Last weekend, we saw Formula 1’s very first Miami Grand Prix – an interesting new addition to the sport’s increasingly expansive calendar that produced some very fine racing indeed. But the new American race was not without its criticism.
Many fans were quick to make fun of the silly fake marina organisers had erected in the middle of the track, as well as whether or not the track going under a highway would result in commuters creating a traffic jam hoping to get a free glimpse of the race.
But it wasn’t the ‘yacht club’ or the underpass/tunnel that really detracted from the race. It was the somewhat embarrassing antics some of the teams, drivers and F1 staff got up to during the Miami Grand Prix that really had us scratching our heads.
First, in a weird sort of publicity stunt/TV tie-in, McLaren drivers Lando Norris and Daniel Ricciardo were spotted entering the F1 paddock alongside TV host and comedian James Corden wearing bizarre McLaren crop-tops filming a bit for Corden’s Late Late Show. Corden was also interviewed by Sky Sports as part of the coverage of the race.
Obviously, we’ll see why the two racers wore such cringey outfits when the episode goes live, but it was definitely a head-scratching moment. Even Jeremy Clarkson weighed in, querying on Twitter, “why on earth are we listening to James Corden?”
Speaking of Sky Sports’ coverage, veteran journalist Martin Brundle had yet another gaffe-filled ‘grid walk’ at the Miami Grand Prix. Brundle’s pre-race grid walks have become a staple of the sport but there’s increasingly a feeling that the 62-year-old former F1 driver is a bit embarrassing.
Firstly, Brundle accosted Duke Blue Devils forward Paolo Banchero, thinking he was Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes. To make matters worse, Brundle peeled off saying “let’s see if we can find anyone to talk to” while NBA superstar Dwayne Wade was right nearby.
Then, he tried to strike up a conversation with the Williams sisters, but he couldn’t seem to pick if he wanted to talk to Serena or Venus, leaving the sisters somewhat bamboozled. He even met our favourite Italian playboy, Gianluca Vacchi, who hilariously described himself as a “social media sensation”. So bloody awkward.
Brundle had a similarly awkward grid walk during last year’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, leading many fans to say he’s a bit of a dinosaur that needs to be replaced – although just as many fans love his devil-may-care, doddery old man vibe, and say that celebrities on the grid need to respect Brundle’s patch. He’s the ex-driver, after all.
For what it’s worth, Brundle’s come out and said that he doesn’t actually enjoy doing the grid walks – which actually makes the whole situation even funnier. “There’s a reason why I’ve never watched back an F1 grid walk in a quarter of a century of doing them,” Brundle Tweeted. “You have no idea how much I dislike doing them but somehow those crazy moments have defined my professional career. Oh well, that’s the way it is.”
To top it all off, instead of the usual Pirelli cap being presented to the drivers on the podium – namely Carlos Sainz, Charles Leclerc and Max Verstappen – they received NFL helmets instead. Some fans loved them, some thought they looked bloody stupid. Why should F1 be promoting another sport like this?
All in all, Miami had more than a few cringey moments that have left a lot of us scratching our heads. But there’s a bigger picture here.
F1’s new owners, Liberty Media, are currently on a mission to get more Americans interested in the sport and capitalise on the huge cultural phenomenon that’s been Netflix’s Drive To Survive. That’s why Miami was added to the calendar this year and why there’ll be a Las Vegas Grand Prix in 2023.
Sure, we might find all this pandering to celebrities and American culture a bit gauche, but at the end of the day, F1 will only survive as a sport if it brings in new fans. But can they do it in a slightly less cringey way, please?