F1: 10 things to watch for at the Miami GP — behind the Red Bulls
While Red Bull has no peer in the F1 field right now, there are plenty of storylines to watch for behind Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez.
It's hard to overstate how much Red Bull has dominated the 2023 F1 season.
The team has produced three 1-2 finishes in four races, earning more than twice as many points as its nearest rivals.
If you're watching the Miami Grand Prix on Sunday hoping to see Red Bull dethroned, you're setting yourself up for disappointment.
But that doesn't mean there isn't plenty of intrigue in the rest of the field. Here are some things to watch for in Miami behind Max Verstappen and Sergio Pérez:
We could be in for another chaotic race
Formula One is at its most entertaining when it's unpredictable — and we could be in for a tumultuous race on Sunday.
Most of the races on the calendar take place on tracks the field is intimately familiar with, but this is only the second race we've seen at the Miami International Autodrome.
There were a number of crashes in the first edition of the Miami GP in 2022, highlighted by a collision between Lando Norris and Pierre Gasly on the 40th lap.
There were also multiple incidents in practice with Valtteri Bottas, Carlos Sainz and Esteban Ocon all getting familiar with the wall.
The track has been resurfaced, which might calm things down, but the layout remains the same.
Nico Hülkenberg showed the course is still giving drivers trouble in Friday's practice section by dramatically spinning out on Turn 3.
Fernando Alonso defending his 'best of the rest' crown
With the Red Bulls so far ahead of the pack, the most intense fight on race weekends tends to be the battle for third place.
Alonso has been winning that dogfight more often than not, earning a third-place finish in three of the first four races. The one time he fell short, he came fourth.
The 41-year-old has been rejuvenated thanks to the quality of an Aston Martin car that's shattered expectations. In the teams' first two seasons after rejoining the F1 grid in 2021, it came in seventh in the Constructors' Championship both times, with one podium finish in 44 races.
Aston Martin's 87 points already exceed last year's total (55) and Alonso is a big reason why.
The Spaniard has demonstrated he's still got what it takes to compete with the best drivers on the grid, and it'll be interesting to see if he maintains his dominance over everyone but Verstappen and Pérez.
Ferrari hoping to make a move
Aston Martin and Mercedes have been more reliable and consistent than Ferrari, but the Italian squad put things together in Baku last week, finishing third and fifth at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix.
Charles Leclerc and Sainz probably aren't ready to challenge for wins yet, but Ferrari is bringing a floor upgrade to this race.
Team principal Frédéric Vasseur told Motorsport.com that he sees the Miami GP as the first of a series of races where Ferrari will be making alterations.
"We will start to bring updates on the car from Miami and for the next couple of events, and we will see how the car will react to the updates," Vasseur said. "The update is one thing but the fact that you are able to extract all of the potential out of the update is another one."
For now, making inroads against Aston Martin and Mercedes is more realistic than catching Red Bull, but Ferrari's pace will be worth monitoring on Sunday.
Are Verstappen and George Russell OK?
With Verstappen sitting 65 points and six places ahead of Russell in the drivers' classification, the two are rarely in direct conflict — but they got into it at the sprint race in Baku.
A closer look at the tense encounter between Max and George on Lap 1! 👀 #AzerbaijanGP #F1Sprint pic.twitter.com/C1JOnQ8uQ4
— Formula 1 (@F1) April 29, 2023
In the aftermath, both drivers participated in a heated exchange and shared very different interpretations of what went down.
Russell claimed he had the inside position...
George Russell reflects on the opening lap with Verstappen 😅#AzerbaijanGP #F1Sprint pic.twitter.com/ar7jEZTBvX
— Formula 1 (@F1) April 29, 2023
... while Verstappen accused him of making excuses and said he gave the Brit plenty of space.
Max Verstappen did not hold back on his thoughts regarding Russell's Lap 1 moves 😬#AzerbaijanGP #F1Sprint pic.twitter.com/Fc0W9fTUMU
— Formula 1 (@F1) April 29, 2023
Nothing came of this disagreement during the Azerbaijan Grand Prix, but a poor performance in qualifying put Russell farther down the field than usual.
According to Russell, it's all water under the bridge, but these two will be under a microscope if they get close to each other in Miami.
What about Russell and Lewis Hamilton?
One of the most interesting dynamics between teammates is the relationship between Russell and seven-time champion Lewis Hamilton.
