There has been significant criticism from many of the drivers competing in this weekend’s first F1 race at the Miami International Autodrome regarding the new circuit’s low grip away from the racing line.
In the event’s second practice session, Sergio Perez and Sebastian Vettel spun in separate incidents while respectively overtaking and being passed by other cars, and there were three red-flag-causing crashes across the practice running and mistakes throughout the field in qualifying.
The drivers have put this down to a considerable lack of grip away from the rubbered-in racing line, which in any case will be reduced for Sunday’s race after overnight rain in Miami.
But Sainz, who will start second on the grid alongside his Ferrari team-mate Charles Leclerc, says “out of the line feels like it’s wet” at Turn 1, and so the drivers asked the FIA to ensure the track does not have any remaining detritus at that part of the track when they head their en masse at the start of the race.
“At the start it could be very tricky on that inside line and that outside line of Turn 1,” Sainz said in the post-qualifying press conference.
“We’ve asked the FIA to make sure that the track is as clean as possible for that start because we could see mistakes coming from drivers that really have no blame for it.
“Because it’s basically like driving on a dry line and out of the line feels like it’s wet – so we need a bit of help there from the race direction to help us.”
Autosport understands that while the FIA acknowledges the drivers’ request to clean Turn 1, it does not plan to carry out any additional track sweeping or cleaning as the whole circuit is swept ahead of each new session.
Carlos Sainz, Ferrari F1-75
Photo by: Jerry Andre / Motorsport Images
Sainz was also asked for his thoughts on the overtaking challenge at the Miami track, which has several long straights and three DRS zones.
While Sainz thinks “overtaking is possible with all these three long straights”, he is concerned the off-line grip will deter drivers from trying on-the-edge moves.
“All drivers complained about the lack of grip that there is off-line,” he continued. “So, if you’re going to make a pass, you need to make it stick fairly early into the braking.
“If not, I struggle to see ourselves doing any late moves or lunges from far behind, because there’s very little grip.”
The Miami pit exit, which feeds into Turn 2, could become a key factor in Sunday’s race, as the drivers will be attempting to take a low-grip line with cold tyres – potentially racing other cars side-by-side.
Pierre Gasly was given a black-and-white flag warning for briefly crossing the pit exit line ahead of the approaching Sainz mid-way through FP3, but he appeared to make a misjudgement as he assessed the Ferrari’s position rather than sliding off while pushing at top speed.
Williams’ head of vehicle performance, Dave Robson, says the drivers back in the pack will have to “accept the lack of grip” off-line at the start in a bid to gain ground.
But he suggested that the lack of grip at the pit exit is “going to be interesting”.
“With the cars coming out of the pitlane, it’s tricky if you’re racing a car. That whole area will make for some interesting side-by-side battles,” he said.