Formula 1 has pushed back its plans to bring a grand prix race to the city streets of downtown Miami in October of 2019 by at least one year. As F1 will continue to negotiate with local officials, the sport’s bigwigs are targeting a new 2020 date for the inaugural Miami event.
The announcement comes on the heels of a decision by City Commissioners to delay a key meeting to discuss details of the 10-year race deal and draft a resolution seeking state funding from Florida Governor Rick Scott. That meeting is not expected to occur until September, after the group’s August recess.
The legislative hold-up prompted F1 commercial manager Sean Bratches to release an official statement on Monday, announcing the organization’s intensions to push the Miami event to 2020 at the very earliest:
“Whilst our preference would have been to race in Miami in 2019, there was always a point by which delivering the best possible wheel-to-wheel racing experience for our fans, drivers, and teams wouldn’t be possible in the time available. We have now reached that point as far as racing in Miami in 2019 is concerned.
“However, we are taking a long-term view and as a result, we have decided, in consultation with the Miami authorities, to postpone sign-off until later in the summer, with the aim of running the first Formula 1 Miami Grand Prix in the 2020 season.”
Although the Bratches cited “significant progress” in the negations between Formula 1 management, event promoter (and Dolphins owner) Stephen Ross, the City of Miami, and Miami Dade County, the postponements seemed to hinge on the controversial layout of the 2.6-mile race course:
“We have always said that we wouldn’t compromise on delivering the best possible race for the people of Miami, our fans, and the 1.8 billion people who watch F1 globally every year, and if that meant waiting until 2020, then that was far more preferable than signing off on a sub-optimal race track, just to do a deal.”
Today got a first look at a potential map for @F1 in @downtownMIA. Most of course is in the port with a loop around AAArena. Would you like to see #miami become a stop on the Formula One circuit? pic.twitter.com/sOY08hJ5yM— Ken Russell Miami (@kenrussellmiami) May 3, 2018
First unveiled this spring, the provisional layout would have snaked along Biscayne Boulevard, crossed over to Dodge Island and back via Port Boulevard, and looped around AmericanAirlines Arena. Reigning Formula 1 champion Lewis Hamilton was quick to express his concerns about the downtown circuit and even offered to help redesign it. “Miami is a super cool place, and I was very, very excited to hear about it,” the British driver told Motorsport in May. “And then I saw the layout.”
Since negotiations began, the track’s alignment was tweaked several times as a result of both driver criticism and environmental objections over the circuit’s use of Parcel B—a three-acre strip of county-owned parkland just east AmericanAirlines Arena. Some downtown residents also opposed the event on the grounds of excessive noise, although it is unclear if those objections played any role in City Commissioners’ choice to delay.
Despite the new 2020 date and the lack of a firm agreement between organizers and local officials, Formula 1 still plans to host a fan festival in Miami on October 21 of this year. The event aims to build excitement among local enthusiasts and will correspond with the US Grand Prix at the Circuit of the Americas—a permanent, purpose-built F1 racetrack in Austin, Texas.