Miami Grand Prix F1 Preview: Red Bull Uncertainty, Adrian Newey Exit Draw Intrigue

Max Verstappen will look to go three-for-three in South Florida as Red Bull faces questions off the track. Plus, the battle for second heats up.
Red Bull F1 driver Max Verstappen.
Red Bull F1 driver Max Verstappen. / Peter Casey-USA TODAY Sports

For the first time in 2024, Formula One will arrive back in the United States for the third annual Miami Grand Prix. Here’s what to watch at the first of three American races on the calendar this season.

Changing winds at Red Bull

Max Verstappen may already be on his way to a third consecutive world championship, but behind the scenes, the dominant force in F1 is reaching an inflection point. The biggest domino to fall yet was this week’s announcement that renowned car designer Adrian Newey is set to depart Red Bull in early 2025 and cease his role with the F1 team immediately. 

The 65-year-old chief technical officer hasn’t been on the market in nearly two decades (he joined the Milton Keynes–based outfit in 2006), a period in which he won 13 world championships with Red Bull, and is sure to have a number of suitors. Atop the list is Ferrari, which appears to be mounting an all-out rebuild, highlighted by the signing of seven-time champion Lewis Hamilton to a multiyear deal. Aston Martin has also been mentioned in connection to Newey, as billionaire owner Lawrence Stroll continues to seek a meteoric climb up the grid for his team. Retirement from F1 is on the table too, though rival offers may simply be too enticing to turn down.

Newey’s departure is yet another bump for Red Bull off the track this year. Team principal Christian Horner was at the center of an external investigation into accusations of inappropriate workplace behavior before ultimately being cleared. Reports have suggested that Verstappen, who is under contract with Red Bull until 2028, has spoken with Mercedes about replacing Hamilton, though Toto Wolff dismissed the idea as just a rumor. Even Verstappen’s father said this week upon learning of Newey’s departure that  “the team is in danger of falling apart” and stressed the importance of having “key people stay on” to maintain his son’s success. Verstappen himself responded to the move Thursday, saying the designer’s exit would not have an immediate impact on his future with the team.

Turmoil aside, the 26-year-old is poised to win his third straight outing in Miami and the dominance on the track will go a long way in covering up the drama outside of the racing lines.

The battle for second place

While it appears Red Bull’s grasp on the grid’s top spot is secure, a jam-packed battle is taking shape just below. 

Ferrari (151 points in the Constructors' standings) has staked its claim as the No. 2 through five races, due largely to the best stretch of Carlos Sainz’s racing career. However, the Italian outfit missed out on a podium in Sunday’s Chinese Grand Prix, the day after Charles Leclerc said Sainz "went a bit over the limit” in defending against him during the sprint race. The incident was discussed internally, but it’s worth wondering if harmony can be restored between the two teammates in their final year together before Sainz is replaced by Hamilton.

Ferrari’s disappointment came in conjunction with a surprising standout performance from McLaren’s Lando Norris, who nabbed a second-place finish in China, splitting the Red Bulls.

Since a pair of fourth-place outings in Saudi Arabia and Australia, teammate Oscar Piastri hasn’t kept the same pace but continues to keep delivering points (38 this season). McLaren (96 points) has promised an update to the car this weekend in Miami that may give it an upper hand in the fight.

Further down the grid, Mercedes (52 points) has labored to start the year in a way that it hasn’t since 2012 when the team finished fifth in the Constructors' championship. Two DNFs in Australia certainly didn’t help. But like McLaren, Mercedes has promised updates to the W15 this weekend in Miami. There’s no telling exactly how large of a boost the team can implement at this stage of the year but with only one practice session to work out the kinks, Miami could be a hit-or-miss event for the eight-time champions.

Miami’s sprint debut

Fresh off of a sprint race in Shanghai, Miami will hold a sprint of its own for the first time in the grand prix’s brief history. The format will come into play six times in 2024, with Saturday’s event being the second so far this season. 

A sprint in Miami is particularly intriguing due to the challenges that the circuit presents. Last year, a catastrophic spin from Leclerc on his final lap in qualifying knocked Verstappen all the way down to ninth on the starting grid, while Haas’s Kevin Magnussen managed to nab fourth and Alpine’s Pierre Gasly landed in fifth. 

All that's to say, the Miami International Autodrome is no walk in the park and teams will have just a single practice under the new sprint format. After Friday’s morning practice, drivers will immediately be thrust into sprint qualifying in the afternoon and despite the fact that they’ll have another chance to get their setups right in qualifying for the grand prix on Saturday afternoon, there won’t be another low-stakes session to make tweaks. Given that a few teams are introducing upgrades, it’ll pay dividends to make adjustments early and quickly.


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Zach Koons

ZACH KOONS

Zach Koons is a programming editor at Sports Illustrated who also specializes in Formula One news and analysis. He started as a breaking news writer at SI before joining the programming team in 2023. Also a contributor to NBA and college sports coverage, Zach previously wrote for The Spun and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and currently hosts the Bleav in Northwestern podcast. Zach is a 2022 graduate of Northwestern University and lives in New York City.