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Aussie watch ahead of the F1® Miami Grand Prix 2024

Matt Clayton
Thursday, 2 May 2024

F1® stops in the ’States' before heading back to Europe from Asia, with a Monday morning start for Aussie fans and scant experience for Aussie drivers adding to the intrigue ahead of another Sprint weekend.

Raise a hand if you like Monday mornings? (Ours are down, too). Fortunately, there’s a temporary remedy for that – round six of the Formula 1® season from Florida this Monday Aussie time for the Miami Grand Prix (May 3-5).

The circuit that winds its way around the grounds of the Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens (and beneath various freeways) is a curious mix of tight turns, a kilometre-long back straight and (yes) a fake marina painted onto the tarmac. It’s also been, unsurprisingly, Max Verstappen territory for its two races so far, although curiously, Red Bull Racing’s three-time world champion is yet to qualify on pole there.

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The dominant Dutchman is on a two-race roll after his shock DNF in Melbourne last month, while elsewhere, don’t think your eyes are deceiving you at 6am on a Monday morning (AEST); yes, that really is a pair of blue-hued Ferraris set to take part in Miami, with Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc sporting a one-off livery that acknowledges Ferrari’s 70 years of having a presence in North America.

It's rare that we come to a Grand Prix weekend where our two Aussies have an equal amount of F1® experience, but Daniel Ricciardo (244 starts) and Oscar Piastri (27) have exactly one race each to draw upon in Miami, which will at least be useful for the second Sprint event in succession.

Espresso at the ready, here’s what we’re watching.

Ricciardo’s insult after injury

Ricciardo was left seething after China last time out when he was harpooned by Lance Stroll’s Aston Martin at a safety car restart, and his mood wasn’t improved after it was announced after the race that he’ll have a three-place grid penalty for Miami after overtaking Nico Hulkenberg under safety car conditions … only after he’d been punted by Stroll and lost his place to the Haas driver.

Ricciardo’s damage-caused DNF in Shanghai arguably didn’t cost him any points – RB’s decision not to pit him for new tyres during the safety car period would have left him vulnerable to falling out of the top 10 had he made it to the chequered flag – but it did leave questions unanswered as to whether Ricciardo’s form uptick in China was real or a blip, a new chassis seeing him beat teammate Yuki Tsunoda in qualifying for the Sprint and the Grand Prix proper.

The 34-year-old finished 13th for McLaren in his only previous race in Miami (2022), while simply finishing at all on Monday morning will be a priority – his China exit followed his first-lap clash with Alex Albon (Williams) in Japan, marking the first time he’s had back-to-back retirements since the USA and Mexico in 2018.

Piastri looks for clarity

McLaren sits a clear third in the F1® constructors’ standings after five rounds – the team is 55 points behind Ferrari in second but 44 ahead of Mercedes in fourth. Promising as that is, McLaren has been a little baffled as to why circuits that should play well to the MCL38’s high-speed corner strengths like Suzuka didn’t produce much, while China, where Lando Norris finished second, was a result that went against internal expectations.

Piastri admitted after China that while he wasn’t on Norris’ pace all weekend even before he became a victim of Stroll’s run-in with Ricciardo, whose car cannoned into the back of Piastri’s and caused damage that Piastri had to nurse to the finish.

“We need to understand why we're quick on certain days and not quick on other days,” Piastri said. “We've got some good ideas, but we just need to make sure our reasons that we think why we're good are actually why.”

McLaren is bringing its first big upgrade to the car for the season to this weekend in Florida, with a focus on improving tyre degradation, a key for Piastri around what’s typically a hot circuit with long-radius, rubber-torturing turns.

‘Sarge’ isn’t in charge

There’s three races Logan Sargeant can claim as ‘home’ Grands Prix this year, but the American counts Miami as his proper home race, Miami Gardens around a half-hour drive south-west down I-95 from his birthplace of Fort Lauderdale.

It’s been a rough sophomore season for the Williams driver in 2024, with Sargeant yet to qualify higher than 18th or finish better than 15th in four races, missing Australia altogether after Williams gave his car to Albon after the Thai driver had demolished his own chassis in a practice crash, Williams feeling Sargeant was less likely to score points than his teammate.

It was a public show of, if not no-confidence, then limited faith in the 23-year-old’s ability to deliver, and with points so hard to come by for the back-end teams in 2024, Williams needs its American to stand taller at home. Sargeant’s future looks tenuous, but mixing it towards the midfield in front of his home fans will go a long way towards temporarily quietening the doubters.

Miami fast facts
Circuit name/location: Miami International Autodrome, Florida
Length/laps: 5.412km, 57 laps (Sprint: 19 laps)
Grands Prix held/debut: 2, 2022
Most successful driver: Max Verstappen (two wins)
Most successful team: Red Bull Racing (two wins)
2023 podium: 1st: Max Verstappen (Red Bull Racing), 2nd: Sergio Pérez (Red Bull Racing), 3rd: Fernando Alonso (Aston Martin)

The Formula 1® Miami Grand Prix 2024 will be available to watch live on Foxtel and Kayo. See our article What time does the F1® Miami Grand Prix 2024 start for Australians? for your local timings.