Miami Grand Prix 2024: 7 F1 storylines as the grid returns to the United States

Formula 1 is headed back to the United States. Months after the inaugural Las Vegas Grand Prix, the grid will be down in Florida this weekend for the third Miami Grand Prix.

And, as is customary every time F1 makes a trip stateside, the discussion of F1’s popularity in the United States will be a major talking point.

Buoyed by the success of the Netflix docuseries “Drive to Survive,” along with the thrilling 2021 Drivers’ Championship fight between Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen, the sport has seen an explosion of new fans in the United States. That has led to an increase in the number of races in the US, with the grid coming to America three times last year, and the teams are making more inroads into the US market.

For example ahead of last season Red Bull launched their 2023 challenger, the RB19 at a live event in New York City. Williams unveiled the FW46 at an event in New York City this year, while Visa Cash App RB F1 Team debuted the RB01 in Las Vegas ahead of this season, during Super Bowl week.

That led to an incredible moment between Daniel Ricciardo and Josh Allen, who was in town for the NFL Honors, as the two remain the very best friends that anyone could have.

While F1 still lags behind NASCAR in the United States, there are signs that the sport’s popularity continues to grow. The last time the grid was in action, in Shanghai for the Chinese Grand Prix, over 600K tuned in to watch the race on ESPN, up 133% from the last time the grid was in China, during the 2019 season.

While that might not seem like a massive number, particularly when compared to the NASCAR race the same weekend which pulled in over four million viewers, the Chinese Grand Prix started at 3:00 a.m. Eastern. A big number when you consider it was in the middle of the night, and it also does not factor in the people who streamed the event on F1TV, the sport’s impressive streaming service.

But the biggest sign that F1 continues to grow in popularity here in the United States?

SB Nation will be on the ground in Miami all weekend long.

That is one of many storylines to track this weekend. (The popularity of F1 in the United States, not the fact that I will be down there this weekend. But you might want to follow all the F1 coverage on both SB Nation and my account Threads because some cool stuff will be happening down in Miami.)

F1 Grand Prix of Japan - Practice

Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images

Adrian Newey rumors

We will get to the driver transfer market in a moment — which got another jolt late last week — but perhaps the biggest transfer news came earlier last week when reports surfaced that Adrian Newey had become dissatisfied with the current situation at Red Bull, and will be leaving the team.

Again, these are just rumors, and Red Bull indicated that they had received no “official word” that Newey was going to leave the team, but when the greatest engineer in the history of the sport, and the mind behind some of the most dominant cars in F1 history, becomes the topic of conversation it is worth taking note.

Immediately, speculation grew regarding a potential destination. Earlier this season it was reported that Newey had been given a substantial offer from Lawrence Stroll to join Aston Martin, and that would give a chance for Newey to work with one of the sport’s living legends. Fernando Alonso announced weeks ago that he was returning to Aston Martin on a “multi-year” deal, and Newey has expressed some “regret” at never working with Alonso.

In an interview with BBC Sport last November, Newey remarked that he has two regrets in the sport. The first? Not having more time with Ayrton Senna. The second? Not having worked with Alonso. “In terms of drivers, Fernando [Alonso] is one I have always [regretted not working with],” Newey said. That’s a regret that that never happened because I have a tremendous respect for Fernando.”

Beyond Alonso, there is also the notion in certain media circles that Ferrari could be a destination, giving Newey the chance to work with both Lewis Hamilton and Charles Leclerc in the future.

A true wildcard? How about this hypothetical.


While the American team continues to forge ahead in their quest to join the grid, after being denied by Formula One Management earlier this year, adding Newey into the fold would be a massive coup for the team, and would be hard for FOM to turn down. After all, in denying Andretti a spot on the grid, FOM said in part “[o]ur assessment process has established that the presence of an 11th team would not, on its own, provide value to the championship. The most significant way in which a new entrant would bring value is by being competitive. We do not believe that the applicant would be a competitive participant.”

But if the team were to add Newey, the sport’s greatest designer, to the organization it would certainly bolster their believe that they could be competitive once added to the grid.

