• What Can We Expect from the Miami International Autodrome?

This weekend, Formula One heads to Miami for the first time, with the temporary Miami International Autodrome hosting Round 5 of the 2022 Formula One season. It’s a brand-new track and challenge for F1, so what can we expect?

What’s the track like?

The 5.412 km venue is located around the Hard Rock Stadium in Miami, featuring 19 corners, 12 left-handers and seven right. The layout is interesting, because it features many low and high-speed corners, but not very many in the mid-range. There are also several long straights and three DRS zones.

Because the slow corners are often followed by long straights, low-speed traction on corner exits will be important and a compromise is required with the car set-up. You want a high ride height with high downforce for the fast corners early on, a low drag set-up for the long straights and then a lower ride height with a high downforce level for the twisty sections. So, you must weigh up where the priorities are and what will get you the most lap time. 

The sectors are all quite different. Sector one is dominated by faster, sweeping turns, while the second includes more of the slower turns. Sector three is dominated by the long back straight and the hairpin. Track evolution on the new surface is likely to be high, so lap times will be tumbling as the weekend progresses.

Surprisingly, the track’s characteristics share a few similarities with venues like Barcelona, in that the high-speed corners are early in the lap, therefore heating up the tyres, and the end of the lap features twisty corners where the hot tyres suffer – as there is no grip left. However, tyre overheating might be a bit easier than in Barcelona, due to Miami’s long straights.

Given it is a brand-new track, we have no historical data, so it is a complete step into the unknown for all of the teams and drivers. The focus in the build-up has been on computer and driver-in-loop simulations with the limited information available to us, to try and get as close a guide as possible to what we can expect when we hit the track in Miami.

Both drivers have spent time in the simulator after the last round in Imola to get up to speed with the track layout and find a good base set-up for the first practice session. And it’ll then be important to build on that set-up as the weekend progresses, to get the car into a good working window.

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Will it be a good track for racing?

The fact there are three long straights each with DRS zones and each leading into slow corners, does bode well in terms of overtaking opportunities. Turn 11 and Turn 17 will likely be the key places to watch out for.

The track is also quite narrow in some places, compared to permanent tracks. While this does make it harder to race side-by-side, it may prove important in terms of strategy and the opportunity to make places because cars and debris will be harder to clear. The likelihood of a Safety Car or Virtual Safety Car is high.

We have seen encouraging signs of drivers finding these 2022 cars easier to follow and that will be useful around a tight street track like Miami, where there are some fast and twisty corner sections leading onto straights. Hot temperatures are an important factor here too, as keeping the cars cool in traffic will be a challenge and may lead to drivers backing off to cool the brakes and Power Units.

Expectations can be very different to reality and wheel-to-wheel racing isn’t something we can simulate in our pre-race preparations, so we’ll have to wait and see how things progress over the race weekend.

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What will the weather be like in Miami?

We expect conditions in Miami to be very warm, in the high 20s and even up to 30°C. And that’s just the air temperature, with track temperatures getting much hotter. It’s also anticipated to be dry, with rain rarely falling there in May. But we all know the weather can surprise us…

Interestingly, the weekend schedule means first practice takes place earlier than the race start time, practice two is later, while neither match qualifying either. So teams will have zero opportunity to test the tyres and the car in the same track conditions as we’ll have for qualifying and the race.

The final section of FP1 will be the closest we get to race conditions and will therefore be unusually important, in order to collect useful data.