Last Updated May 05, 2022, 3:19 AM

Juan Pablo Montoya previews the Miami Grand Prix

Formula One has finally arrived in Miami and we got to talk to F1 legend Juan Pablo Montoya about the inaugural Miami Grand Prix. The former Williams and McLaren driver talked about how the weather could affect proceedings, Ferrari vs Red Bull, Charles LeClerc and Max Verstappen and more.

What type of car does the Miami track suit the best? 

“I would assume that the Miami track is going to be really smooth, being a new track. It will be interesting to see what pavement they are using.” 

“One of the things that could be a struggle is the weather. You don’t get a lot of rain, but you get really heavy showers for five minutes. It's not just a light drizzle, it's 'full wet floor and full humidity'. In a lot of places, you can see the front coming. Not here. It's just 'Pop, gets everything wet and goes away'.” 

“The weather could be a massive twist for the race. Might miss the track. Might get part of the track wet. That's going to be quite interesting. They will have spotters and radars and everything to let the teams know where the rain is coming from, but it's very hard to predict.” 

Which teams would benefit from a dry track and who would from a wet track?

“I think the biggest winner from a wet track would be Max (Verstappen). Max would have a big advantage. He seems to be very strong and comfortable in the wet.” 

“If it's dry, I would probably put my money on Ferrari.” 

“It will be interesting to see what Charles (LeClerc) does after the mistake last week if he keeps committing and everything works great or if he goes down a notch on performance just to be cautious and not make a mistake. If you do that, then you'll put yourself in a bad situation, because you take performance away.“

"I find it quite intriguing right now, because if you look at Max, he looked really comfortable the first couple of races, then he wasn't really there. If you look at the Grand Prix in Saudi Arabia, for 'Checo' (Sergio Pérez) to beat him, and no disrespect to him, it's surprising. I don't think anybody expected it. Especially with what we have seen before. But if you look at the Max Verstappen that showed up halfway through the sprint race in Imola and on Sunday, that guy, with that car, they are going to struggle to beat.”

Any driver that will exceed expectations in Miami?

“I think it could be a really good day for a guy like Checo or Lando (Norris).” 

“They are the two guys that could surprise you. I think being a new track, the young kids.“

“Either Checo, with the Latin thing being here in Miami. A lot of Mexicans are here. This is like a second home race for him. This is going to be more of a home race than Austin.”

“I think the atmosphere for a guy like Lando, can really make him stand out. And he's going to feel at home here. That's going to be really interesting to see.”

And who wins?

“If I was a betting person, I would probably put my money on Max.” 

I think Charles (LeClerc), with the crash, unless the team went to him and said 'just keep pushing, don't worry about it’; If they said that to him, he could still win the race.” 

“But my money would be on Max this week. Especially with the Miami weather.”

What did you make of the power balance between Ferrari and Red Bull at display at Imola?

"I think one of the bigger things is that Ferrari looked really strong in testing and they actually had enough speed this time."

"Mercedes did struggle and it was surprising."

"The porpoising is causing a lot of issues to a lot of teams and people are coming out with different ideas and things. So, I think you're still going to see a lot of shuffle on the grid."

"I think the Red Bull is still going to be strong and the Ferrari is still going to be very strong."

"As people start going through the season and they start coming out with new things, I think it's going to be interesting because there's talks that Aston has a new car coming that can completely change the way of doing things. I would assume Mercedes is doing the same thing, probably everybody."

"Everybody is trying to figure out - 'oh, we got it wrong'"

"There's three ways looking at it  - how much air you put through the front of the car, how much pressure in the front of the tunnels of the car now, with the ground effect, or how much pressure you want to maintain in the middle or do you wanna try to suck everything out of the back of the car and be really strong at the back."

"So everyone had different ideas and you got to say what Red Bull and Ferrari especially did was amazing."

"The Red Bull, I would say, looks the easiest car to drive out of them all, especially when you look at how Checo is doing."

"I think Checo made a big step this year and is a lot more comfortable with the car. I think Checo made a big step this year and is a lot more comfortable with the car. I think that's a really nice step to see, and a nice surprise."

