Miami Grand Prix future gets six month reprieve

Hopes that Miami will be able to host a Grand Prix in 2021 remain alive for at least another “three to six months”, according to the Florida city’s mayor Carlos Gimenez.

Formula 1 has reached a deal in principle for a race at and near Hard Rock Stadium, but preparations hit an early snag when opposition groups made key blocking moves at the Miami-Dade commission.

Mayor Gimenez used his veto to block the opposition earlier in this month and again this week, as an effort to override the veto failed as commissioners voted 7 to 5 in favour.

“This race isn’t until May of 2021,” Gimenez told CBS Miami. “Sustaining my veto buys three to six months so that we can at least get the parties that are involved together and we can continue to work toward a solution,” he added.

Formula One Management, as well as Hard Rock Stadium CEO Tom Garfinkel, said in similarly-worded statements that they will now use the extra time to work “very hard to address community concerns in a meaningful way.”


COTA bump removal scheduled for December

Next year’s United States GP should be bump free with repair work scheduled to be carried out on the Circuit of the Americas in December.

From the very first lap of last weekend’s US GP it was clear that the bumps, the result of the track sinking since it was built, would be a problem.

The Mercedes drivers, the first out in FP1, hit the bumps as they came out of the pit lane.

Lewis Hamilton told Mercedes over the radio: “The bumps are insane out here, I don’t know if the track is safe.”

The bumps played their part throughout the weekend with Red Bull blaming them for Max Verstappen’s cracked wing while the Turn 9 bump could have been the final straw for Sebastian Vettel’s suspension.

COTA works did take to the track with a “massive grinder” on the Friday night and again on Saturday but track boss Bobby Epstein acknowledges a bigger repair is needed.

“We’re closing the track for most of December and half of January to fix the problems,” Epstein said to Autosport.

“We did some of the repairs last year before MotoGP, so I wouldn’t say we’d have to do the whole thing.

“Certainly it will involve the entire back straight, the pit out and part of Turn 1, there’s a part of a hump before Turn 9, Turns 18-19.

“So it’s pretty extensive. I know what the bill is!”

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Hamilton poised to claim sixth title at United States GP

Lewis Hamilton takes his second shot at wrapping up a sixth World Championship in Austin, and this time the odds very much favour him.

The Mercedes star could have claimed his sixth crown at the Mexican GP, but it was a long shot – he needed to outscore team-mate Valtteri Bottas by 14 points or more to get the job done, and while Hamilton did win the race, P3 for Bottas meant the title fight rolled on.

But at the United States Grand Prix the math is far more simple. Hamilton only needs to outscore Bottas by four, so P8 or above will see him crowned World Champion.

But true to the racer he is, Hamilton remains focused on trying to see out the campaign in winning fashion, and his victory in Mexico City proved it.

For Ferrari their season may be done in terms of both Championships, but really they have plenty of unfinished business – they must find a way to compete with their rivals on the pit wall.

The Scuderia didn’t expect Hamilton to be able to nurse his hard tyres all the way to the end of the Mexican GP after pitting on Lap 23, not even he did, but the Brit managed it and that track position was enough to hold off Vettel and claim the victory.

Charles Leclerc had started on pole ahead of Vettel, but a two-stop strategy for him, along with an error from the mechanics at his second trip into the pits, meant Leclerc ultimately crossed the line P4.

It’s clear Ferrari now have the performance to compete with Mercedes, but if they are to take the fight to them consistently in 2020, they now need the strategical brains to match and evidence of that has to start showing as early as the United States GP.

For the first time since the summer break Red Bull were in the fight around the Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez. Max Verstappen qualified on pole, that was until the stewards demoted him three places after he failed to lift in Q3 under the yellow flags covering Bottas’ crash.

In the race we saw the unfortunate return of ‘Mad Max’. Incidents with Hamilton and Bottas saw him sink to the back of the pack, though he eventually recovered to finish P6.

Alex Albon meanwhile ran P3 in his first stint, but a two-stop strategy which got him caught up with Carlos Sainz saw his race ruined as he came home P5.

Mexico is a track that always favoured Red Bull, Verstappen claimed victory there in 2017 and 2018, but the Circuit of the Americas is much further down the list on happy hunting grounds for the team.

Hamilton is the king of this place having won here five times, including a streak of four consecutive wins between 2014-17, while Red Bull haven’t featured on the top step of the podium since Vettel put them there in 2013.

So, it may well be a return to running a lonely P5 and 6 for Verstappen and Albon, if they keep their noses clean.

Or maybe Sainz can cause the Red Bulls a few more problems in Austin? The Spaniard continues to be the standout driver in the standout midfield car, that being the McLaren, but the team actually arrive in Austin with a point to prove.

Sainz praised McLaren for thinking “like a big team” for the first team this season when they tried to make Q3 on the medium tyres to be able to start the Mexican GP on that compound.

