Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past few years, you know that Formula 1 is rising in popularity among the Americans thanks to Drive to Survive’s accessibility, storylines, and “characters” that the Netflix series made up for the drivers just for the sake of entertainment.
This is the reason the United States now has three Grands Prix on the 2023 calendar, the first of which took place yesterday in Miami, Florida. But as we learned, things are never really black or white in the Land of the Free.
1. The pre-race buildup was mostly about the celebrities. While the F1 grid has been graced by celebrities who are actually knowledgeable and genuinely interested in the sport in the past, you can always count on the American-based Grands Prix to be littered with celebrities just for the sake of appearances.
It’s not uncommon for F1 races to be branded as social events or “business trips” for the ultra-rich and wealthy, but this weekend’s grid was chock-full of them. Examples include Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, Tom Cruise, and Roger Federer, to name a few.
Even the (somewhat cringey) drivers entrance was led by the likes of will.i.am and LL Cool J. Judging by the reactions online, this is something that most fans wish to not happen again, but we’re expecting the Las Vegas race to be slightly more over-the-top with skits and famous people.
2. The race was clean but uneventful. The modern Formula 1 fan expects exciting races to be filled with crashes, red flags, and different podium results from the usual top three (which are VER, PER, and ALO for this season), but this is actually the first race of the season where all the drivers finished without any race-ending incidents.
In fact, the only few incidents that happened during the race were Nyck De Vries (AlphaTauri) locking up and punting Lando Norris (McLaren) under braking into Turn 1 (with no action taken), and Carlos Sainz (Ferrari) picking up a five-second time penalty for speeding in the pits.
We did see some exciting racing happen, particularly the two battles between Kevin Magnussen (Haas) and Charles Leclerc (Ferrari), and Sergio Perez (Red Bull) and Max Verstappen (Red Bull) toward the end of the race.
3. Is Charles Leclerc unlucky or pushing too hard? While he finished a respectable seventh place in the race, the highlight of Leclerc’s (Ferrari) weekend was his pulse-pounding Q3 lap, pushing as hard as he could to get that pole position for the race.
Unfortunately, he overcooked it, sliding off in between Turns 6 and 7, burying his car in the barriers. This red-flagged the session, leaving a very interesting, all-Hispanic top three of Sainz in third, Fernando Alonso (Aston Martin) in second, and Perez in first.
This also had the interesting side effect of Magnussen qualifying fourth, leaving Verstappen back in ninth after he had had to abandon his first qualifying lap. But as usual, many were expecting him to effortlessly claw through the pack, which he did.
4. Max Verstappen’s mega-recovery drive just showed how good he is. Yes, you can argue that the Red Bulls are the most dominant car at the moment, but in the right hands, it demonstrates just how important both car and driver skill are in this motorsport discipline.
Verstappen managed an amazing 45-lap stint on the hard tires, all while weaving through the pack from ninth like his competitors were all set to “Easy” AI, just like in racing games.
And when he emerged with fresh medium tires, there was nothing that Perez could’ve done to defend his position as Max regained the lead just two laps later. He finished 5.384 seconds ahead of his teammate, also securing the fastest lap of the race.
5. Aston Martin’s consistency is nothing short of amazing. At the risk of sounding like a broken record, we can’t help but talk about how Aston Martin, a midfield team for the past two seasons, is regularly fighting at the top of the pack. The AMR23’s performance is enough to bring Lance Stroll regularly into the top 10 (save for his P12 finish for this race), but is enough for Alonso to consistently finish in the top four, with four out of five of them being a third-place finish. A string of misfortunes for the Red Bulls would be more than enough for the Spaniard to contend for the drivers’ title.
And with 18 races left on the calendar, anything can happen. The next race will be in Imola for the 2023 Emilia Romagna Grand Prix on May 21.