The American organisers of Formula One’s Miami Grand Prix went all-in on a showbiz-style introduction of competitors before Sunday’s race but the drivers were left far from impressed by the razmataz.
Before the national anthem and start of the race, Rapper-turned-actor L.L. Cool J introduced the drivers to the crowd with Formula One’s finest walking into dry ice and to shimmering pom-poms from the NFL Miami Dolphins cheerleaders.
While it was clearly designed to appeal to the South Florida crowd, Mercedes driver George Russell said it was not ideal preparation for a 57-lap high-speed race in the heat.
“It is distracting because, you know, we were on the grid for half an hour in all of our overalls in the sun,” he said. “I don’t think there’s any other sports in the world that 30 minutes before you go out to do your business that you’re out there in the sun, all the cameras on you, and making a bit of a show of it.
“We spoke about it as drivers on Friday night. Everybody’s got different personalities. I guess it’s the American way of doing things, doing sport.
“Personally, probably not for me. But you know, that’s just my personal opinion.”
World champion Max Verstappen of Red Bull, who went on to win the race, broadly agreed, saying attitudes came down to personality and preferences.
“Some people like to be more in the spotlight, some people don’t. I personally don’t,” he said. “So for me, I think that, naturally, of course, what they did today is not necessary. I prefer to just talk to my engineers, walk to my car, put the helmet on and drive.
“But of course, I understand the entertainment value. So yeah, I just hope we don’t have that every single time because we have a very long season. So we don’t need an entry like that every time.”
Red Bull team principal Christian Horner accepted that F1 is experimenting with different approaches in what is still a new market for them, but said such innovations needed to take into account the drivers’ desire for a calm preparation.
“It’s quite tough for the drivers, to be honest with you, to be running through dry ice and high-fiving A-listers that they’re probably not quite sure who they are. Then thrown into the national anthem and expected to deliver,” he said.
“There’s not many sports that athletes have to do that. And so I think we need to be respectful.”
But seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton, who embraced L.L. Cool J when he walked out, backed the move.
“They’re trying new things, they’re trying to improve the show always, and I’m in full support of it,” he said.
“I thought it was cool.”
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