Formula 1 pundit Martin Brundle has criticised the driver introductions in place at the Miami Grand Prix, claiming they messed with the sport’s unique pre-race ambience.
Prior to the playing of the national anthem ahead of the start in Florida, a short ceremony was held in which the 20 drivers were welcomed one-by-one to the starting grid in reverse Championship order.
It came after F1’s last attempt at showbiz-style driver intros, led by the boxing announcer Michael Buffer, faced criticism at the 2017 United States Grand Prix in Austin.
With long-term fans of the sport expressing their bemusement over the arrangement via social media, Sky Sports F1 commentator Brundle stated his belief that the normal intensity of an F1 grid was lost in Miami.
Aston Martin driver Fernando Alonso claimed that such initiatives, if they are to stay, should not only be for the fans in Miami, and instead happen across the calendar, comments which were put to Brundle during the Sky F1 podcast.
“I think it’s a fair comment,” Brundle replied, “why would we just do it in America or wherever, but we have to accept we’ve got a new audience.
“The demographic age group of our audience has changed a lot in recent years, Formula 1 has grown dramatically and we need something for everybody.
“Obviously, as a man of a certain age, I perhaps less need that sort of show.
“I thought it was a bit two-dimensional, if I’m honest. They’d already seen the drivers anyway on the driver parade in some old jalopies and gave them a wave.
“I find it odd that it had its back to the grid, we couldn’t see it.
“Did it really add anything? Some sort of generic lines and the drivers come out.
“But I’m very open to change and you have to keep your mind open on this.
“But what I do think is when the green light goes on and the cars leave the pits, that’s a moment of very high energy for Formula 1 where we’re getting close to the grand prix.
“And then what happens after that, this army of people and equipment and these beautiful racing cars and the finest drivers in the world all heading to the grid.
“And I think you need to keep that energy.
“And what happened 26 years ago with some very creative people I was working with on F1 TV [was] where they came up with the grid walk idea, because they wanted to keep the energy between the green light and the start and the formation lap and sort of keep it on the boil.
“My concern is things like that let the boil go and let it sort of fade away a bit, so we have to think about that.
“But we can’t just keep doing the same old thing, decade in, decade out – I accept that.
“Whether that adds to it – whether we could do it a different time and just go to the grid and go hard racing, because we used to go to grid 30 minutes before and now it’s 50 minutes before – it’s open for debate.
“But it didn’t add anything for me being there on the day.
“I hate to see those shots of the drivers loitering in their garage, almost playing cards or something.
“They’re off the grid, they don’t want to be around. They just go and lose 20 minutes somewhere, so that doesn’t feel energetic enough to me.”
Brundle’s fellow Sky F1 pundit Karun Chandhok voiced an opposing view, pointing to the elongated build-up to iconic motor-racing events such as the Le Mans 24 Hours and the Indianapolis 500 as evidence that doing things differently can indeed work.
And the former Hispania and Lotus driver was unimpressed by the critical comments from some current F1 stars on the Miami intros.
“I saw some of the comments and the first thing I thought is none of these drivers have been to Le Mans or to Sebring or to the Indy 500 recently,” he said.
“At Le Mans, the race starts at three o’clock as everyone knows, but you’re on the grid from noon.
“They play the national anthem of every driver competing at the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
“It goes on and on and on. But guess what? It’s part of it. It’s part of the show.
“They don’t have a morning warm up anymore, the only actual driving there is the grand prix itself, so if you’ve got to go through some of the other stuff that happens because of the commercial reasons [there’s no problem].
“The reason all of them are being paid as much as they’re being paid is because of the commercial benefits of Formula 1 and there’s sponsors and partners and people queuing up to be a part of the show – and it is a show. You’ve got to embrace it.
“I’m not saying it’s perfect and I think [the] timing can be better.
“The positioning of each of these slots can be different and can be better to help the drivers do what they need to do from a sporting perspective, but I think having the show is fine, it’s good.
“It makes some people cringe and that’s just what it is, but I don’t have a huge problem with it.
“I think it needs tweaking, but I think it’s fine.”
A more traditional F1 experience can be expected at the next round of the F1 2023 campaign, as the drivers head to Imola for the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix.