Formula 1 makes its debut at the Miami International Autodrome this weekend and the pit lane was immediately emptied when the green light was given for first free practice. For the drivers, it was primarily a matter of getting to know the new track while also looking for a good set-up for the circuit, which includes a sector with fast corners and two long straights, but also a very twisty section where the track is pretty narrow. The weather in Miami was an additional complicating factor. With 33 degrees it is very hot in Miami, the track temperature even rose to over 50 degrees at the start of training.
At the beginning of the training session, plenty of speed was called for. Max Verstappen had a touché with the wall at turn sixteen early in practice, but the reigning world champion was able to continue without a problem. Charles Leclerc also had a moment. The championship leader turned around in the first corner. Verstappen on the soft tire and Leclerc on the medium compound also drove new best times in turn. After Verstappen pitted, it was Leclerc and Sainz who traded a penny for first place on the timesheet. The latter was halfway ahead with 1.32.433.
The first crash on the new Miami racetrack came after a little over half an hour. Valtteri Bottas went too far at Turn 7 and lost the rear of his Alfa Romeo before sliding backwards into the plastic blocks at reasonable speed. The rear of the car sustained significant damage, much to the chagrin of team boss Frederic Vasseur: the Swiss team is not exactly stocked with spare parts at the moment. The Bottas incident has sounded the alarm.
After the session resumed, several riders walked out on new soft tires. Sainz was one of them but ended up with his first press round into a spin and went into a huge slide that left him with a flat tire. With that, the Spaniard returned to the pits unsuccessfully. Verstappen then climbed to first place with a 1.31.350. Leclerc then went down with a 1.31.098, which would remain the fastest time.
Mercedes brought upgrades to Miami and they seem to be paying off for now. The reigning Constructors’ Champion’s car seems to suffer far less from porpoises and George Russell was able to set respectable times. The Brit went around in the closing stages in 1.31.169, placing himself on P2 between Leclerc and Verstappen.
Sergio Perez set the fourth fastest time while Pierre Gasly had a great start to the weekend with the fifth fastest time. Sainz was sixth in the time he had run on the medium tire before his spin. Alexander Albon impressed by sending his Williams to seventh place. Lewis Hamilton was stuck in the eighth fastest time. Kevin Magnussen set the ninth fastest time, almost a second and a half behind Leclerc, closely followed by McLaren drivers Daniel Ricciardo and Lando Norris. Mick Schumacher conceded almost four seconds to the best time and was penultimate in VT1, Nicholas Latifi was 4.5 seconds behind and came last.
The second free practice session for the Miami Grand Prix starts at 23:30 Dutch time.