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Miami Grand Prix delivers on star power and race drama, and, shockingly, not in that order

MIAMI GARDENS – A sun-splashed weekend of fun, star-gazing and Formula One racing culminated Sunday in a stunning finish at the Miami Grand Prix.

In a F1 shocker, Lando Norris, the 24-year-old British-Belgian driver for McLaren, won Miami Grand Prix 2024 at the International Miami Autodrome (Hard Rock Stadium) for his first-ever title.

“What a race,” Norris said. “Finally, I managed to do it; I did for my whole team.”

And in showing there’s something for everyone at this Miami event, there was even some pre-race news for Miami Dolphins fans.

It was presumed that Max Verstappen, the Belgian-Dutch driver who is the dominant F1 driver, would win in his third consecutive Miami Grand Prix on Sunday.

Verstappen, the 26-year-old three-time defending world champion, won 19 of 21 races last year, and had won four of this year’s five races.

Ferarri’s Carlos Sainz was the only other driver to win a race this year, winning in Australia.

But Verstappen, who won the pole position for the Miami Grand Prix, lost his lead due to a crash between Logan Sageant and Kevin Magnussen and never recovered.

With 10 laps to go, Norris had a 10-second lead on Verstappen, the second-place finisher who found himself holding off a hard-charging third-place Charles LeClerc.

Norris won by 7.6 seconds.

“You win, you lose,” Verstappen said. “I think we’re all used to that in racing.”

Sargeant, the 23-year-old Fort Lauderdale native and the only American F1 driver, collided with Magnussen on Lap 28 and was out of his hometown race, in which he finished last a year ago.

Sargeant was the only driver who didn’t finish the race.

Magnussen was judged to be at fault in the collision.

But that doesn’t help Sargeant, in his second year as a F1 driver, is rumored to be in jeopardy of losing his spot on the Williams Racing team.

It made for a tough weekend for Sargeant.

But the winners this weekend — aside from Miami Dolphins owner Steve Ross and Dolphins CEO and president Tom Garfinkel, the hosts of Grand Prix Miami, and FIA, the governing body of Formula One – might have been South Florida residents, who, according to reports, could have nearly $1 billion pumped into its economy.

Grand Prix Miami, with all of its high-profile celebrities and the publicity that goes along with their appearances, is almost a two-day commercial for South Florida.

There was a diverse group of Who’s Whos.

Former president and current presidential candidate Donald Trump was in attendance.

So was musician/entertainer will.i.am. And movie producer Jerry Bruckheimer.

International soccer star Zinedine Zidane was there. So was reality TV star and media personality Kendall Jenner.

New Dolphins wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. took a photo with driver Lewis Hamilton right after Marc Anthony sang the national anthem.

For hardcore, homegrown South Florida sports fans, perhaps no sports star at Grand Prix Miami was bigger than ex-Miami Heat star Udonis Haslem.

Speaking of local sports, Garfinkel, president and CEO of the Dolphins, and managing partner for Grand Prix Miami, reiterated Sunday the team isn’t for sale.

There’s been chatter that Ross wants to sell a piece of the Dolphins so he can use the money to finance other business ventures.

A USA Today report last week said Ross was approached about controlling interest in the Dolphins, Hard Rock Stadium and the F1 race for $10 billion.

Garfinkel said he “can’t talk about discussions that took place on that topic.”

But he said controlling interest in the Dolphins isn’t for sale.

“What I can say is that I know, unequivocally, that the team is not for sale, the control piece of the team,” he said.

“I think the price could be much higher than $10 million, the team wouldn’t sell. So the team’s not for sale, the control, the team’s not for sale.”

Garfinkel said Ross still plans on handing the team to his daughters, Jennifer and Kimberly.

As for the race weekend, Grand Prix Miami was a sellout even though there were midweek concerns.

“We’ll be over 275,000 for the three days,” said Garfinkel, whose racing background includes time with Chip Ganassi Racing.

There are still wrinkles that must be ironed out every year.

After the inaugural Miami Grand Prix in 2022, it was the track, which was considered inferior.

After fixing issues such as smoothing out the corner between turns 15 and 16, the track seems to be up to F1 standards.

One of next year’s issues to be improved upon is opening the gates sooner on Saturday. There was a logjam of fans for the Sprint Race.

“We should have opened the gates earlier with the Sprint Race starting at noon,” Garfinkel said.

Regardless, business owners were happy.

Troy Tingling, a classically trained chef and Jamaican American owner of Soulfly Chicken, which is located in Miami’s Wynwood area, is making his third Miami Grand Prix appearance. It’s opened doors that he’s kicked in.

Through the Miami Grand Prix, Tingling, a former private chef for ex-NBA and Miami Heat player Amar’e Stoudemire, got to work events at Hard Rock Stadium. He said Dolphins players ask for him.

More importantly, word of his food is spreading. 

“Formula One has been a blessing for me,” Tingling said. “This year it’s been great because now people know us and they’re coming to us. They’re saying they see us all over social media. They never had it. They come to try it, they love it. So it helps. It just makes me know that business is growing organically,”

Fans were happy, too.

Andrew Hardwick came over from England to attend the Miami Grand Prix. It’s his second F1 race. He attended the Italian Grand Prix last year.

He said it was more traditional, more classic.

“We thought we’d go a bit more crazy and do Miami,” he said.

Hardwick said it was a “sporting spectacle,” and he meant it in a good way.

“You could come and enjoy the experience even if you didn’t like sport,” he said.

Garfinkel likes to hear that.

It fits his criteria for a successful Miami Grand Prix.

“What we’re trying to do is bring people together to experience life and have great moments and bring the greatest talent in the world here to Hard Rock Stadium into this campus, and whether that’s (tennis stars) Roger Federer and Serena Williams, whether that’s (soccer stars) Messi and Neymar, whether that’s (entertainers) Jay Z and Beyonce’ and Taylor Swift, or whether that’s the Super Bowls, college football championships, the World Cup, Formula One’s no exception,” he said.

“So if we can bring that kind of talent here, if we have a great race today, we’re sold out, and everybody has a great time, I would say that’s success.”


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