Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Miami International Autodrome, 2023

Paddock Diary: 2023 Miami Grand Prix

2023 Miami Grand Prix

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RaceFans’ American correspondent RJ O’Connell gives his verdict on Formula 1’s return to Miami for its second grand prix.


I arrived in Florida early in the morning not sure what to expect out of Formula 1’s return visit to the Miami International Autodrome and the home stadium of the Miami Dolphins, besides a unique spectacle.

While the circuit layout hadn’t changed, bits and pieces around it had – including the space in which I worked. The media centre was relocated to a different portion of the football stadium in Miami Gardens, within the executive suites and press boxes overlooking the stadium pitch.

Williams, Miami International Autodrome, 2023

By sheer luck that I ended up reserving seat ‘F1’ before anyone else! But having classic arcade game machines from my childhood in there was something of an occupational hazard. The temptation to abandon all responsibility to RaceFans and spend all day playing NFL Blitz was strong, but I resisted the urge.

Instead I settled for watching some drivers perform a football skills competition with members of the Dolphins team. This was within the new Team Village, with hospitality units occupying the pitch of the stadium and a constant stream of activity from there, to the garages, and back. Everything was washed in the typical tropical deco colour schemes that are almost a stereotype of Miami culture.

The afternoon was spent in the drivers’ press conferences and in media availabilities with world champions and grand prix winners. In one of those individual sessions, I put a question to Lewis Hamilton concerning the event which had nothing to do with the race itself but was as important to me as any other standard-issue question asked about cars sitting in dirty air and tyre strategies – if not more so. You can read his answer here.

With my tasks finished, I drove back towards the airport to check in to my home away from home, a studio room with all the amenities – a comfortable bed, a warm shower, and mango trees.


Max Verstappen, Red Bull, Miami International Autodrome, 2023

After pulling an all-nighter the day I flew into Miami, the late start to Friday’s events graciously afforded me the ability not to set an alarm and sleep until I was rested.

I arrived at the sight of a huge group of videographers and photographers gathered together to capture every image of every pop-culture icon that would appear. Realising what was going on, I strutted through the entrance gate like I fitted the part.

The first trip I wanted to take before the Friday crowds passed through the gate was a walk down to ‘MIA Marina’, the infamous ‘fake marina’ of last year which now has real water! Not the puddles of standing water that had accumulated on the water-patterned carpet, but the new swimming pools for the guests.

The brutal South Florida heat and humidity, even in May, made it important to drink plenty of water as I roamed around the public spaces and up into the grandstands to see what the people who paid a not insignificant chunk of change for tickets – excluding concessions! – would see once cars were on track.

In general, the on-track action I observed through both free practices was good. Taking on board drivers’ feedback about the Tarmac not being up to standard last year, the race organisers resurfaced the circuit which made it noticeably faster. But grip was still at a premium, and non-existent off the developing racing line.

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Miami International Autodrome, 2023

I enjoyed some tacos from a local taqueria, furnished at no cost to the guests of the paddock, an iced coffee, and then went to the team principals’ conferences. I had the desire to ask the same question to these team leaders and stakeholders in the sport that I did to Hamilton the day before. It’s awesome that he did answer – but one driver alone shouldn’t tackle these issues by himself.

In the evening I got to sit with Aston Martin technical director Dan Fallows and Pirelli F1 chief engineer Simone Berra as they discussed this weekend – and in Fallows’ case, the road map for Aston Martin’s future. Yuki Tsunoda and Nyck de Vries meanwhile looked like they’d be set for another difficult week, even with the upgrades to their AlphaTauri cars, but appeared to be taking it in their stride.

It could be worse – they could have had to endure the same agonising gridlock along Interstate 95 heading back to my room that I did!


Carlos Sainz Jnr, Ferrari, Miami International Autodrome, 2023

This time I was up bright and early and at the track with a keen eye to ride the cable cars that travel from east to west over the circuit and campus. While I can’t show you the footage due to F1 broadcasting restrictions, seeing the cars drive past while the gondola descends to the exit of the ride creates a fantastic cinematic shot.

I also wanted to check out the new Team Clubhouse, which bridges the paddock to the Team Villages and offers even more food and beverages from local establishments, activations from American television broadcaster ESPN, grafitti art, and screen-printing.

While down in the media pen capturing the reactions of the drivers who’d been eliminated from the first and second stages of qualifying, myself and the other journalists gasped at the sight Charles Leclerc’s second crash of the weekend, which brought and end to qualifying’s final stage.

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Most significantly for the race to come, it prevented Max Verstappen from setting a lap time after he’d led every practice session. With due respect to the top driver in the sport right now, his misfortune did shake the grid up and created the prospect of an exciting race to come.

