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    Miami will be a fast race — Here’s how the grid stacks up.

    By Scott Valentine

    In just its second season on the F1 calendar, the 2023 Miami Grand Prix sets up as a fast, active race with serious early season implications atop the leaderboard as the whole grid chases Red Bull Racing’s significant lead in both the Constructor’s and Driver’s Championships.

    Details

    Event: Miami Grand Prix

    Date: May 7 2023

    Circuit: Miami International Autodrome

    Location: Miami Gardens, Florida, USA

    Circuit length: 3.363 miles

    Race length: 191.585 miles

    Top speed: 214.7 mph by Kevin Magnussen for Haas (2022)

    Laps: 57

    Previous Winners

    Driver: Max Verstappen (2022)

    Constructor: Red Bull Racing (2022)

    Fastest lap: 1:31.361 by Max Verstappen for Red Bull Racing (2022)

    How the 2023 Miami Grand Prix Sets Up

    Red Bull Racing leads the 2023 Constructor’s Cup standings handily with 180 points behind the inspired racing of Max Verstappen (93 pts.) and Sergio Lopez (97 pts.), who are 1-2 in the individual Driver Standings

    Chasing Red Bull are fourth place Ferrari (62 pts.), third place Mercedes (76 pts.), and the revamped Aston Martin team, which sits in second place overall with 87 points after an excellent start to the season by veteran driver Fernando Alonso (60 pts.), and the much improved racing of Canadian Lance Stroll (27 pts.).

    From there, it’s a steep drop off in race performance through the middle of the grid, with McLaren (14 pts.), Alpine (8 pts.), and Haas (7 pts.), all struggling to keep pace with the leaders. The bottom of the grid is rounded out by the inexplicably struggling Alfa Romeo team (6 pts.), Alpha Tauri (2 pts.), and Williams Racing (1 pt.).  

    In key storylines leading up to the Miami GP, Max Verstappen is ticked-off at Mercedes driver George Russell over some shenanigans in Baku, where Fernando Alonso thinks Ferrari got lucky, and the F1 itself is under scrutiny for some wildly unsafe pit lane activity at the end of the Azerbaijan GP.

    A Fast City Circuit Designed for Close Racing

    The Miami International Autodrome is a city circuit purposefully designed to host the F1. The circuit is basically a loop of the Hard Rock Stadium perimeter, and uses both a turnpike and parts of NW 203rd St. as part of the course, making it a true street circuit. 

    There are 19 corners on the circuit, ranging from meandering high speed kinks such as Turns 9 and 10, to tight hairpins like the one at Turn 17 leading to the home straight, and the challenging technical demands of Turns 11 through 16, where it is critical to hug the walls and build speed for the long, straight that follows.

    The net effect of this circuit layout is to produce fast, close-quarters racing, with plenty of opportunity for overtakes. There was only one Virtual Safety Car in the race in 2022, so it seems unlikely there will be many technical changes to the circuit, e.g. the exact location of DRS activation zones (see below). 

    Last year, most teams employed a single pit stop strategy here, including the Top 3 finishers. The ability to pull off a one stop strategy in 2023 will depend greatly on track conditions on the day of the race, which dictate the tire compounds each team will use, with hard compounds adding perhaps 1.3 seconds to each lap vs. a soft compound tire.

    The X factors in Miami are really the weather and the raw speed. The circuit heavily favors teams with the highest top end when DRS is deployed — a critical technical edge to succeed on this track.

    Why Miami’s Three DRS Zones Matter

    Every F1 circuit has DRS (drag reduction system) zones. Deploying DRS in these zones opens a flap in the rear wing, reducing drag, and thereby allowing vehicles to accelerate to speeds that are six to eight mph faster than is possible with DRS closed. You have to be within 1 second of the car in front of you for DRS to be deployed. Most F1 circuits have two DRS zones (the Australia GP circuit has four). 

    Miami’s three DRS zones decidedly tilt the circuit in the favor of teams with superior DRS technology and a whole portfolio of rear wing options, which usually means those with the most money to spend on design, and the best manufacturing facilities. That has certainly been the case so far in 2023.

    Stretching approximately 0.9 miles, DRS Zone 1 runs from Turn 8 through Turn 11, with only very modest, leaning turns at 9 and 10, allowing for extreme high speed performance. Last year, when DRS was activated, cars here reached speeds of about 205 mph (that includes some benefit from slipstreaming). In short, top speed reels-in slower cars along this stretch. Look for lots of overtakes.

    DRS Zone 2 is a true straight: 0.8 miles long and demanding of pure ‘Get on the gas and gear up’ racing.  A quick release on a good line coming out of Turn 16 is essential here. It is at the end of this straight that Kevin Magnussen set the top speed mark for the Miami circuit in 2022, a blazing 214 mph. Monza and Silverstone are the only two circuits that routinely produce higher top speeds. But the fun doesn’t end after Zone 2.

    Usually, DRS Zones are spread out — a front straight and a long back straight on the opposite side of the track being the norm. In Miami though, DRS Zone 3 is just around the very slow Turn 17 from DRS Zone 2, and heads into the home stretch and pit lane. In 2022, this zone was witness to some superb overtakes, including Max Verstappen using Red Bull’s superior DRS to get past the Ferrari of Charles LeClerc on Turn 1; Verstappen would not cede the lead again, going on to take P1 in the race.

    Race Predictions

    Red Bull’s Max Verstappen (-225) is the odds-on favorite to win in Miami, followed by Sergio Perez (+300), Charles LeClerc of Ferrari (+1200), and Aston Martin’s Fernando Alonso (+1400). The rankings are identical for the prediction of the fastest lap in Miami. In truth, I think the oddsmakers are pretty bang-on with their assessment of this race. 

    Given Red Bull’s clear technical advantages and the superior driving this season of both Verstappen and Perez, it is unlikely any other contractor can close much of the points gap in Miami. Ferrari has the chance to get back into the Top 3 for the Constructor’s Cup by the end of the day, but Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz will need to work in concert to achieve that goal; something that hasn’t happened much so far this season.

    I think both Alpine and McLaren will underperform on this track, opening the way for Alex Albon (Williams), and Kevin Magnussen (Haas), to perhaps get into a Top 10 finish and the points. I don’t think Alfa Romeo or Alpha Tauri will score points in Miami. Nick De Vries (Alpha Tauri) and Logan Sargeant (Williams) will do well to just complete the race without damaging their vehicles.

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