"In Australia he had the pace to win the race."

"It's weird because Carlos (Sainz) is really fast but he just hasn't put it together. He's made a lot of mistakes and that makes it interesting. The problem is that when you start making mistakes, it starts getting in your head and it's so bad."

"I've been through it, we've all been through it and you just need a nice, quiet weekend."

"If he can get one of those quiet weekends just to get the momentum going in his way will help." 

"Because he finished last season really strong, being a lot stronger than Charles (LeClerc) and Charles looked like he was going to be in trouble. Charles, over the winter, really got it together."

Red Bull, who seemed to have sorted out their car issues in Imola, do you think they’re on par with Ferrari now, in terms of the car? Or do you think they’re even better? They clearly get their advantage on the straights - do you think it is because they have solved the porpoising issues the best? If Ferrari fixes those issues, will they be unbeatable? 

"If you look at Ferrari, Ferrari has a lot of porpoising. You look at Imola, going into turn one, they were bouncing really, really bad."

"I think once they can fix that, their top speed will get really better."

"Red Bull, looks like again, with (Adrian) Newey, it wasn't a surprise. Everytime there's a new car, Adrian Newey always seems to come up with the goods. And he did it again."

"It's not surprising."

"I'm kind of excited because you come into the Miami race this week and you really gonna go, it's a Ferrari or Red Bull race, I'd probably say this week it's more of a Ferrari race, more than a Red Bull, for the type of track."

"The last time we had a race like this was the second race of the year, in Saudi, that was kind of the same, street-course track."

"Checo was quicker than Max and the Ferraris were very strong."

"The top four thing is gonna be a big shuffle. The Haas is going to be very strong here. I think we're still a little early to see new aero upgrades. I know there are a lot of teams coming with new aero upgrades and some are going to be - 'oh, the simulation said it'll be 7-10ths and it goes two-tenths quicker."

"That's where Haas struggled before. Haas had really good  new upgrades and everytime they put a new upgrade on the car, it never went quicker. And the simulation said it was supposed to go a lot quicker. And when things like that happen, it makes it very difficult."

"It's a big race right now between all the teams to see who comes up with the goods. And it's a big opportunity for the midfield to have a shot at getting to the top."

"If you make a good step right now, you can separate yourself. If you separate yourself from the middle field, you're right up there with the Ferrari and Red Bull where if they go to a track where they might struggle and you nail it, you have a shot at winning races."

"The guys, looking at who has to work the hardest, I would say its the Mercedes. I'd say the Mercedes engine is the weakest right now."

"When Ferrari runs strong, the Haas and the Alfa are going to run strong, as they did. If the Mercedes is bad and everybody with a Mercedes kind of struggles. It's the whole package and it's part of the sport."

"Everybody's working every day and even when you're winning, you're working."

"Mercedes took the approach of packaging everything really small and maybe sacrificed some engine performance, to make everything tighter and smaller."

"And Ferrari went the other way, they made the car, big sidepods and big everything."

What is happening to Lewis? Is Russell over-driving the car or is Lewis in a funk?

"Lewis is struggling and people are like - 'it really shows it was just the car, look how good is George (Russell).'"

"I'm a big fan of George, I really like Lewis as well. I think the biggest difference is that you got to remember, George has been in Williams for the past three-four seasons. So, he's been in the melee every weekend. Like he is 'traffic, traffic' and racing people all day."

"And Lewis, the last seven-eight seasons, he's been cruising by himself every weekend. He hasn't really raced people because when he gets to lap them, everybody needs to get out of the way."

"All of a sudden he's stuck in traffic and it doesn't matter how good you are, if you don't practice it, it's hard."

"Somebody who's been doing it all his life (George Russell), it doesn't mean he's (Hamilton) worse, it's just going to take him more time to figure it out."

"I think Lewis is not as comfortable and I think the car is doing a lot of different things."

"I think Lewis is at a point that if the car doesn't drive really, really good, I mean when you're younger, and I've been through it, when you're younger, you'll drive it however it is and you think it's okay. As you get older and wiser, you go - 'uh, it's not driving well, there's no point'."

"I think you always want to drive the wheels out of the car but a guy like Lewis that has been used to winning every year, and championships, I think, for him to qualify 10th or 12th, it's kind of the same thing."

"Give him a winning car and you'll see how different he's gonna behave."

"I know he doesn't want to get his ass kicked every week by George. George looks a lot more comfortable and is pushing, and he's got a point to prove. Whereas Lewis doesn't really need to prove anything."

"I think Lewis is really focused on making the car better and is just really uncomfortable in the car."

"Did he forget how to drive? No, that doesn't happen. You don't forget overnight. He's just not happy with the car."

"It (the Mercedes W13) looks awful. I think they've given up a lot of pace because they need to run the car really high, for the porpoising."

"You see how bad at the end of the straights that car bounces! It's like the driver is going like that (bobs head) and you're trying to figure out where is the braking zone."

"I've been through it. It's a nightmare."

"It hurts the car, the gearbox, everything takes a beating. They've just given up a lot of pace just to make it survive the races. Once they figure it out, the whole grid is going to flip upside down, it's going to change a lot."

If you’re Toto Wolff, how do you manage Lewis Hamilton right now? In fact, how do you manage both Hamilton and Russell right now?

"I think there's no drama."

"Lewis is in a different position in his career than George and that makes a big, big difference."

"The focus, at the team, at the moment, they're not racing each other at all. They're just trying to figure out the car. And I bet you they're trying different setups and different things."

"If they struggle on a weekend and it's terrible, they'll be like, 'okay, we move on to the next one.'"

"A team like Mercedes that are used to winning races, if they finish fifth or ninth in a race, or ninth and 12th. Who cares? In the big picture, who cares?"

"What really matters is understanding what's missing and figure it out and if they can understand what they need to do, it'll make a big difference."

Realistically, what should be Mercedes’ gameplan at the Miami Grand Prix?

"Same thing, you know, figure out things."

"George was pretty quick in Saudi. There's potential. That's the same reason why I think a Mercedes in Monaco could be really strong"

"Here they're talking about the straights are really long, low downforce. And if you're low downforce, they might be smaller as well. If you're not pulling enough downforce, it might allow them to run the car a little lower."

Carlos Sainz has crashed out of several races and qualis. What do you make of that?

"He's made mistakes but I think the Imola mistake in qualifying, he's just pushing. He just wants it and I'm okay with him making a mistake like that."

"And then he was unlucky with Ricciardo running right into him. But, it's racing, you know, you're racing in the damp or in the wet, it's gonna happen. It's racing incidents."

"I think there is a lot of negotiation going on with Ferrari for his deal and I think he lost a lot of focus in what he needed to do and he was more focused in getting the deal done, than the driving."

"I think now that it's settled, in a couple of races, he'll focus back down to what he needs to do."

"He now has a three-year contract, doesn't need to worry about anything else, just drive the car."

Can that lack of a wingman cost Leclerc in the end?

"It's really early. It's really early because Carlos can still come in and mount a hell of a return, winning everything."

"Mercedes come up with a new aero-package and the car comes to life and suddenly they start winning every week and you go - 'oooh, I didn't see that coming'."

"That's one of the cool things right now with F1. And I guess, people outside the sport don't realise how much a car can change with those upgrades."

"In my time the upgrades were like we're going to add this little piece to the car."

"Now, when they're talking about an upgrade, they need to change the front wing, the floor etc. Because everything works together. How the front wing flows affects the next thing and the next thing affects the next thing. It's like a whole package they need to do."

"When somebody comes with a new package and also everything works, it really comes to life."

"I think there's a lot of potential for different results that, let's call it, you didn't expect."

"I think Monaco is going to be very interesting as well because being a slow speed track, the porpoising is going to a lot less. So, I think people will be able to be a lot more aggressive with the car mechanically and I think it's gonna shuffle the grid around again."

"I think it's really cool."

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Photo by Bill Stephan

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