Five big Miami GP questions: Adrian Newey future, Red Bull upgrade threat and more

Sam Cooper
Max Verstappen pursues Carlos Sainz during the 2023 Miami Grand Prix

Max Verstappen pursues Carlos Sainz during the 2023 Miami Grand Prix

Formula 1 is heading to the US for the first of three trips this year and here are five burning questions ahead of the Miami Grand Prix.

Drivers and teams are arriving in the Sunshine state for the race in Miami but with upgrades galore across the grid, could we see a shake up to the established order?

2024 Miami Grand Prix preview: Adrian Newey, Red Bull threat

How will Red Bull cope with Adrian Newey’s exit now confirmed?

Additional reporting by Pablo Hidalgo

If Red Bull thought the dramas of early 2024 had been fading away over recent weeks, the rumours surrounding the future of Adrian Newey have brought them back to front and centre.

Those rumours were confirmed on Wednesday, May 1, when Red Bull posted a press release to announce Newey would be leaving the team after 19 years with them.

This will inevitably be the talk of the paddock from Thursday onwards and may even overshadow the whole Miami Grand Prix weekend, such is the magnitude of this Red Bull departure.


The reaction of both Max Verstappen – linked with his own move away from Red Bull over recent weeks, remember – and team principal Christian Horner will be fascinating to see.

How will the major upgrades of McLaren and Mercedes fare?

In their pursuit of Red Bull, McLaren and Mercedes are both expecting to bring major upgrades to Miami while Ferrari are putting finishing touches to a “groundbreaking” concept for a little later in the season.

With the European season beginning after Miami, some teams have opted to fit upgrades early and give them some valuable data ahead of the main European bulk of races.

Let’s start with McLaren who are looking to confirm their position as the second force on the grid after positive progress so far this season with Lando Norris’s podium finish in the last race in China and outperforming Ferrari.

This package of upgrades announced by McLaren team principal Andrea Stella is expected to be aimed at improving the optimisation of the tyre operating window, especially in race performance.

The Woking-based team suffers more at higher temperatures than Ferrari and Red Bull, making its tyres degrade more easily.

With the new updates and on a rear-limited circuit where high temperatures are expected, but low degradation due to the track tarmac characteristics, McLaren wants to confirm itself as the main alternative to Red Bull before the trip to Europe.

Mercedes, on the other hand, will try to solve its technical troubles with an improvement in which is expected, although not yet confirmed, via a new floor that improves the aerodynamic performance of the W15. A car that is difficult to understand and that is not responding correctly to the set-up changes made to it.

Conversely, Ferrari is expected to wait for the European leg to bring a major upgrade in what is expected to be a radical aerodynamic concept change to their 2024 challenger ahead of the Imola race later this month.

This new aerodynamics package suggests that the upgrade could mean a 2.0 version of Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz’s current SF-24.

There are strong rumours that the Italian team will take inspiration in this concept from the RB20’s sidepod inlet concept and with that, they will have to modify their S-duct and radiator airflow entry and enlarge the engine cover exit to improve heat exchange due to the narrower entry of the sidepods.

Can anyone topple Max Verstappen?

Upgrades or not, there is a question that all three teams will be asking themselves – can anyone topple Max Verstappen?

It would be the understatement of the year to say the Dutchman was in dominant form when he is actually in one of the best streaks in F1 history. So far this year, he has taken pole at every circuit and should he do so again in Miami, it would put him second on the list of most poles to start a campaign.

The only consolation teams may be able to find is that Verstappen has yet to secure pole at the Miami International Autodrome.

In the opening year, he was 0.195 seconds off the pace before failing to set a Q3 lap in 2023.

What will give Red Bull’s rivals less comfort is the incredible race pace shown by Verstappen in Miami last year.

After a qualifying where he failed to set a lap in Q3, the Dutchman started with a big disadvantage in P9 and with a different strategy to his rivals.

Max Verstappen's 2024 poles

However, after just 15 laps of the 57 lap race, the Dutchman was already in P2 after passing Carlos Sainz and Fernando Alonso on consecutive laps and just 3.5 seconds behind his team-mate Sergio Perez, who dominated the race after starting from pole position.

With a harder compound than the Mexican, Verstappen extended the hard tyre until lap 46 and was even faster than Perez with the same set, but 21 laps older.

It was an overwhelming dominance which allowed him to emerge after his pitstop just 0.7 seconds behind his team-mate on a softer and 25 laps fresher compound. Verstappen would go on to overtake Perez two laps later with 11 laps to go, completing an insurmountable comeback for the win.

This dominant race pace cleaned up what was an unlucky qualifying for Verstappen, who was unable to set a time in Q3 due to a first attempt where he suffered oversteer and aborted the lap and later Charles Leclerc’s incident prevented him from setting a final time.

Could a midfield team spring a surprise?

Red Bull dominated the 2023 Miami GP weekend. But where were the other teams and what was their ‘ideal’ pace?

Miami proved to be a land of opportunity for the mid/lower grid teams. So much so, that within the top 10 in qualifying, we could see seven different teams. In fact, six different teams in the top six.

In an even tighter backfield this season where every detail counts, it’s time for teams like Alpine – on a track where they have always scored at least two points – Haas and RB to try to surprise and take some positions to the top teams.

The Enstone team, with its first big package of improvements, has already made a considerable leap forward in China. Now, it’s up to them to confirm the step forward while Haas, with a new package, will try to make the most of their top speed on a very fast circuit – approximately 220 km/h in average speed – to look for Q3 positions.

Miami is the perfect stage for Williams, Alpine and Sauber to score the first point of the season.

What is the best strategy for racing in Miami?

In both the sprint race and Sunday’s feature race, traffic and the DRS effect will be the keys to a race that is not noted for its ease of overtaking.

There are three key overtaking points: Turn 1, Turn 11 and Turn 17, the latter two of which come under heavy braking after the respective DRS zones.

Therefore, the DRS effect will make us see cars very close together in the race, but few overtaking opportunities, especially in the sprint where most drivers will play with the same weapons as the degradation on this track is quite low and with a medium tyre you can reach the end of the race without major problems.

Looking ahead to Sunday’s race, the strategic variety can give us a nice game as it happened in 2023. The big question will be: try the undercut or stretch the tyre to have the advantage of a softer compound at the end of the race?

Experience tells us from what happened last year, and from what we are seeing this season, that having the tyre advantage in the closing stages of the race has a big impact and is worth a try, especially for those drivers who are out of their natural position.

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