And there is some history there, as Newey worked as a race engineer for both Michael Andretti, and Mario Andretti.

Just something to ponder …

F1 Grand Prix of China

Photo by Song Haiyuan/MB Media/Getty Images

Driver transfer market

The latest domino in the driver transfer market fell late last week, with the word that Nico Hülkenberg would be leaving Haas for Sauber at the end of 2024.

That will enable the German driver to drive for German-based Audi when they take over the operation for the 2026 season.

It is also a reunion of sorts, as Hülkenberg drove for Sauber back in 2013.

“I’m returning to the team I worked with back in 2013 and have fond memories of the strong team spirit in Switzerland,” said Hülkenberg last week.

“The prospect of competing for Audi is something very special. When a German manufacturer enters Formula 1 with such determination, it is a unique opportunity. To represent the factory team of such a car brand with a power unit made in Germany is a great honour for me.”

This now gives us half the grid confirmed for next season.

  • McLaren (Oscar Piastri and Lando Norris);
  • Red Bull (Max Verstappen)
  • Ferrari (Lewis Hamilton and Charles Leclerc)
  • Aston Martin (Lance Stroll and Fernando Alonso)
  • Sauber (Nico Hülkenberg)
  • Williams (Alex Albon)
  • Mercedes (George Russell)

That also means that half of the grid is yet to be set, including both seats at Alpine, both seats at VCARB, both seats at Haas, and a spot at Red Bull (alongside Verstappen), Sauber (alongside Hülkenberg), Williams (alongside Albon) and Mercedes (alongside Russell).

Will we see more movement this week?

Oh yeah some racing too

That is right, there is some actual racing to discuss. Let’s work through some of the biggest on-track storylines this week.

Will we see another step forward from Alpine?

Alpine has yet to open their account for the 2024 F1 season.

But they came close in China.

The team brought an upgraded floor for Esteban Ocon, and he just finished outside of the points, coming in 11th in the Chinese Grand Prix. But that was not the only sign of progress for the team. Both Ocon and Pierre Gasly advanced to Q2 in qualifying for the Grand Prix, marking the first time this season that Gasly advanced out of Q1.

“[I’m] happy in one way and not on the other one, because it’s been a really well-maximised two days I think on our side and we don’t get the rewards that we wanted to get,” Ocon said after the race. “It’s our best finishing position of the season, but two and a half seconds away from that top 10. It would have been an amazing day if we were getting that. We are going to keep pushing from the next one, hopefully get in the points but, yeah, it’s a small step towards the right direction.”

As for Gasly, who will be running the upgrades on his A524 this weekend, China was a step in the right direction. “We came 13th, quite close to Hulkenberg in P10, managed to get some nice overtakes and good battles on track. There’s still a few things to improve. I think [what’s] most important is the upgrades work, so it brings us a bit closer,” said Gasly. “There’s still a lot of work ahead of us, because we’re still not competitive enough, but at least it’s a step in the right direction.”

Gasly also outlined what the new package meant for the team.

“It was quite straightforward, it’s just lighter, a couple of kilos lighter, so [there is] weight reduction and also more downforce, more points of downforce on the car so more grip [in] low, medium, high-speed,” described Gasly. “So it’s not really a difference in terms of characteristics, it’s just more grip and lighter all around. It was just good to see it’s working obviously. On my side I’m looking forward to Miami and see what we can do with it.”

Can the team take another step in the right direction this weekend?

Will McLaren deliver another surprise?

The talk from McLaren ahead of the Chinese Grand Prix was all about managing expectations. With the number of slow-speed corners on the Shanghai INternational Circuit, the team went into the week wondering just how well they would fare.

Quite well, as it turned out.

Thanks to a strong performance, and a bit of weather-related luck, Lando Norris qualified on pole for the F1 Sprint Race, with teammate Oscar Piastri qualifying eighth. While Norris lost the lead shortly after the start of the F1 Sprint Race, both drivers finished in the points on Saturday, with Norris in P6 and Piastri in P7.

