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F1: The Miami Grand Prix Matures

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After the first Miami Grand Prix in 2022, Tom Garfinkel, the managing partner of the event, knew changes were needed.

Formula 1 turned to Miami for its second race in the United States, nearly a decade after making a long-awaited breakthrough in Austin, Texas, the home to the United States Grand Prix. Miami was not a city circuit as originally planned; it was instead built around the Hard Rock Stadium where the Miami Dolphins of the N.F.L. play.

“In year one, we had tremendous challenges and constraints to overcome, most notably a very tight timeline of 11 months to build and sell everything, global supply chain instability and managing around our other big events for the first time,” Garfinkel, who is also the chief executive of the Dolphins, said in an interview.

“We delivered a great event despite those challenges, but certainly we had areas to improve on. Since then, it’s improved dramatically for all involved.”

After feedback, the organizers “invested heavily in addressing the concerns for year two,” Garfinkel said. That resulted in the construction of a $130 million Paddock Club building designed for premium hospitality and a resurfacing of the track.

The paddock, home for the 10 teams over a race weekend, also moved to the stadium infield, giving teams more space to operate. General admission fans can view the paddock from the top tier.

“You could hear a roar of fans as Lewis Hamilton or Max Verstappen walked out of his hospitality unit and moved toward the garages,” Garfinkel said. “You can’t get that anywhere else in Formula 1.”

This will be Miami’s third year, and organizers are even fixing the little things.

“We received feedback from a couple of the teams that the metal handles for the doors entering the paddock team hospitality areas were causing a slight shock when you grabbed them because of the electric static created from the artificial turf,” Garfinkel said.

“So, one of our team members found an inexpensive option and got 52 new handles made of neoprene, and now they won’t shock.”

For the drivers, the priority is the circuit. In the first year it was criticized for its low grip. Max Verstappen, a three-time champion with Red Bull, said he felt he was driving “almost on gravel.”

Esteban Ocon of Alpine hit a wall during a practice in the first year, the same spot where Carlos Sainz Jr. of Ferrari crashed in another practice. After the resurfacing, the drivers noticed the difference.

“I hope it doesn’t roll with stones as it used to because if you go offline it’s very, very slippery,” Ocon said. He added that the F.I.A., the sport’s governing body, solved the issue that caused his crash.

“It’s better now and a lot less dangerous because it was a big shunt that I had,” Ocon said. “Me and Carlos really hurt ourselves. Now it’s a nice track to drive.”

Valtteri Bottas of Stake F1 Team Kick Sauber said the track was good and quite tricky.

“I thought the event itself was a lot better last year than the first year,” he said. “Just everything was a bit smoother and the tarmac was better as well. It’s a good Grand Prix.”

Christian Horner, the Red Bull team principal, said the track was “not the best in the world,” but the event overall was “fantastic.”

“I thought the second year was better than the first, and I’ve no doubt the third will be even better again,” Horner said. “With the sprint format, it’s another dynamic as well,” he said, referring to the one-third distance race on Saturday.

“As an event, it’s a mega-good one,” Fred Vasseur, the Ferrari team principal, said in an interview in April. “It’s good for the show, good for F1 because they have improved the standard.”

The arrival of the Las Vegas Grand Prix last year raised the bar more. But Garfinkel does not feel threatened.

“Las Vegas and Miami are very different cities with very different cultures,” he said. “We’ll continue to work to make F1 Miami true to the culture that makes it one of the most dynamic cities in the world.”

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