Why Miami’s "necessary evil" F1 chicane won’t be a 2023 easy fix

Several Formula 1 drivers have called for the Miami International Autodrome’s tight chicane to be changed for next year, but revisions would not be straightforward.

Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB18

That’s because the placement of the chicane, and the tight sequence of corners around it, was effectively forced on organisers because of its geographical location under the Turnpike road bridges.

As the project's lead design engineer Andrew Wallis put it, the layout had to “thread the needle” to satisfy FIA track safety regulations.

UK-based track specialists Apex Circuit Design laid out the 5.41-kilometre anti-clockwise circuit around the Hard Rock Stadium.

Its most sinuous section was Turns 13-16, which wound around the entrance and exit ramps and beneath the flyover sections of the Florida Turnpike and NW 203rd Street.

FIA regulations regarding clearance of overhead structures to the track surface meant the layout needed to dip beneath the two overpasses, shortly after rising 11 feet to cross the Southbound access ramp, creating a crest in the Turn 14-15 chicane.

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Race winner Max Verstappen commented: “I think if I would have been in a go-kart, it would be a nice chicane to take, but not in an F1 car like we have at the moment.”

Runner-up Charles Leclerc added: “I think I'm the only driver on the grid that actually liked this chicane. I enjoyed it.

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Infrastructure around the circuit limited the track designers' options

Infrastructure around the circuit limited the track designers' options

Photo by: Zak Mauger / Motorsport Images

“But on the other hand, I agree that for racing action, I think we can do something better because following wasn't easy on that part, also for visibility it's quite difficult once you have a car in front because you need to be so precise on the kerbs.”

Wallis told Autosport ahead of the event that “this whole sequence was a real engineering challenge”.

He said: “For us to get beneath the first overpass, we had to meet the FIA regulation that requires at least four metres of clearance, but as we have to tie into the levels of the Turnpike slip road that has a 7% crossfall, our track surface was climbing just at the point where we needed it to be falling.

“There is also an F1 regulation about the rate of change of elevation linked to the square of the speed of the car, so this design basically threads the needle in three dimensions to ensure that the cars go slowly enough to align with the camber of the crossing and then get back under the overpass.”

For these geographical reasons, the chicane had to have a minimum design speed of 80kph to meet the rate of change regulation, and the lack of visibility stemmed from the blind crest.

Miami GP managing partner Tom Garfinkel said that organisers could have perhaps done a better job in communicating exactly why the chicane had been designed in that way.

“I think the challenge with the chicane and that I don't know that we communicated well enough why it exists and where it exists,” he said.

“It was a bit of a necessary evil, if you will, to get the track big enough to create the rest of the race track to be great.

“That's an area where it's a tricky part, because we have to really slow people down because we didn't have enough run-off space.”

Leclerc said he was one of few drivers to enjoy the challenge of the chicane

Leclerc said he was one of few drivers to enjoy the challenge of the chicane

Photo by: Jerry Andre / Motorsport Images

However, with Garfinkel confirming that organisers will look to see what they can do in future, there may be ways to improve it.

When asked by Autosport how the Miami GP promoter intends to review and improve the event going forwards, its COO Tyler Epp replied: “The biggest challenge over the last year was the tight timeline so we are getting on top of this immediately to try to get decisions made for next year as early as possible.

“We gathered information/feedback from F1, the FIA, the drivers and teams, and customers/fans over the weekend. There will be follow-up with them over the coming weeks on any items they feel can be improved. 

“We are having internal meetings all this week and next week to recap everything and see where we need to make changes to improve.”

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