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IT'S RACE WEEK: 5 storylines we're excited about ahead of the 2024 Miami Grand Prix

Special Contributor

Chris Medland
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Five races into the new season and it’s time for the first trip to North America this year, with the third edition of the Miami Grand Prix. There’s another Sprint weekend for the teams to contend with, and plenty of developments off-track too that will be hot topics in Florida.

The impact of Nico Hulkenberg’s move

The driver market kept moving between races, following the confirmation of Nico Hulkenberg’s departure from Haas at the end of this season to join Kick Sauber. The German has signed a multi-year deal to be part of the Audi F1 project when it hits the track in 2026 too, and it has some serious repercussions at the team.

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For starters, it means one of Valtteri Bottas or Zhou Guanyu will be needing to find a seat elsewhere next season, with one of their positions now taken by Hulkenberg’s arrival. Bottas stated in Shanghai that he has other options elsewhere on the grid, while Zhou has acknowledged the dynamic is more intense.

But they were not the only drivers in the frame moving forward.

SHANGHAI, CHINA - APRIL 18: Nico Hulkenberg of Germany and Haas F1 attends the Drivers Press

Nico Hulkenberg will be leaving Haas for Kick Sauber in 2025

Carlos Sainz has been heavily linked with Audi and, after Fernando Alonso’s contract extension at Aston Martin was confirmed a few weeks ago, it feels like there is momentum building in the market already that means the current-Ferrari driver could look to secure his future sooner rather than later.

The 2025 vacancy at Haas

It’s not just at Kick Sauber that Hulkenberg’s move has an impact, either. The 36-year-old enjoyed the working environment at Haas and the team were pleased with his performances, so he was very much on the shortlist to stay in 2025, but has now left a gap for the team to fill next year.

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Ferrari reserve driver Oliver Bearman is a natural fit given the FP1 appearances he has lined up for Haas this year – having made two already last season and impressed the team – and his standout super sub outing in place of Sainz in Saudi Arabia certainly did his chances no harm.

But Haas have also benefitted from the experienced line-up of Hulkenberg and Kevin Magnussen over the past two seasons, with the team able to make a clear step forward in terms of race pace this year, in part due to their feedback.

So while a talented rookie is likely to be an option, Haas could well be keen to stick with the more experienced approach and be looking at the available drivers that are still on the market. There are plenty of permutations still to play out.

JEDDAH, SAUDI ARABIA - MARCH 8: Oliver Bearman of Great Britain and Ferrari in the garage prior to

Oliver Bearman could be a contender for Hulkenberg's Haas seat next season

Adrian Newey’s future

Speaking of having lots of potential options, there’s no doubt that Adrian Newey would be a welcome addition to any racing team due to the amazing achievements he has to his name in Formula 1.

And recent reports have suggested that Newey could well be on the market, with multiple media outlets stating Red Bull’s chief technical officer is ready to move on.

READ MORE: ‘His time would be better spent focusing on the team’ – Horner criticises Wolff’s comments on Verstappen’s F1 future

It would be a huge move if it were to happen, given the incredible success Red Bull and Newey have achieved together since he joined the team in 2006. Seven drivers’ championships, six constructors’ titles and 117 victories to date have all come with Newey as a key figure within the technical team.

But Red Bull say Newey is under contract until at least the end of 2025 and “we are unaware of him joining any other team”, so expect plenty of questions to both Red Bull and the likes of Ferrari, Aston Martin, Mercedes and McLaren as the F1 world tries to work out just what is likely to happen next.

SUZUKA, JAPAN - APRIL 05: Adrian Newey, the Chief Technical Officer of Oracle Red Bull Racing looks

Recent reports have suggested that Adrian Newey could be on the market

Miami’s first Sprint event

Fresh from the first Sprint weekend of the season in China, there’s another one following in Miami and it will be the first time the track around the Hard Rock Stadium has hosted the action-packed two-race event.

As we saw last season, the Miami International Autodrome is a tricky circuit to get right and incidents can occur in both qualifying and the race that can really mix things up. Add that to a format that includes just one practice session, and teams really need to hook everything up straight away.

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Shanghai delivered a thrilling Sprint Qualifying session that resulted in the unusual sight of Max Verstappen starting outside the top four, while there was some thrilling racing for the final position in the top three that eventually went the way of Sergio Perez.

Fernando Alonso lost out late on with a puncture and a penalty, as drivers showed they wouldn’t be taking it easy in the Sprint amid the new schedule that sees qualifying take place afterwards.

With a new title sponsor for Ferrari and multiple teams also boasting major partnerships with North American companies, expect plenty of activations and livery tweaks, too.

MIAMI, FLORIDA - MAY 07: A general view of the action during the first lap of the F1 Grand Prix of

This weekend will be the first time the Miami International Autodrome has hosted a Sprint

Major upgrades on the way

McLaren enjoyed an impressive Chinese Grand Prix weekend, with Lando Norris fastest in Sprint Qualifying and then finishing a strong second in the Sunday race to pick up his second podium of the season.

And that performance came despite the fact that McLaren have been openly referencing the fact that they were awaiting a major upgrade package in the early part of the year. That update is due this coming weekend in Miami and, if it is anything like the step that they were able to deliver in Austria last year, then McLaren will be extremely competitive.

READ MORE: Mercedes 'have something coming for Miami' as Wolff hopes for crucial step forward

But none of the teams are standing still, and Mercedes have also stated they have new developments to bring to their troublesome W15 that could help unlock some of the performance that they have been struggling to extract at all times through the early part of the season.

It’s a sign of how much of a step forward each update could be that the two teams are willing to introduce them during a Sprint weekend, with just one hour of running in FP1 available to analyze the impact.

Alpine took a similar approach in China as they managed to get an upgrade ready in time for one car a race earlier than planned, with Esteban Ocon getting to run it in Shanghai and Pierre Gasly set to receive the new parts in Miami, too.

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