I was pleased to see Leclerc afterwards, following his chat with the media and off the back of such a tough shift at the wheel, signing autographs for a young, excited child on his way back.

The evening conversation with McLaren drivers Lando Norris, Oscar Piastri, and new team principal Andrea Stella was also refreshing, even for a team which went from looking like a top-ten threat on Friday to down in the doldrums on Saturday with a double Q1 exit.

By the time I returned back to my quarters, I got a text saying rain was on its way. I slept peacefully through the night, unaware of the monsoon-level rain washing away all that precious, grippy rubber that had been laid over the preceding 36 hours.


The morning of race day filled me with a sort of cautious optimism.

As expected, anyone who was anyone could be seen roaming throughout the Team Villages, the Paddock, and any other prominent areas. Legends of motorsport and un-motored-sport. Billionaires and business moguls of various levels of influence and integrity. Pop-culture icons and new media influencers. Monaco, on the other side of the Atlantic. A slice of the glamour of Miami Beach dropped right into the working-class neighbourhood of Miami Gardens.

The quality of the race which followed was a talking point among the RaceFans team – more on that coming here later. I felt the race was fine in a vacuum: far from a classic, far from the worst. But it’d be understandable to feel like this race fell way short of the hype and pageantry behind it.

Verstappen drove brilliantly from ninth on the grid to win on an alternate strategy to his team mate. It just felt like there was no suspense behind it. That’s what pairing an elite driver with a great chassis and power unit will do. Sergio Perez, bless him, drove well – just not well enough.

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Guanyu Zhou, Alfa Romeo, Miami International Autodrome, 2023

What I found amazing was the backlash towards the new, pre-race driver introductions ceremony. The drivers’ disdain was a bit more understandable, as they had to stand in their full overalls through it for longer than they wanted to in the warm weather. But I was amazed by the public reaction against this piece of American sports pageantry.

I can’t recall the driver intros for the Indianapolis 500, the NASCAR Cup series races at Bristol Motor Speedway, every race of the Super GT Series where one of its drivers recently dressed up as a cartoon bear mascot for the occasion – ever being this universally disliked.

There are criticisms to be levelled at Miami as a grand prix venue: The prohibitive prices of admission, the disruption of daily life in the area – and of course, the ever-growing rollbacks of civil liberties in the state of Florida wherein the city and the race resides. Was the pre-race show really the defining example of the event’s shortcomings?

Race start, Miami International Autodrome, 2023

The race proceeded without any major incidents, everyone made it to the chequered flag safely and most gave good accounts of their weekends afterwards. There were feelings of satisfaction from some, and dejection from others.

For better or for worse, Miami is the archetype of what F1 is now and aspires to be in the future. I came away feeling like everything behind the scenes was better organised and that there is the foundation of an event that can be a staple of the F1 calendar. And despite fears and the ludicrous prices, the event’s attendance was better than what isolated shots of empty stands in practice and qualifying would let on.

This race has potential. But it’ll be tough. Circuit of the Americas has a more pure atmosphere as a permanent racing venue which creates a better fan experience. And now with Las Vegas on the horizon, Miami’s domain as F1’s metropolitan race in America will not be exclusive any more.

But despite it all, I enjoyed my time here. I just wish it didn’t overlap with unprecedented times in American society.

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2023 Miami Grand Prix

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    Author information

    RJ O'Connell
    Motorsport has been a lifelong interest for RJ, both virtual and ‘in the carbon’, since childhood. RJ picked up motorsports writing as a hobby...

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    17 comments on “Paddock Diary: 2023 Miami Grand Prix”

    1. Thanks for another of these “behind the scenes” looks Claire.

      1. OH, sorry, I missed that it was RJ doing the honours for us racefans this weekend!

        So thanks RJ.

    2. “ Was the pre-race show really the defining example of the event’s shortcomings?”

      There can be multiple criticisms

      1. @floodo1 It was probably the quickest shorthand for the problem, at least for me.

        The impression I got from the pre-race presentation was the whole thing was about awkward bombast, rolling back of promises and wasting, at high cost, the time of all the talented people involved; a form of self-destruction that nobody really recognised as such apart from the audience. Every other objection RJ listed also features at least some of these things, but the strongest visual of Miami’s particular combination of failures was presented in that moment.

        Some of the other presentations RJ listed may or may not have been failures – I’ve never seen most of them to judge. However, they were all either better fits for the positive qualities of their events, or at the very least displayed different flaws to other flaws presented by that event.

        If this is, as RJ says, “where F1 is now and aspires to be in the future”, it’s doomed itself. There’s a reason a lot of the new F1 fans I see online have not, and have no interest in, watching an actual F1 race, much less attending one.