Then on Sunday, it was another double-points finish for the team, as Norris secured his first podium of the season with a P2, holding off Sergio Pérez down the stretch. Piastri came across the line in P8, meaning in every points-scoring event this season, McLaren has seen both drivers finish in the points.

Making them the only team that can say that at this point in the season.

“We expected this weekend in China to be a case of damage limitation but, in reality, it proved to be our strongest weekend of the season so far. Pole Position in the Sprint, a strong qualifying performance ahead of the grand prix and then, today, a podium for Lando – and a podium on merit. It’s a great credit to the hard work put in by the drivers, the team trackside, at the factory and everyone at HPP, and a nice reward for us, our partners and our fans. I’m very happy for everyone involved,” said Andrea Stella following the race.

“On Oscar’s side, the damage he received during the race robbed him of downforce and meant it was impossible to fight for higher positions – but he drove really well, adapting to the changed balance of the car, and did a good job to add points to our tally,” added Stella. “It feels good to have a result like this.”

“I am very happy for the whole team today, they deserved it so big thanks to them. Our pit stops were solid and the car felt great today. I really wasn’t expecting it to be the kind of race where we would perform like this, but I was comfortable, we could manage the tyres far easier than yesterday and push. Good day, good points and another podium – I’m very happy. It’s a pleasant surprise but it shows the team have done a good job. We’re working hard and it’s paying off,” added Norris.

Can they deliver another surprise this weekend?

Mercedes hoping upgrades improve their qualifying pace

The Silver Arrows find themselves in unfamiliar territory as the grid heads to South Beach.

Staring up at multiple teams in the standings.

Mercedes currently sit fourth in the Constructors’ Standings, 44 points behind third-place McLaren. Making matters tougher for the team is that they sit 99 points behind second-place Ferrari, and 143 points behind Red Bull.

They need to make up some ground, and fast.

According to the team’s Technical Director, they are bringing some upgrades to Miami that they holp will improve their form in qualifying.

“We head from China, one of the most famously front-limited circuits, to Miami, a track that is more in the rear-limited end of the spectrum,” said James Allison, as noted by RaceFans. “Our challenge will be to make sure we don’t try and replay China at a Miami that is a very, very different beast and wants different things from the car than China will.

“We face the enjoyment of another sprint weekend with this second go of having two bites of the cherry and we definitely learnt during last weekend that if you’re going to be ambitious, be ambitious in the sprint race and then tune it down for the main race rather than the opposite way around.

“Hopefully we’ll land a car in a better place, that the upgrades that we’re going to bring to Miami serve us well in a grid that – in qualifying at least – is really close. Around the part of the battle we’re fighting, a few hundredths can make a difference sometimes and a couple of tenths would make all the difference in the world. So looking forward to seeing how that all plays out.”

F1 Academy returns

The Miami Grand Prix also marks the second race of the F1 Academy season.

The grid heads to South Beach with Abbi Pulling leading the Championship, 11 points ahead of Maya Weug and 12 points clear of Doriane Pin.

When I spoke with Pulling a few weeks ago, the Alpine driver outlined how she and the team was approaching this weekend. “I think it’s it’s really important to reinforce the kind of mindset that I had going into the first round. As an individual and as a team, we’re not getting ahead of ourselves,” said Pulling. “We’re keeping pretty grounded and focusing on the process of how to get the results rather than celebrating that we’re in the lead.

“I think that’s the right way of going about it because it’s a very long championship. It’s just been making ourselves better in in every way possible.”

“I’m really looking forward to just being back in the paddock, being back with Alpine and Rodin Motorsport,” added Pulling. “It’s a really fun track, and I think it’s got a lot of tight, winding corners, and I think that normally the technical stuff is where I excel.

“I’m trying to go in with weightless shoulders, not putting any pressure on myself and just, you know, coming out on the weekend thinking ‘I’ve made the most out of every everything that was thrown at me.’

“So that’s that’s the goal every time I’m hitting the track.”

Qualifying for F1 Academy is set for Friday morning, with the first race on Saturday afternoon and the second race on Sunday afternoon.

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