The Miami Grand Prix Might Not Make It to the Formula 1 Starting Grid
The countdown is on for the debut in the glamorous world of Formula 1 racing, but the entire Miami Grand Prix can fall as flat as a tire sliced open by debris on the course.
The race is to be run on a 3.35-mile course in Miami Gardens in the Hard Rock Stadium complex. For now, however, the contest that matters is the one playing out in court.
The Miami Grand Prix was a long time in the making
Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross worked for several years to bring a Formula 1 race to Miami. The earliest efforts focused on carving out a street course around the former American Airlines Arena (now FTX Arena) or a layout incorporating the Port Miami Tunnel.
Frustrated by the time lost while trying to pull off the logistics, Ross turned his attention to formulating a plan for the land around Hard Rock Stadium, home of the NFL’s Dolphins. While not optimal compared to Circuit of the Americas, the permanent Austin, Texas, track that hosts the U.S. Grand Prix, the real estate around the stadium will make for a better course than the races held in Las Vegas in 1981 and ’82 at Caesars Palace.
Miami landed an agreement in principle with Formula 1in 2019, though one final set of delays kept the race off the 2021 calendar. The May 8, 2022, date makes it the fifth of 22 races on the F1 schedule, sandwiched between the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix in Italy on April 24 and the Spanish Grand Prix on May 22.
The Miami Grand Prix might not make it to the starting grid
Miami Gardens, 16 miles north of downtown Miami, is a community of about 110,000 residents. And while 65,000 football fans inside Hard Rock Stadium for three hours on a Sunday afternoon isn’t a big deal, some residents have resisted the idea of potentially several hundred thousand spectators descending upon the area for three days of practice, qualifying, and racing.
With time running short for final preparations, they have filed a lawsuit seeking to force the cancellation of the first Formula 1 Miami Grand Prix. According to the Miami Herald, former county commissioner Betty Ferguson is leading the campaign based upon concerns over noise, traffic, and pollution. The residents’ filing cites an engineering study estimating noise up to 97 decibels at homes 2.5 miles from the stadium.
Miami-Dade Circuit Court Judge Alan Fine heard arguments on Wednesday and promised to do his best to issue a ruling by Monday. Complicating his decision is the argument from lawyers for the stadium and the city that there is nothing to rule on until Miami Gardens issues a special events permit.
The residents’ initial strategy revolved around a civil rights lawsuit last July contending the race would disproportionately affect Black residents because more than 70% of Miami Gardens’ population is Black. However, a federal judge ruled that did not constitute discriminatory intent.
Formula 1 has already dropped one race from its schedule
Changing on the fly is nothing new for Formula 1 executives, but they’re certainly hoping to avoid the embarrassment of having to remove the Miami Grand Prix from their schedule.
The COVID-19 pandemic wiped out the first eight races of the 2020 season, beginning with the Australian Grand Prix. By year’s end, five more events fell off the schedule. Still, Formula 1 managed to fashion a 17-race season by forgoing the traditional four-week summer break.
There were more adjustments last year because of the pandemic, but F1 overcame the five cancellations to conduct a record 22 races.
This season should have set another record, but one of the 23 races was erased in late February as Formula 1 reacted to the invasion of Ukraine by canceling the Russian Grand Prix. A week later, the organization took the additional step of canceling the contract for future races in Russia. The Russian GP was to move from Sochi to St. Petersburg in 2023.
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