Formula 1 is back in the Sunshine State for the second time and the first of three races to be held in the United States this year.
A debut event on the Las Vegas Strip will take place in November, while the Austin Grand Prix at the Circuit of the Americas has been a fixture on the F1 schedule since 2012.
The Miami Grand Prix is going to be hot and humid and the race is one of the most physically demanding of the season.
Aston Martin, Ferrari and Mercedes are all hoping to get closer to Red Bull, while Alpine needs a strong result after draws in Melbourne and Baku.
below, Mail sports previews seven things to watch out for in Miami ahead of the action.
Sunday’s Miami Grand Prix offers Red Bull’s Sergio Perez the chance to lead the championship
Max Verstappen and George Russell sparred verbally after the sprint race last weekend
The win gives Perez the lead in the championship
Sunday’s Miami Grand Prix offers Sergio Perez the chance to lead the championship for the first time and upset teammate Max Verstappen.
A third victory in five races would lift the 33-year-old Mexican over reigning two-time world champion Verstappen and that would be quite a statement of intent.
Verstappen, who has been unbroken at the top of the standings since his victory in Spain on May 22 last year, is yet to finish below second place in 2023 and arrives in Florida with a six-point lead.
The 25-year-old Dutch driver was just five points ahead of Perez after four races last year, but won in Miami with the fastest lap to finish the season 149 points ahead and 15 wins over his team-mate’s two.
Perez has never won more than two races in a season, but is emerging from a double success in Azerbaijan in hopes of building momentum.
The feud between Verstappen and Russell could continue
Reigning champion Verstappen and challenger George Russell sparred verbally after last weekend’s sprint race at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix.
They battled for third on the first lap and the contact caused a hole in the sidepod of Verstappen’s Red Bull car.
Russell said he won’t change the way he races against Verstappen and has moved on
After their confrontation in the pits, Verstappen called Russell ‘Princess George’ and Russell said the two-time champion ‘let himself down’ with his reaction to the incident.
When asked on Thursday ahead of the Miami Grand Prix how their relationship is shifting into another Grand Prix weekend, Verstappen said one word: ‘appalling’. He then quickly set the record straight.
“No, of course not,” Verstappen clarified on Thursday at the Miami Grand Prix. “Maybe people like to hear that, but no. It’s absolutely fine.’
Russell said he won’t change the way he races against Verstappen and has moved on.
Leclerc battles for pole
Red Bull was on pole position in three of the four races, with Charles Leclerc first in Azerbaijan.
None of Leclerc’s last eight pole positions ended in victory, the longest streak since Brazil’s Nelson Piquet finished 10th in a row in 1984-87.
Last year, Leclerc set the pace in qualifying for the Miami Grand Prix with pole position for Ferrari.
However, Verstappen narrowly downed the inside of Leclerc on the straight on lap nine and held on until the black and white checkered flag.
Last year, Charles Leclerc set the pace in qualifying for the Miami Grand Prix with pole position
Turn 14 can get tricky
Carlos Sainz spun his Ferrari in turn 14 and crashed into the wall at the Miami International Autodrome during second practice in 2022.
During practice on Saturday, Esteban Ocon crashed on the same part of the track weighing 51 grams.
After the two crashes, the drivers asked the FIA to introduce more safety in that corner. However, the FIA refused.
McLaren driver Lando Norris supported the two drivers, saying: “As drivers we often know better than the experts where the risks lie.
“You should listen to us every once in a while. We gave our advice after Carlos’ accident and the FIA did not react. It’s not okay.’
Hamilton’s LGBTQ+ protest
Seven-time champion Lewis Hamilton on Thursday lashed out at anti-LGBTQ measures by Florida lawmakers, ripping apart the state’s controversial “Don’t Say Gay” law with a reference to oppression in Saudi Arabia.
“It’s not good at all,” Hamilton said ahead of the highly anticipated F1 race in suburban Miami this weekend.
“I support those in the community here. I hope they stay firm and push back. I have the rainbow on my helmet. It’s no different than when we were in Saudi Arabia.’
Hamilton regularly uses his platform to speak on issues such as social justice and race, human rights, and protecting the LBGTQ community.
He often races with a rainbow flag on his helmet, particularly when F1 stops at locations in countries with restrictive laws.
Lewis Hamilton lashed out at Florida lawmakers’ anti-LGBTQ measures on Thursday
Rain could allow Alonso to bring it home
Two-time world champion Fernando Alonso downplayed Aston Martin’s chance of winning at the Miami Grand Prix.
“Maybe not too many surprises,” Alonso told reporters on Thursday. “If you have the fastest car you can start a little bit behind and you might still be making some moves and overtaking maneuvers.
“When you’re in another car, as I said, we’re all within 1/10th, so wherever you qualify you’re still more or less safe in that position and there’s not a lot of overtaking after the second or third round.”
The weather could shake things up, with scorching temperatures predicted for Saturday’s qualifying, followed by rain on Sunday.
Tire wear, which the Aston Martins have mastered, could be a major factor in the heat of the weekend.
“That will probably be the strength of our car, so hopefully we can use that Sunday if there aren’t a lot of safety cars or no rain or something,” said Alonso.
“We can expect some rain for Sunday so things could change, but it’s the nature of Formula 1 not to see a lot of overtaking so it shouldn’t come as a surprise.”
Two-time world champion Fernando Alonso downplayed Aston Martin’s chance of victory
A touch of American spice
While Miami can offer a lot of Monaco-style grit, the on-track action can also be similar to Monte Carlo with very little overtaking.
Fast X stars Vin Diesel and Michelle Rodriguez will be featured in Sky Sports F1’s weekend coverage ahead of the film’s May 19 release.
The popularity of Formula 1 has skyrocketed in the United States, hosting three races in Miami, Austin and Las Vegas for the first time this season.
Part of that excitement can be traced back to the hugely successful Netflix series Drive to Survive, which packed the glitz and danger of the sport through spectacular crashes, compelling characters and storylines.
But Red Bull’s dominance early in the season has taken some of the shine off, particularly in the US, with critics labeling the first four races as ‘boring’.
Friday May 5
First Practice Session – 7pm BST / 2pm ET / 1pm CT
Second Practice Session – 10:30 PM BST / 5:30 PM ET / 4:30 PM CT
Saturday May 6
Third Practice Session – 5:30pm BST / 12:30pm ET / 11:30am CT
Qualifying – 9pm BST / 4pm ET / 3pm CT
Sunday May 7
Miami Grand Prix 2023 – 8.30pm BST / 3.30pm ET / 2.30pm CT