Hype is cool but don't block out Sir Jackie

Formula One’s second visit to Miami delivered in the showbiz stakes, even if the race itself – which was won again by Max Verstappen – was less ‘show’ and more business-as-usual.

The stars of Fast & Furious lifted the lid on the event. The Miami Grand Prix even got a hype man: Hip-hop pioneer LL Cool J. And, frankly, I thought he was brilliant, although a review of trending Twitter comments suggests I’m in the minority.

Many of the sports’ purists are not keen on F1’s moves to create a broader entertainment spectacle, and some of the drivers agree. George Russell called it ‘distracting’ and ‘probably not for me’.

Fellow Brit Lando Norris thinks the drivers are overexposed as it is, saying: ‘None of the drivers like it. We do so much publicity for the fans. We just want to sit down and focus and not do so much TV.

‘There’s a limit to how much we should do. You can’t just keep putting things in [the schedule] and making us do more and more.’

Lewis Hamilton was the only driver to voice support for the extra hoopla. ‘I think it was great,’ he said. ‘It’s cool the sport is continuously growing and evolving and not just doing the same stuff that they’ve done in the past. I grew up listening to LL Cool J. That was cool.’

I’m with Lewis on this one. As a sponsor-bedecked Will.i.am conducted a live orchestra and Miami Dolphins cheerleaders waved their pom-poms, the Mama Said Knock You Out rapper came out to introduce ‘the 20 best drivers in the world’.

Among them were ‘bad boy turned good, the Viking racer Kevin Magnussen’ (who qualified a stunning fourth for Haas), ‘game-changer and change-maker, Sir Lewis Hamilton’ (who can’t get his hands on Mercedes upgrades soon enough, and who lined up 13th on the grid), and ‘from the home of the grandest grand prix of them all, Monaco, it’s Charles Leclerc’ (who pushed too hard and crashed in qualifying).

Monaco was the grandest of them all, but when it comes to star power Miami has it beaten. Sure, the marina’s fake but it attracted Tom Cruise, Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, Shakira and Serena Williams.

And with Las Vegas coming up later in the year, which could put even Florida in the shade, Monaco’s future is looking dicey. F1’s owners are trying to negotiate a better deal with the principality, which has traditionally paid a lower fee and had more control than any other venue on the calendar.

With the calendar capped at 24 rounds and lots of cities wanting to host, Monte Carlo’s place is beginning to look in doubt.

I don’t think we will lose the Monaco Grand Prix entirely – I certainly hope not – but I can see it becoming a biennial event.

Back to Miami – where tickets cost up to £10,000 and lobster rolls were selling for £100 each (which even the Monegasques would choke at) – and something occurred which absolutely wouldn’t happen in Monte Carlo: Sir Jackie Stewart was manhandled by security.

Sky’s Martin Brundle was on his gridwalk, trying to attract Roger Federer who was in a roped-off VIP area. Sir Jackie, a three-time F1 champion, former team owner and a close friend of the late Queen, bolted under the cordon to tap the tennis player on the shoulder.

He was able to get Federer in front of Sky’s camera but only after pushing his way through two security guards who should have recognised the legendary Scot and shown an 83-year-old more respect regardless.

If you want to know where F1’s got its priorities wrong, don’t look to LL Cool J yelling ‘make some noise Miami!’. Look to the goons trying to tell JYS ‘no’.

F1 crying out for an Alonso win

Verstappen’s mid-race pace and Sergio Perez’s lack thereof allowed the world champion to scythe from ninth and comfortably win from his pole-starting team-mate.

Max has looked a little out of sorts sometimes this season but Sunday was a return to form that could knock the wind out of the Mexican’s sails.

Ferrari and Mercedes are struggling with car balance, and the only driver out there who looks capable of cleaning up if Red Bull drop a clanger is Fernando Alonso, who has scored 75 points from the first five rounds.

I have never seen him looking happier or more relaxed. A 33rd grand-prix win for the Spaniard is exactly what F1 needs right now.

And of course, after four podiums, he wants more. ‘Obviously, we want to step one step higher on the podium for P2 and eventually, one day, win a race,’ said the 41-year-old Alonso.

‘Red Bull is better than us – faster, stronger. But if one day there is a crack, an opportunity, we need to make sure we are in that position.’

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