Miami ePrix post-race notebook: On the crowd, movers, shakers, and the Bird

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MIAMI – The Miami ePrix podium produced three good storylines as it was, in the form of another first-time winner (Nicolas Prost), an American comeback story (Scott Speed) and a young charger finally breaking through for his first top-three finish (Daniel Abt).

After the top-three finishers, there were still plenty of news nuggets to emerge from the first FIA Formula E Championship race in the U.S.:

  • 20,000 attendees on site: FIA Formula E announced a crowd of 20,000 in its official post-race press release, which, judging from the ground, seemed a perfectly legitimate number. It was nice the circuit filled in nicely given the morning delays in track construction, which backed up track activity by nearly three hours from the anticipated start time.
  • Prost takes points lead: Nicolas Prost’s win moved him past Lucas di Grassi for the series points lead, the first time the Brazilian has not held the top spot. Prost has a seven-point edge, 67-60, heading to Long Beach in three weeks. Sam Bird is third with 52, ahead of Nelson Piquet Jr. on 49 and Sebastien Buemi on 43. In the Team’s Championship, e.dams Renault now holds a 31-point edge on Audi Sport ABT and 32 on Virgin Racing (110-79-78).
  • da Costa, Duval make big strides: Antonio Felix da Costa (Amlin Aguri) and series debutante Loic Duval (Dragon Racing) were the two biggest movers on the day, climbing from 16th and 18th to sixth and seventh by the checkered flag, respectively. Da Costa noted his lengthier first stint allowed him to push harder in the second, where he got back by Duval after a racelong battle with the Audi factory ace. “There was a big fight going on in the beginning with maybe five or six cars, and I was hanging back in that group. But once I could push, I could have fun then because I could see the others struggling with energy ahead,” da Costa told MotorSportsTalk.
  • Bird, Virgin hit energy snag: Virgin’s Bird was poised to win after a great pass for the lead of polesitter Jean-Eric Vergne on Lap 19, but fought through energy issues at the end of his first stint and the entirety of his second. “I tried to get the lead, got it, then the next lap my energy went down and slowed on me for no apparent reason. It was constant the whole race, then when I got down to 1.5 to 1.4 percent, it went 1.5, 1.4, 1.3, 1.2, 1.1 in the space of 10 seconds! We need to figure that out. I had to be really careful,” Bird told reporters post-race.
  • Miami miserable to Mahindra: Bruno Senna won FanBoost, but that was about as good as the day got for the Carlin-run Mahindra Racing operation in Miami. The Brazilian was first retirement due to a suspension failure, while Karun Chandhok was issued a drive-through penalty for max use overuse of energy en route to 14th. This marked Mahindra’s first scoreless weekend of the season and leaves only three teams, e.dams, Virgin and Dragon, as the only teams to score in each weekend thus far.
  • Other results of note: While Prost had a great day, e.dams teammate Buemi had a spin in qualifying and never recovered. He started and finished a lackluster 13th… Scott Speed and Loic Duval scored on their debuts, while other newcomers Vitantonio Liuzzi and Charles Pic ended a lapped 16th and 17th. Pic ran off course on Turn 5 on the opening lap and never recovered… In 10th, Salvador Duran scored his first point of the season for Amlin Aguri.

Max Verstappen, Sergio Perez and Formula One embrace the United States

Verstappen Perez United States
Jared C. Tilton / Getty Images
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Last week, Red Bull Racing revealed their new car, the RB19, and a new relationship with US-based Ford Motors in a press event in New York City complete with drivers Max Verstappen, Sergio Perez and Team Principle Christian Horner. They are the only Formula 1 team to launch in the United States, but even that small move of the needle reflects a major shift in the attitude of both F1’s management and their teams – and the extent to which the American audience has fully embraced the sport.

“It’s something fantastic and unique, for the sport to be able to break it into the U.S,” Perez told NBC Sports. “The market is huge and it’s a huge opportunity for everyone involved, for the drivers, for the team. It’s always a huge market.”

Verstappen Perez United States
Sergio Perez finished fourth in the Unites States Grand Prix, but he was first with the fans.  – Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

In 2023, Formula 1 will race three times in the United States and five times in North America. The Circuit of the Americas will host their 11th consecutive race in October before heading south to Mexico City. Miami returns for a second time in May on a temporary street course around the Hard Rock cafe and the third addition is in downtown Las Vegas in November.

With the Canadian Grand Prix on the schedule for June and the Brazilian Grand Prix in November, American fans are now in the ballpark of Europeans, who have eight events on the continent and one in England.

In 2022, Verstappen won every race in North America. He was kept from sweeping the hemisphere only by George Russell, who won in Brazil. That fact is less remarkable when one considers that Verstappen won 15 times in the season – nearly two-thirds of the races on the schedule.

By the time Formula arrived in Austin for Round 20 of 23, Verstappen had already wrapped up his second consecutive championship.

“Sometimes it can be hard to replicate the season, but I think it’s the same as with the car, right? You always try to improve it,” Verstappen told NBC Sports. “And I always look at the little details that even when you have had a good race, you could have done better. And then of course you also learn from the bad races. So we always try to look for these little improvements and general experience you gain year after year.

“You try to do better, but of course it also depends a lot on the package you have.”

Verstappen Perez United States
Max Verstappen United States Grand Prix win was one of 15 for the drivers and 17 for Red Bull.
(Gongora / NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Now Verstappen’s thoughts will inevitably turn to establishing a dynasty – and America will again play a pivotal role.

“I just enjoy what I’m doing,” Verstappen said.  “After the years in Formula One, when you have to be on top of your game and you gain a lot on your experience – in that sense nothing really can get to you anymore. Every year you just try to do the best you can. But a lot depends on the material around you. It’s always a bit of a guess. Start the season as fit as you can be and be well prepared. But if you don’t have the car, you’re not going to win the championship.”

Perez added two wins to Red Bull’s total, at Monaco and the Marina Bay Street course. With two of the US 2023 races on street courses, Perez hopes to close the gap on Verstappen and potentially be his principle rival for the championship.

“The strategy is clear; it is to maximize the potential of the car – and we believe we have a good car, but how good?,” Perez said “We don’t know what the competition is doing. We just give our best in building this car and we hope that it’s good enough to get us to win races.

“I think we have to work together as a team. At the same time. We both want to win the championship. It’s just having good compromise. The competition will be really strong out there, so we really need everything we possibly can get from each other.”

Formula One returns to the United States for Round 6 and the Miami Grand Prix on May 7.