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F1 drivers hit out at "distracting" pre-race ceremony in Miami

A number of Formula 1 racers have hit out at the “distracting” pre-race ceremonial grid introduction used ahead of the 2023 Miami Grand Prix that “none of the drivers like”.

Sergio Perez, Red Bull Racing

Photo by: Red Bull Content Pool

A temporary gantry that faced away from the grid was erected on the main straight where American rapper LL Cool J presented each driver to the fans ahead of the US national anthem.

Meanwhile, Will.i.am led an orchestra that performed his and Lil Wayne’s new F1-inspired song ‘The Formula’, which was released on the Saturday of the Miami GP weekend.

Owing to the revised format, drivers were summoned 23 minutes prior to the planned race start compared to the 16 minutes of the more traditional anthem ceremony used previously in Baku.

But the changes garnered a cold reception from drivers, who voiced reservations in a briefing on Friday night, as they view the procedure to be too long and are reluctant to see a repeat.

Russell calls out distracting 'show'

Mercedes driver George Russell labelled it “distracting”, saying: “I guess it's the American way of doing things in sport. Personally, it's probably not for me.

“I'm here to race. I'm not here for the show. 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.

“I don't think there's any other sports in the world that 30 minutes before you go out to do your business, you're out there in the sun, all the cameras on you and making a bit of a show of it.

“I can appreciate that in the entertainment world. But as I said, we only want the best for the sport. We're open to changes. But I guess we wouldn't want to see it every weekend.

Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing

Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing

Photo by: Red Bull Content Pool

“The thing I love every single race is the national anthem, that pumps you up and it's sort of respectful to the country that we're racing at. Mixed feelings on the additional show.”

F1 intends to make occasional use of the ceremonial introduction, the championship having experimented with a similar spectacle for the United States GP at the Circuit of The Americas in 2017 when famed boxing announcer Michael Buffer welcomed the drivers.

Norris: drivers are already exposed enough

McLaren’s Lando Norris reckoned the entire grid was against the idea, adding that limits needed to be placed on how much time drivers dedicate to TV duties and audience engagement.

He said: “None of the drivers like it, but it's not for us at the end of the day.

“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.

“But it's a business at the end of the day, so it's what we've got to do. But 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’.

Lando Norris, McLaren, on the grid

Lando Norris, McLaren, on the grid

Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images

“We do so much. There's a limit to how much we should do. We are here to still focus on doing the job of what we're doing and not just be in front of a camera the whole day.”

Social media criticism, meanwhile, cited footage of three-time F1 champion Jackie Stewart appearing to be held back by security from accessing the front of the grid. 

Alonso: Miami fans shouldn't get special treatment

Ferrari driver Charles Leclerc was less critical but called for the timings to be adjusted, while Fernando Alonso reckoned F1 needed uniformity so could not treat US races differently.

Citing other nation’s fans as being just as passionate, he said: “I understand the point of view of everybody but I'm not a big fan of those kinds of things just before the race.

“If we have to do it, I think we need to remove some of the other stuff we are doing like the parade lap or something like that, because it's really in the middle of the preparation with the engineers and the strategy meeting.

“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.”

Miami GP winner Max Verstappen expressed a preference to remain out of the spotlight.

Fernando Alonso, Aston Martin F1 Team, on the grid with engineers

Fernando Alonso, Aston Martin F1 Team, on the grid with engineers

Photo by: Zak Mauger / Motorsport Images

Hamilton backs experimental organisers

However, seven-time F1 champion Lewis Hamilton offered his support of the show as he embraced the work of F1 owner Liberty Media in experimenting with the format.

He said: “I think it was great. I love the sun! 

“I think it is cool that the sport is continuously growing and evolving and not just doing the same stuff that they’ve done in the past.

“They are trying new things; they are trying to improve the show and I am in full support of it.

“I grew up listening to LL Cool J and he was there. That was cool.

“Then you look over and you’ve got Will.i.am. who is an incredible artist. You’ve got Serena and Venus [Williams, tennis champions] standing there.

“I thought it was cool, no issue from me.”

Asked if there was any risk of the ceremony distracting him, Hamilton replied: “I was focused and in the zone since last Sunday.”

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