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F1 plans to consult with drivers over pre-race show plans

Formula 1 chiefs are to consult with drivers about how best to tweak pre-race ceremony plans, following a mixed reception to its first attempt in Miami last weekend.

Alex Albon, Williams Racing

Alex Albon, Williams Racing

Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images

Amid pomp and ceremony in the build-up to the Miami GP, the entire grid was introduced by American rapper LL Cool J in front of an orchestra, cheerleaders and dry ice.

F1 is planning to host similar driver introduction events at between six and seven races this year – with them being individually tailored to the host location.

But despite the warm reception from fans on the day, many F1 drivers were not particularly won over by the idea as they claimed it was too distracting taking place so close to the start of the race.

F1 drivers had already expressed some resistance to the idea during the GPDA meeting on Friday night.

However, it is understood that there was broad agreement to try it for this weekend in Miami and see how the format can be tweaked.

F1 is aware of the divided opinion over the matter and is ready to speak to drivers about how the format can be modified so it serves both them and fans better.

Talks are likely to take place with the GPDA at the forthcoming Emilia Romagna Grand Prix to work out how best to refine things.

And while criticisms of the event gained traction after the Miami race, a number of drivers felt it was actually a good step.

Lewis Hamilton said: “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, and then you look over and you’ve got Will.i.am. who is an incredible artist. You’ve got Serena and Venus [Williams] standing there. I thought it was cool, no issue from me.”

Miami GP managing partner Tom Garfinkel saw no downside to the pre-race show, as he made comparisons between it and the initial criticisms F1’s Netflix show attracted before it was accepted as being a game-changing move.

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes-AMG, is announced on the grid

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes-AMG, is announced on the grid

Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images

“Ultimately, this is a show,” he said when asked by Autosport about the idea behind it. “I think there were a lot of people within F1 that probably weren't happy about the Netflix series when it was first announced that it was going to happen. And it certainly had a positive effect on the entire sport.

“When we talked about doing a race in Miami, there was some discussion with F1 about them wanting to have more entertainment and more pageantry and those types of things. So that's what we're trying to deliver.

“Ultimately, the competition of the cars and the drivers on the circuit during the race is the most important thing, but what happens before that, if we can entertain people and create some pageantry and some excitement, I think that's a good thing.”

F1 team bosses were equally supportive of the efforts of Liberty Media to try something new and grab attention of new fans.

Mercedes boss Toto Wolff said: “I think it wasn't so bad for them [the drivers]. I think we have got to try things.

“Everybody tries to do the best and it was exciting for the fans seeing the drivers come out one by one. I think it was not done in a way that it looked like comedy.”

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Red Bull team boss Christian Horner felt that key was finding the right balance between what suited drivers ahead of the race, and what was best for the paying spectators.

"If it's good for the business, fine for me, it's all about the two hours from when the lights go out,” he said.

“We're obviously in a different marketplace. You can see the drivers perhaps looked a little awkward, or some of them. But if it's embracing a new audience, then that's down to the promoter. I'm more interested in what happens as soon as the light goes out.”

He added: “I think there's a lot of experimenting going on. This is a new market, and US sport is different. You're not going to see drivers running on through dry ice at Silverstone.

“It's different things for different markets. And of course, you can understand Liberty and the promoters exploring different things, because they're competing with other sports. But I think it's finding that balance that's right and appropriate."

Additional reporting by Mandy Curi and Adam Cooper 

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