Miami Grand Prix track designer ‘embarrassed’ by driver complaints

Clive Bowen, designer of the Miami track, admits he was left feeling embarrassed by the

Clive Bowen, designer of the Miami track, admits he was left feeling embarrassed by the complaints from drivers upon Formula 1’s first visit.

The debut of the Miami Grand Prix was an important step for Formula 1, kicking-off the series’ expansion in the United States as the first of two grands prix to be staged in the nation in 2022.

From 2023, it will become three when the Las Vegas Grand Prix joins the fold.

Throughout the paddock, there was plenty of praise for the spectacle that was the 2022 Miami Grand Prix, but as for the Miami International Autodrome track itself, designed around the grounds of the Hard Rock Stadium, the drivers were not particularly happy.

A main area for concern was the tight and technical section around the Turn 14/15 chicane, the likes of Max Verstappen and Carlos Sainz believing it is not suitable for a modern Formula 1 car. Lewis Hamilton likened it to a B&Q car park.

Sainz would find the concrete there in practice, the same true for Esteban Ocon, with safety concerns also arising due to the absence of TecPro barriers.

That slow section was, as Miami GP managing partner Tom Garfinkel put it, a “necessary evil” to not only free up space for the rest of the track, but also to slow drivers down due to the lack of run-off space there.

Nonetheless, design changes will be considered going forward.

In addition, drivers also took issue with the asphalt, including the levels of grip offline. Sergio Perez went as far as to call the surface a “joke”.

And it was this criticism of the surface which was taken to heart by Bowen, boss of Apex Circuit Design which created the track in conjunction with the FIA and F1 engineer Craig Wilson.

In an interview with Motor Sport Magazine, he said: “Actually, it was embarrassment on my part personally, because there’s a lot of time invested in getting this right.

“There’s professional pride involved, isn’t there?

“There was a lot of research undertaken. We didn’t go off-piste, it was conventional thinking, it was conventional engineering. And you’ve got to remind yourself that first races at venues often have this happen.

“It was the same at COTA, it was the same as Singapore, it was same at Istanbul when it was resurfaced. And so if you think of it from that perspective, it’s just a question of waiting for the track to mature. It’s a brand new piece of asphalt, and it needs to do its thing.”

Bowen says that situation can be helped by treating the track pre-event to remove any debris and dust, something which they should have done this time around in hindsight, but certainly will do in 2023.

“Next year, we’ll start conditioning the track sooner with FOD BOSS, which is an electrostatic way of lifting debris off a circuit,” he said.

“So because it’s such an abrasive, rough surface, in fact all race tracks are, if you blow it, the little critters still sit in the valleys.

“If you sweep it, the same thing happens, you need to lift it vertically. And on Saturday morning, we started using the FOD BOSSes, and from that point forward, the track came to us.

“The one regret, I didn’t arrange for the FOD BOSS machines to do their work on the Thursday and the Friday. I just wish that I had made sure that they had run earlier.”

Nonetheless, despite criticism of the surface and chicane section, the track overall delivered when it came to racing action.

In fact, the 45 overtakes produced was the second-highest number of the 2022 season so far, behind only Bahrain where 58 overtakes took place.

“I think that the theory of the design was borne out in the reality of the race,” said Bowen.

“I was pleased about that. Because obviously, on Friday and Saturday, with the track being so dirty, it was concerning that we weren’t getting to where we wanted to be.

“But it’s interesting that [during the race] there were multiple lines, there was overtaking on corners. And many of the things that people were criticising, they were actually probably looking at the wrong thing. It’s like binoculars, which side are they looking from?”

 

Asked if the driver criticism triggered pressure from the Miami GP reporters, Bowen replied: “Believe it or not, that didn’t happen.

“There was a confidence that we would have a race. There was a pleasure that we had the race that we had. And there was in my case a genuine pleasure in seeing that we achieved what we wanted.

“I call it the Holy Grail. We’ve become very used in F1 to seeing overtaking on straights. And classic races, the ones that people talk about for decades afterwards, are the ones where you see dicing on track through corners. Tell me something. Did you see that happening today?

“Midfield, I saw quite a lot of passing that was in corners. And actually I didn’t expect to see passing in the very high speed corners, because of course, the cars are grip-limited there. But they still did it. As did the W Series, and definitely the Porsches.

“And what that told me is that the line wasn’t restricted to just the racing line. Because you can’t have passing side-by-side when you’re at high G if you don’t grip offline.”

 

 


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