F1 grid critical of Miami pre-race introductions: ‘None of the drivers like it’

Jamie Woodhouse
Sergio Perez, Red Bull, introduced. F1 Miami, May 2023.

Sergio Perez, Red Bull, introduced pre-race. Miami, May 2023.

There was a generally negative reaction from the drivers to their grand Miami pre-race entrances, Lando Norris and George Russell leading the charge.

The explosion of popularity which Formula 1 is enjoying has seen the United States become a key market for its expansion, and judging by the spectacle which the inaugural Miami Grand Prix was in 2022, a similar vibe was expected for the F1 2023 return.

That indeed was the case, and a new initiative for F1’s second visit was an introduction on the grid for every driver, complete with an entrance way, pyro, a live band and rapper LL Cool J on the mic.

It was not something though which went down well with many of the drivers, McLaren racer Norris for example claiming that “none of the drivers like it”, stating that they have a “limit” to what they can deal with and such initiatives push that boundary.

“It’s tough. None of the drivers like it, but it’s not for us at the end of the day,” said Norris, as per Give Me Sport.

“We do a lot of things. [It’s] probably the only sport where we’re so close to the fans, we do so much publicity for the fans.

“As drivers we all just want to sit down and focus on what we need to focus on and not do so much TV and everything. It’s a business at the end of the day, so it’s what we’ve got to do. Adding more and more stuff like this, no driver likes it.

“We’ve said you can’t just keep putting things in and making us do more and more. There’s not one other sport where you do this. We do so much. There’s a limit to how much we should do. We’re here to focus on doing the job and not just be in front of a camera all day.”

Mercedes’ George Russell was of a similar mindset. While he understands the “entertainment” side of things, he called this additional show “distracting” and would not like to see it become a regular occurrence.

“We spoke about it as drivers on Friday night,” he confirmed.

“Everyone has different personalities and I guess it’s the American way of doing sport. Personally it’s not for me, that’s my personal opinion, because I’m here to race. I’m not here for the show but I guess we have to roll with it.

“It’s distracting because we were on the grid for half an hour in our overalls in the sun and I don’t think there’s any sport in the world that 30 minutes before you go out to do your business that all the cameras are on you to make a bit of a show.

“I can appreciate it’s the entertainment world, and we’re open to changes, but we wouldn’t want to see it every weekend.

“The thing I love every race is the national anthem, it pumps you up and it’s respectful to the country you’re racing in, but [I have] mixed feelings towards the additional show.”

A rare voice of support for these driver introductions did emerge, and it was none other than Russell’s Mercedes team-mate Lewis Hamilton.

He confirmed that he was in “full support” of trying initiatives like these.

“I think it’s cool that the sport is continuously growing and evolving and they’re not just doing the same thing they’ve done in the past,” said Hamilton.

“They’re trying new things, they’re trying to improve the show always, and I’m in full support of it.

“Jeez, I grew up listening to LL Cool J, and LL Cool J was there. That’s cool. You look over, you’ve got will.i.am who’s an incredible artist. You’ve got Serena [Williams] and Venus [Williams] standing there. I thought it was cool.”

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Red Bull’s Sergio Perez, who finished the Miami GP in P2, said in the post-race press conference that “as long as it doesn’t happen too often it’s okay”, while calling for F1 to remain “respectful of the drivers”, though Fernando Alonso said that he is “not a big fan of this kind of thing just before the race”.

But, if it is to continue, then he proposed that long-standing events like the “drivers’ parade” must be scrapped, while also calling for initiatives like these driver introductions to spread across the calendar, not just be specific to Miami, as “the Miami fans aren’t better than in Italy, or Spain, or Japan – we need to make everyone have the same show before the race.”

Miami GP winner Max Verstappen though is certainly hoping that these introductions do not become a regular thing that the drivers must take part in.

“I did have enough preparation before to speak to my engineers before the race, but it’s a personality thing,” he stated. “Some people like to be more in the spotlight, some people don’t.

“For me today what they did today is not necessary, I prefer to just talk to my engineers and walk to my car, put my helmet on and drive, but of course I understand the entertainment value. I just hope we don’t have that every single time.”

It is safe to say that the drivers will be anticipating a more traditional race build-up when they next return to action at Imola for the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix.