The Miami International Autodrome (MIA) at the Hard Rock Stadium is the 76th venue to host F1, and the first in Florida since Bruce McLaren took his maiden F1 victory at the 1959 US Grand Prix in Sebring.
MIA is unique. It’s built on the parking lots surrounding the Hard Rock Stadium, but it isn’t a parking lot track in the sense that the Caesars Palace Grand Prix in the early 1980s was. Nor is it a street circuit – though it’s often referred to as such. MIA is a permanent circuit, and constructed and graded as such – albeit a permanent circuit on which all of the visible surface furniture will be removed after the race, allowing the land to revert to its usual usage as tennis courts, merchandising and, yes, car parking.
The track that we have is challenging. It features some very long straights in the style of Baku, high-speed corners in the style of Silverstone or Suzuka and an incredibly tight stadium section that has hints of Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez but really isn’t like anything else on the calendar. McLaren F1 Test & Development driver Will Stevens has been in the sim, preparing the team for Project Miami. We’ve got his first thoughts on F1’s newest venue.
T1 is what you might call a ‘normal’ F1 low-speed corner. It’s third gear, right-hander but you have to compromise the exit in attempt to open up T2 a little bit more to make sure you’re full-throttle through there. It’ll be a confidence corner, and the more confident the drivers become over the weekend, the wider they’ll run out of T1, while still being able to take T2 flat-out. It might also be an overtaking point… more on that below.
This should all be flat-out with the cars accelerating as they go around the stadium. T3 is a very long corner but it shouldn’t be an issue to take this at full-throttle. At least not when the track rubbers-in. There might be a little bit more caution in FP1.
This is the most interesting sequence on the circuit and very, very difficult to get right. This sequence of linked corners starts off very fast and gets progressively slower. The first part is a little like the Esses at Suzuka. T4 is the fastest [proper] corner on the circuit, going left. You carry a lot of speed here and it flows straight into the right-hander T5. T5 is also very quick, but your main focus is positioning the car for T6.
T6-T7 is the hardest part of the track. There aren’t too many corners like this in F1. You enter quickly but the radius of the corner is very long, and the apex of T7 is a long way around the corner and tough to spot as the corner tightens. You run wide around the outside of T6 and attempt to pick up the reference point to turn-in for the apex of T7. Tough to get the line right, easy to miss the apex and very hard on the front-right tyre.
Getting the exit out of T7, through the kink of T8 is very important because the straight that follows is very, very long and has DRS. T9 and T10 are flat-out – it’s basically a straight – and long enough that it’s likely anyone overtaking will have got the move done before getting to the hairpin at T11.
This part of the track is very tricky, and very low speed. The exit from the left-hand T11 isn’t particularly important because you’re going straight into the right-hand T12. T12 is very tight but seems to go on for quite a while. You’re building speed but probably won’t get out of third gear. There will be a lot of steering angle and the front-left will suffer. You’ll go up to fourth gear for the left-hand T13 but the real focus is getting the car positioned correctly for the very slow chicane through T14-T15. The kerbs are quite big here, so you can’t really open the corners up, and it’s all very narrow. There’s some elevation change here as the track jinks around and under the turnpike – though you can’t really feel the effect of that in the sim! You have to fight the car out of T15 to get the correct entry into left-hand T16, which again is tight, but the exit is vital as it leads onto the long back straight.
The back straight is laser-straight and very, very long. It’ll be a big opportunity for overtaking but on laps where you’re not fighting, it’ll give you plenty of time to think about braking for T17. It’s also an opportunity to have a chat with your engineers, decide if you’re boxing, discuss any changes you want to make. T17 is another big braking zone and, after such a long flat-out straight, will seem very low speed. It’s a fairly standard hairpin with speed somewhere between second and third gear – which usually means third in an F1 car.
The exit from T17 is important because the final two corners are full throttle leading onto the start-finish straight which has DRS. For anyone pitting, the pit-lane branches off on the exit of Turn 18.
This is the shortest DRS straight and, superficially, not nearly as good an overtaking opportunity as the other two zones… but drivers may well be playing games in Miami like they did in Jeddah. You may not want to make the pass on the back-straight, knowing that there’s another DRS zone immediately afterwards, whereas, if you make your move into T1, you have the whole high-speed section of the track before the next DRS zone, which might give you the opportunity to pull out that vital one-second gap. Figuring out the best approach to this will be vital.
Miami is a high-speed track, and there are plenty of overtaking opportunities, with overtaking likely to be completed before hitting the brakes. It’s going to be a very difficult track on which to find the optimum set-up because you have the two super-long straights but also the high-speed section and some very low-speed corners, where you’ll want more downforce. Do you give up the straight-line speed for the corners? Probably not because there’s a lot of time at full-throttle, but equally, you’re in slow corners for a long time, and those can really make the difference. It’s going to be a difficult one to get right and the practice sessions will be busy. It’s also going to be a hard circuit for the tyres. It’s very flat – not a lot of camber – and both the front-left and front-right will take some pain, while there’s also plenty of traction zones. This circuit will be a real challenge