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F1 ‘sh*t show’ slammed as drivers vent over safety

With the likes of Tom Brady, David Beckham, Michael Jordan, Serena Williams, Pharrell and Matt Damon in town, expectations were high. It was dubbed F1’s Superbowl.“I’ve never seen the level of sponsor engagement, activities, hospitality requests, celebrity requests ever at a grand prix,” McLaren boss Zak Brown said.“We’re one of the largest teams with hospitality, and we had double the requests. It’s the largest hospitality programme we’ve ever had.”The weekend sold out in 40 minutes, it’s understood big names were turn away owing to demand. The cheapest tickets were $AU900 with hospitality prices starting at $18,500 per person.Miami ReviewWith only 85,000 tickets sold one would think accommodating a boutique size crowd would be a breeze by comparison to the 420,000 people that attended the Australian Grand Prix across race weekend.However it has since transpired that all hospitality at the Miami race was run locally and not by the usual F1 organisation (an Austrian company).The chaos behind the scenes at the coveted Paddock Club included food and drink running out by 1pm local time, poor service and for some that had paid almost $20,000 to attend, they couldn’t even see the track owing to a lack of space.“Some senior marketing people told me it was a “sh*t show” and that wealthy F1 newcomers/potential sponsors won’t be coming back after a bad first experience,” motorsport reporter Adam Cooper said.“A lot of good things about Miami but teams and sponsors not happy with the quality of service in the Paddock Club, run locally rather than by the usual F1 organisation. Tickets are $13,000 so people expect 5 stars… First world problems I know, but lessons to be learned.“I realise not everyone is sympathetic to VIPs who had a bad experience in Miami – but consider that if a CEO or billionaire who could potentially sponsor your favourite team or driver went away thinking “**** Formula 1” then everybody loses.”And it’s not just in the hospitality sector that improvements are needed, drivers were furious about the state of the track saying it was a significant safety issue.“It’s so dirty off line on this track,” Mercedes driver George Russell said afterwards. I didn’t like the tarmac it’s breaking up like marble.“If it wasn’t for the slow speed chicane and they had made it one corner it would be better – that spoils it to be honest.“I was using the kerbs on all the corners – you don’t do that in Formula One. This has potential to be great but it’s brutal off the racing line and it’s worse here than anywhere else which is strange because it’s a new track.“It was a brutal race it was hot, I had sweat pouring into my eyes.”GROWING TENSIONRebecca ClancyThe growing tension between the FIA, the sport’s governing body, and seemingly everyone else in the paddock has been clear. Niels Wittich and Eduardo Freitas, the new race directors, have concentrated on what some have perceived as trivial issues, with a focus on what jewellery and underpants the drivers should wear as they look to improve safety. Several drivers have accused them of not focusing on what matters, and in Miami there has been a sense that they are not being listened to.On Friday, Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz crashed into the concrete barrier at turn 14 – 24 hours before Alpine’s Esteban Ocon did the same thing, leaving Sainz to claim that his pleas to make the corner safer by fitting a crash barrier had fallen on deaf ears. “I’m sorry to be critical but I told the FIA yesterday (Sunday) that my crash in second gear shouldn’t feel that hard, but today my neck was a bit in pain,” he said.Ocon was equally critical after his crash. “The impact has been so hard in comparison to what it should have been,” he said. “We’ve discussed it with Carlos yesterday (Sunday), with the race directors, to say that we should probably put a Tecpro [crash] barrier there and it hasn’t been listened to.“That is not acceptable. The FIA should push harder for our safety.”The FIA said the barrier had been inspected and as the damage had been done to the car and not the driver, it decided no changes were needed from a safety perspective.That was not the only complaint about the Miami track. Lewis Hamilton compared one section to “driving around a B&Q (like Bunnings) car park”.“The track’s quite nice to drive except for the chicane,” he said. “It’s so tight. It reminds me of being in a B&Q car park when I was six or seven years old, in a go-kart.”The track had to be resurfaced twice across the weekend in different places because the drivers complained it offered very little grip. Fernando Alonso said it was “not F1 standard”, while Red Bull’s Sergio Perez described the surface as a “joke”.The focus of the FIA does seem to be on other, more trivial matters, and the battle with Hamilton over jewellery is set to continue, as the seven-times world champion has made it clear that he has no intention of taking out his nose and other piercings.In a more light-hearted protest, against the underwear directive, Sebastian Vettel walked around the paddock on Saturday wearing his pants on top of his race suit.

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