Russell outscored Hamilton by 35 points in 2022, but the elder statesman has been the better driver this season with a 20-point edge in the early going.
At last year's Miami Grand Prix the two engaged in the type of on-track battle that team principal Toto Wolff can't have enjoyed.
Hamilton 🆚 Russell
Neither Mercedes driver wanted to give this one up 😤#F1 #MiamiGP pic.twitter.com/Fpl6pC51eR
— Formula 1 (@F1) May 4, 2023
Both drivers have something to prove against each other.
Hamilton is trying to show he still has what it takes to win a title, but it's the car holding him back. That can't be true if his teammate is beating him.
Russell, on the other hand, can bolster his resume immensely whenever he finishes ahead of Hamilton.
Who is 'the guy' at Alpine — and does it matter?
Alpine has quietly been one of the biggest disappointments of 2023. After finishing fourth in the Constructors' Championship last year, the French outfit sits sixth with just eight points to its name.
Those points are split evenly between Esteban Ocon and Pierre Gasly — two drivers with similar levels of experience and talent. The opportunity is there for either to claim the title of top dog at Alpine, but neither has done so yet.
Gasly has looked more promising so far with two top-10 finishes to Ocon's one, and he's come in ahead of his fellow Frenchman in three of four races. Even so, this team hasn't met the standard it set last season.
If the car doesn't take a step forward, the issue of who's leading the charge will be muted.
The battle for fifth in the Constructors is wide open
It's pretty clear Red Bull is in a tier of its own while Mercedes, Aston Martin and Ferrari comprise the second tier on the grid. Behind those four teams, the competition is wide open.
McLaren is at front of the third tier of squads with 14 points, but that total is so low that a surprisingly strong result from Alpine, Haas or Alpha Romeo could vault any of them ahead.
The battle for fifth might not move the needle for those with the Ricky Bobby "if-you-ain't-first-you're-last" mindset, but the difference between each place in the Constructors' Championship is worth millions of dollars in prize money at the end of the season.
While these team are fighting for scraps, they'll be fighting hard.
Logan Sargeant hoping for a memorable homecoming
Sargeant is the first American to drive an F1 car since 2015, and he'll be racing in his home state on Sunday.
The rookie has yet to earn a Formula One point, but his Williams car has shown more life than expected after a dismal 2022 season.
It will still be an uphill battle to grab a top-10 finish, but if Sargeant is able to do it he'll achieve a major career milestone and delight a hometown crowd full of family and friends.
Next generation waiting to make an impact
The F1 grid was introduced to a trio of fresh faces this season as Sargeant, Oscar Piastri and Nyck De Vries earned full-time seats for the first time.
None of the three are driving top-end cars, but they've combined for just four points so far — all of which have been collected by Piastri.
While it would be unfair to expect a ton from these up-and-comers on a race-to-race basis, a potentially unruly race could help one of them earn a surprising result.
The teams happiest with their new drivers this year are the ones who went with retreads. Aston Martin's choice to sign Alonso looks like a stroke of genius, and Hülkenberg has been the best driver at Haas in his first full-time role since 2019.
Perhaps this will be the race where the youngsters flash their potential.
Who will show up this year?
If you're the type of person who's interested in celebrity sightings, Formula One events on American soil are pretty safe bets.
At the inaugural Miami GP last year, the list of celebrities attending included — but was not limited to — Michael Jordan, Bad Bunny, Tom Brady, Patrick Mahomes, James Marsden, Pharrell, Will.i.am, Hailee Steinfeld, Michael Strahan, DJ Khaled and Ashton Kutcher.
Beyond household names, there will also be a veritable army of influencers descending on Miami — a phenomenon that has the become the butt of a number of jokes on Formula One Twitter.
the miami gp didn’t even start & im so sick of influencers that has zero idea what F1 really is pic.twitter.com/M5yXFMY9h6
— ٍ (@carlossainzgirl) May 5, 2023
all the influencers who have no idea about f1 at the miami gp pic.twitter.com/MZI8Po6B3o
— mads (@leclericciardo) May 5, 2023
this is gonna be me after seeing all those influencers @ the miami gp pretending to know ab f1 pic.twitter.com/roHMIxcfPP
— grizzie lvr ¹⁶ (@dieforleclerc) April 30, 2023
F1 has always had its fair share of glitz and glamour, but that component will be ratcheted up with the race taking place in an accessible and desirable location like Miami.