Sadly they didn’t quite have the pace, and from there it all went downhill. Lando Norris was released from his first stop with a loose wheel, and by the time McLaren had pushed him back to secure it, he was a lap down.

Meanwhile Sainz’s two-stop strategy proved disastrous as he went from running in P4 on lap one to crossing the line P13. It’s clear now that McLaren have the fourth-fastest car at most tracks Formula 1 goes to, and they will be out to prove it again at the United States GP as they look to take a step closer to securing P4 in the Constructors’ Championship.

Renault power has always excelled in Mexico, and the works team proved that with Daniel Ricciardo taking P8, as hard as he tried to make the move on local hero Sergio Perez, while Nico Hulkenberg would have finished higher than P10 if he hadn’t have been shunted into the barriers on the last lap by Daniil Kvyat.

That midfield battle is closer than ever heading into Austin. Nine points separate Renault in P5 to Racing Point in P7 – Toro Rosso sit in between but are tied with Racing Point on 64 points.

Renault feel they have the fourth-fastest car on their day, Racing Point are targeting that claim by the end of 2019, and Toro Rosso also have some performance up their sleeves with a rejuvenated Pierre Gasly to boot.

Below that what can be described as a lower-midfield battle has now formed, consisting of Alfa Romeo, Haas and Williams, but none of these teams are really scoring points.

You have to go back to Hungary for Kimi Raikkonen’s last points haul, while Alfa team-mate Antonio Giovinazzi is also on a three-race baron spell after P14 in Mexico.

Haas have turned their attention to 2020, but they would still love a strong showing in front of their home crowd, while Williams’ brief performance gains seem to have dried up.

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Epstein: The bigger the success Miami is the better for F1

Circuit of the Americas (COTA) chairman Bobby Epstein believes says the prospect of the Miami Grand Prix is good for the sport as his organisation bide their time ahead of negotiating a new Formula 1 contract for the United States Grand Prix in Austin.

The Texas track’s existing deal agreed with Formula 1’s former supremo Bernie Ecclestone runs to 2021 with an annual escalator clause.

COTA chairman Epstein would like to secure better terms from the sport’s new U.S.-based owners Liberty Media, as do other promoters in the global series who have long complained that high hosting fees make it hard to turn a profit.

Liberty’s eagerness to add a race in Miami, possibly as soon as next year, could see a change to the old business model with media reports suggesting that deal will have shared risk and revenues.

“I think there are nine or 10 circuits that have to renew their deals before we do,” Epstein told Reuters in a telephone interview.

“So I am sure by the time ours comes up, there’ll be a lot more precedents set. And you know, hopefully the sport will have taken off in the U.S. (by then) and the reliance on the promoter income might not have to be as heavy.”

Hockenheim, which hosts this weekend’s German Grand Prix and is in the last year of its contract, has already said it cannot continue unless any new deal is risk-free.

Silverstone, home of the British Grand Prix, has a year remaining on its contract having exercised a break clause, while even countries like Azerbaijan that pay more than most are seeking revised terms.

Liberty see the United States as a key market for the sport’s growth and are keen to add at least a second race.

COTA is the country’s only purpose-built Formula One facility.

Epstein, who said he was not planning on starting conversations about a new F1 deal until much closer to the 2020 race, also has a MotoGP contract to renew but he was not worried about that, “MotoGP is a great event for us and we’re not going to lose it.”

COTA has drawn big crowds to the F1 race by putting on big-name concerts on the Saturday and Sunday to drive sales of family tickets.

Epstein said this year’s headliners Bruno Mars and Britney Spears meant sales were “on top of where they were last year” when Justin Timberlake and Stevie Wonder topped the bill.

He added, however, that the circuit was almost ‘maxed out’ as far as the concert crowd and future growth would have to come from increasing the sport’s popularity.

Miami, he said, might siphon off some fans but would be good in the long run, “I certainly think there’s a core group of the curious fans, just as we saw the first year of our event, who want to go experience the new.”

“And they will go to Miami and I hope Miami will be a great success because the bigger the success Miami is, the better it is for the sport. So that will lift all of us. At least that’s the hope.”

The Miami Grand Prix is by no means a certainty, but Epstein felt something would be sorted for 2020 if not next year.

The uncertainty has meant a 2019 draft Formula 1 calendar has yet to be published, with Liberty waiting on the Florida city before confirming any dates.

If Miami happens then it would be scheduled with Austin, Mexico and Brazil in a sequence for the later part of the season, with Canada retaining a June slot.

“I’ve a feeling they’ve got their schedule and calendar fairly well pencilled in,” said Epstein, who added that the date of the Austin race — on 21 Oct0ber — could change from next season.

“They’ve mentioned the possibility of a (date) change to us. Within three weeks either way of our existing date. It might be early November,” added Epstein.

Big Question: How important is the Miami Grand Prix for Formula 1?