Formula 1 – Miami Grand Prix: the US street circuit far from the parodies of the past

After years of negotiations and twists and turns, Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez and Grand Prix promoter Tom Garfinkel went to great lengths to organize a world championship event around Hard Rock Stadium, home of the tournament. tennis Masters 1000 and home to the Miami Dolphins football team. This weekend the Miami International Autodrome will host the first Grand Prix in the city of Florida, which has signed a ten-year contract with “Formula 1”, promoter of the world championship.

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The course located in Miami Gardens will above all become the first reference urban circuit for F1 in the United States, worthy of the best standards, after too many risky experiences. If we put aside the Indianapolis 500, included in the F1 calendar from 1950 to 1960 to give it a global dimension, it was the Sebring and Riverside circuits, respectively in 1959 and 1960, that really launched the saga of the championship beyond Atlantic, before making way for Watkins Glenn.

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It could have been the beginning of a great story with the premier category, but the “Glen” was not up to the challenge because it wasn’t just a circuit. It was also a party place, and its site became the pitiful setting for Emerson Fittipaldi’s second title in 1974.

Long Beach, false good idea

Until then, “The Bog” had been a popular haunt of liberated youth, a special place like Woodstock, and that year it offered its craziest and least-frequented version. For $ 15 everyone can see the track for three days from a free lot and stay there 24 hours a day to have fun … A laudable principle that does not resist stupidity and playful substances since spectators – if we can call them that – can’t seem to think of nothing better than to take a bus of Brazilian fans from his parking lot, who came to cheer “Emmo”, to burn him, with a dozen cars. Naked individuals run in all directions, others throw glass bottles and stones and there are several wounded in this sad muddy expanse. On the track it is no better. The “Glen” is terribly dangerous. François Cevert and Helmuth Koinigg lost their lives there in 1973 and 1974, and the venue saw its last Formula 1 edition in 1980.

After Sebring, Riverside and Watkins Glen, F1 then tried to move forward by offering the 1976 Long Beach drivers. The route is just a path along boulevards and roads connected by right-angled curves, dotted with manholes, bumps, pretty good pavements. damage the frame and puncture the tires. Not to mention the concrete walls erected summarily for the sole purpose of being punitive, if not dissuasive. All this for a Sunday procession, for lack of a place to overtake. In short, all the disadvantages of Monaco without the glamor.

The Californian city will stop costs in 1983, but in the meantime Bernie Ecclestone, who is increasingly putting his nose on the calendar, took the paddock to Las Vegas to conclude the 1981 and 1982 championships in the parking lot of the Casaer Palace casino. Few riders will keep an everlasting memory if not for the wrong reasons, aside from the newly crowned Nelson Piquet Keke Rosberg.

Dallas, 6:00 am, Laffite in pajamas

However, “Bernie”, not the type to capitulate, insists on establishing Formula 1 in the United States, which he considers the new Eldorado of his sport. Except that the boss of the Brabham team made a mistake once again by installing the paddock in Detroit, at the foot of the skyscrapers, in 1982. “Motor City”, the world capital of the automobile, unrolls an ugly, desperately black ribbon studded with bumps and manholes. “Stop and go” between two 90 ° bends, he always drives at zero degrees … And an unbearable heat in 1984 that led Nigel Mansell to pass out, next to his broken-down Lotus. And that same year, “Mister E” also ventured to Dallas, a “one shot” for the same fiasco. Fund softened by the heat, the warm-up is scheduled for 6 am on Sunday, precisely to avoid aggravating the deplorable state of the track and saving the race. Jacques Laffite, who prefers to laugh at it, denounces the absurdity of the situation when he arrives in the Williams garage in his pajamas …

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In short, once again the US proves that what may be suitable for local CART is not appropriate in Formula 1, and Phoenix makes the final remark after three disappointing editions (1989-1991). Has the lesson been learned? Yes, because investing in the legendary Indianapolis Speedway in 2000 was a good idea. Also borrowed in the opposite direction of the ring of the famous 500 miles, and decorated with an internal road part so as not to confuse the drivers of the Grand Prix. But, curiously, this is not the case, perhaps because the place is too marked by the history of Indycar. In the end, the Michelin tire fiasco and the six-car Bridgestone race in 2005 doomed the project two years later.

Austin, the relief

In this litany of missed appointments, the light will come from Austin, in 2012. Imagined by the vilified Herman Tilke, architect of the standardization of the circuits, on a hilly terrain inspired by Suzuka’s, among others, the Texan circuit finally collects the votes and we tell ourselves that a future is finally possible for F1 in the United States. In 2021, more than 140,000 people show this by witnessing the duel between Max Verstappen (Red Bull) and Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes).

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Strengthened by this enthusiasm, “Formula 1”, the promoter of the world championship is convinced that at the time of “Drive To Survive” a second event can take root in the “States”, and Miami is chosen to realize this desire from 2022.

Adorned with a marina that certainly gives it a somewhat artificial prestige, the Florida circuit is the antithesis of the parodies of routes presented in the past by the big cities. Its two long straights (or almost) that end with pins are a clear message on paper: overtaking will be legion there thanks to the thrust of the DRS, a show tool as hated as necessary, and to the sequence of curves 4, 5, 6 and 7 will be there to support piloting and inspire enthusiastic comments from competitors. Without even waiting for the result, “Formula 1” took the next step by formalizing the Las Vegas Grand Prix in 2023, for ten years. On an urban path that is once again colorful.

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