Smith: Latest F1 Layout at Miami Gardens is Full of Gates, Crown Vics and Lawyers – Autoweek


We are ripping down the main straightaway of the Miami Grand Prix in Miami Gardens, Florida, passing cars left and right. At one point our speed reaches nearly 50 mph, obliterating the competition which—this being South Florida—seems to be predominantly a mix of Crown Victorias and Priuses.

The main straightway doubles as Northwest 199th Street, the longest side of the paper-clippish track, with just the slightest curve that should be no problem for modern Formula 1 cars to take flat-out. The rest of the track is concealed in the bowels of Hard Rock Stadium, home to the Miami Dolphins and last February’s Super Bowl. There are lots of gates, and almost all of them are locked. Our hot lap ended prematurely.

The main owner of the Dolphins, as well as the stadium, is Stephen Ross, who must be wondering why it is so hard to sell a race to the people of South Florida, even when you try to hold it on your own property.

The race, for which there is an “agreement in principle” to join the Formula 1 calendar in 2021, will have an extra year to prepare, as we hear the latest agreement in principle is for 2022. Already, though, changes have been made to the track layout. According to F1, this follows “months of dialogue with residents, elected officials, faith leaders, local businesses and scientific experts.”

And lawyers. Lots of lawyers. How could it be otherwise?

cincinnati bengals v miami dolphins

The Hard Rock Stadium district is known more for football than racing, but Miami Dolphins’ owner Stephen Ross believes F1 is on the horizon for Miami.

Mark BrownGetty Images

As for this new change, sanctioned by both faith leaders and scientific experts, “It eliminates the use of Northwest 199th Street,” due to the discovery that F1 races “could cause traffic disruption” on those public streets that are blocked off for racing. So this would appear to leave the other side of the paper clip, Northwest 203rd Street, as the only real straight, at least until the scientific experts get hold of that one, too.

So what comes to mind is, say, the 2013 Grand Prix of Houston IndyCar race, held in the parking lot of NRG Park, where the Houston Texans play, and near the cool-but-creepy Astrodome. The event was known mostly for the crash between Dario Franchitti and Takuma Sato, which launched Franchitti into the catch fence, his Honda shedding parts and creating debris that injured 14, not including Franchitti, whose head and spinal injuries put an end to his career.

Miami Gardens is 13.8 miles due north of where the track was supposed to be—amid the glittering, so-photogenic downtown Miami. But certain city fathers, backed by even more lawyers, did not make the Formula 1 race seem welcome, so it was exported to Miami Gardens, where the track would essentially be a rectangle comprising city streets and the parking lots of Hard Rock Stadium. The rectangle is gone now, with most of the track pulled in tighter. The layout looks kind of interesting, except that there’s a big stadium in the middle.

f1, formula 1, miami gardens, florida

The proposed F1 circuit in Miami Gardens, Florida.

Formula1.com

So far, the aforementioned lawyers are the only ones to profit from the F1 race in Miami Gardens: Multiple lawsuits have been filed against the track, which is supposed to cost $40 million, and bring $400 million worth of economic impact into the area. A local reverend said the race would be an “environmental disaster.”

Former county commissioner Betty Ferguson, who has apparently never met a microphone she doesn’t like, said this: “The bedroom community of Miami Gardens is no place for a race that no one else wants. People will go back to their nice, clean communities with their money in their pockets.”

Miami Gardens, incidentally, has about 115,000 residents, according to the latest census. Ferguson is right if she is suggesting that fans will still stay at the high-rise hotels in downtown Miami and eat at their pricey restaurants—the primarily working- and middle-class Miami Gardens just happens to be where they’ll go for the race.

If it happens. We never run short of lawyers.


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