The Miami Grand Prix made headlines for more than just Max Verstappen‘s win, as a new pre-race ceremony was introduced. A temporary gantry facing away from the grid was erected on the main straight, where fans and American rapper LL Cool J saw the presentation of each driver before the US national anthem. Will.i.am led an orchestra that performed his and Lil Wayne’s new F1-inspired song ‘The Formula’, released on the Saturday of the race. However, despite the entertainment value, some drivers were unhappy with the ceremony.
Mercedes driver George Russell called it “distracting,” going on to say: “I’m here to drive and I’m here to win. It is distracting because we’re on the grid for half an hour in all of our overalls in the sun.” Russell later commented that he could “appreciate” the ceremony’s place in the entertainment industry but felt it was not suitable for F1 every weekend. In contrast, seven-time F1 champion Lewis Hamilton was supportive of the ceremony, stating that he was “in full support of it” and that the sport was “continuously growing and evolving”.
McLaren‘s Lando Norris expressed discomfort and frustration at the increasing demands placed on drivers to engage in TV and audiences activities already, explaining, “adding more and more stuff like this, no driver likes it.” He implied that the demands on the drivers to interact with fans and do publicity had already reached a critical level.
Mercedes driver Fernando Alonso took issue with the inconsistent approach of the pre-race ceremony, saying, “If we do it, we have to do it everywhere because I don’t think that the Miami fans are better than the Italian fans in Imola or in Spain or in Mexico or in Japan. We need to make everyone with the same rules and the same show before the race.” Three-time F1 champion Jackie Stewart might have found the ceremony challenging as social media footage seemed to show him being held back by security personnel from accessing the front of the grid.
The ceremony also drew criticism for the timing of the event. Typically, drivers have been summoned 16 minutes before the start of a race, but the Miami ceremony, at 23 minutes, proved to be too long for some drivers. Ferrari driver Charles Leclerc thought the timing was “a bit too long” and suggested that the situation needs “to adapt to it a bit better.” Nevertheless, F1 officials have said they view the ceremony as an experiment and intend to see if variations might work or be improved for future races.