    3. How was your time impacted by what you are describing as “unprecedented times in American society” or “rollbacks of civil liberties” Did you observe attendees being impacted? Sometimes the echo chamber and headlines do not reflect the actual reality. Would be nice if a site primarily focused on racing would not dive into such subjects on a superficial level without actual evidence or understanding of what it is that they are describing.

      1. Exactly! Just report on f1. I am an minority living in America and there has been no rollbacks of civil liberties. We actually have more freedoms than most European countries. The political commentary is completely unnecessary. Stick to F1; that’s what we came to read about.

        1. Do either of you live in Florida I wonder. Are either of you from shall we say, a minority relating to sexuality? The changes in laws in Florida in particular are a fact. Maybe you’re isolated from this though? I don’t mind the political commentary.

          1. I don’t expect you to answer these questions by the way as it’s none of my business really.

      2. @spencer Some attendees have definitely been impacted – a state LGBT+ group warned that Florida may not be safe for LGBT+ people to visit any longer due to the rollback of rights, resulting in some people not being able to attend the Miami Grand Prix at all.

    4. For better or for worse, Miami is the archetype of what F1 is now and aspires to be in the future

      Definitely worse. At this rate F1 will end up being run by Disney…

    5. What I found amazing was the backlash towards the new, pre-race driver introductions ceremony.

      This ceremony is a good idea. Yes, this is an “Americanism”, but we need to change. We need to try new ideas, and I think this is a great idea. It is all too easy to forget these are the best car drivers in the world. F1 is the world’s premier open wheel racing series, and as such the drivers, who are an essential part of what makes F1 what it is, should be presented. Millions of dollars have changed hands before the cars even line up on the starting grid, thousands of hours of work has gone in to getting these cars and the drivers ready just for this race, and after the race important dignitaries hand out trophies, so it is seems right there’s some sort of ceremony to welcome the drivers and to present them as the stars of the show.

      1. @drycrust This idea was tried and failed at COTA in 2017.

    6. isthatglock21
      9th May 2023, 22:32

      Bravo for having the courage to ask Lewis that question when everyone else as ever in the states acts oblivious & fangirls over the ‘nightlife/culture’. I do respect Lewis speaking out on LGBTQ issues in the state however despite backlash, at least he’s consistent & didn’t back down like a coward in a market where all his sponsors/brand is by being political. I was surprised as by his own words he never spoke on American things before as he thought it would hurt his image/plans to retire there (said it in a presser in 2020 i recall). Amazed at how Lewis got his biggest backlash from locals/politcans by 1 single comment in the worlds superpower & free speech nation when he is much more vocal in other countries who never fight back despite public challenges to authority by Lewis. Shame we didn’t hear a pip from any other journo or driver, whilst we’re pointing fingers in the world it’s sad to see us regress further into the dark in the west. Surreal times.

      1. + 1. Well said.

    7. Dan Rooke (@geekzilla9000)
      10th May 2023, 7:50

      The pre-race driver announcements felt very flat to me but I think it was a production issue rather than anything else. the “let’s make some noise!” request by Mr. Cool J was followed by almost silence. There was some noticeable increase in spectator cheering, particularly for Perez. I don’t doubt the crowd were going wild, but it just wasn’t picked up an broadcast. If audio of the crowd “making some noise” was captured then I think the entire thing would have had more energy.

      For me, I don’t really like the driver announcements and I just don’t feel like they add to the weekend in anyway and just feel awkward. But just because I don’t love them doesn’t mean I a completely against them, had this been more energised then I think it would have felt less like a dress rehearsal.

      On a side note – did anyone else notice the massive pockets on the person who sang the national anthem? I bet she can fit her phone, purse and car keys in them bad-boys and have room for her packed lunch and a day worth of snacks too.

      Also, for the comment by @rjoconnell89 about “rollbacks of civil liberties” – I think it *is* important to mention these things and I applaud him for it. Being a Motorsport journalist isn’t just about writing about which car is quickest and if places are going to host international events whilst engaging in regressive, draconian attacks on human rights then it’s not just an interesting side-note, it’s the duty of journalists to highlight this.

    8. Thought Lewis was mowing the grass in that thumbnail

    9. I was at the race over the weekend and the biggest thing that stood out to me was how it felt like hardly anybody there actually had any passion or knowledge of the sport. Most those i spoke to had no idea what was going on and didn’t really react to any of the racing or overtaking that was going on and a lot of them left the stands well before the end the race.

      I’ve been to many F1 races since i got into the sport in 1978 and this was the first time I’ve ever attended a race where i felt like an outsider because of how it just didn’t feel like an F1 event and most of those there just didn’t feel like they were actually race fans.

      There was no passion like you get at COTA or other races I’ve attended around the world over the years. It felt like a very corporate event been attended by people who were there to say they were there rather than because they had a passion for the sport.

      Can’t say I’ll be going back to the Miami GP again.

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