could come ‘hopefully soon – maybe as soon as Miami’ with a potential new front wing in the mix.

Mercedes could be line for a performance boost ahead of the Miami GP after a poor start

Mercedes could be line for a performance boost ahead of the Miami GP after a poor start

But can Hamilton bounce back in the USA?

Of perhaps slightly more intrigue at the moment within Mercedes has been how Hamilton has been caught hopping by Russell after the first four races.

It’s been a curious on-track battle so far between the British team-mates. When Hamilton is ‘on it’ he looks narrowly faster than the King’s Lynn born star.

But when Hamilton is off the pace he is miles behind the 24-year-old and his wildly inconsistent form means he trails his new Mercedes team-mate by 21 points in the championship.

Unlike Ferrari, Mercedes don’t have the same amount of pressure in having to back either of their drivers at this stage but the longer Hamilton remains behind Russell in the championship, the greater chance he just starts to perhaps lose influence in the team.

After all, even as a multiple world champion he is now 37-years-old and Mercedes will be keen to ensure they have one eye on their future beyond Hamilton’s time in the sport.

George Russell (left) has built a slight advantage over experienced team-mate Lewis Hamilton

George Russell (left) has built a slight advantage over experienced team-mate Lewis Hamilton

Time for Schumacher to shine

The pressure is also coming at Haas and more in particular on the perhaps the only member of the team who is unhappy with the start to the season.

Mick Schumacher has struggled so far this campaign and is one of only two full-time drivers along with Nicholas Latifi yet to score a point.

By contrast, his team-mate in the returning Kevin Magnussen already has three points finishes from the first four races leaving him inside the top 10 of the drivers’ standings.

Schumacher hit a par score in beating Nikita Mazepin for pace last season but with an upgrade in team-mate the son of the seven-time world champion in Michael Schumacher is having his work cut out. The German needs a big weekend sooner rather than later before his reputation as a potential future Ferrari star starts to take some serious damage. 

Mick Schumacher has endured a poor start to the season with Haas having not scored a point

Mick Schumacher has endured a poor start to the season with Haas having not scored a point

McLaren back in business

After a slow start to the season it appears McLaren are finally starting to show some pace heading into Miami, following Lando Norris’ first podium of 2022 at Imola last time out.

The 22-year-old’s season started with a lowly 15th place in Bahrain but since then he has also finished seventh in Saudi Arabia and fifth in Australia.

It’s hard to see how he can progress higher given the performance advantage of Red Bull and Ferrari but once again Norris is showing why he can help lead the British charge in F1 once Hamilton eventually retires.

Australian team-mate Daniel Ricciardo once again looks slightly slower after being largely outpaced this term, and Norris admits he is looking forward to the Miami challenge.

‘I’m really hyped for this weekend,’ he told McLaren’s website. ‘New circuits are always something I look forward to, and when you add in the excitement around a US race, particularly in Miami, it’s going to be so cool. It’s looking fast with some great features and with the added element of being a street track, it’s going to be a fun challenge.’

Lando Norris (top right) secured his first podium of the season at Imola last time out

Lando Norris (top right) secured his first podium of the season at Imola last time out

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