Miami F1 race faces crucial vote today

Lawmakers in Miami will decide today whether an amendment, tabled by Commissioner Barbara Jordan, to the terms of an agreement with Miami-Dade County will prevent the race taking place on a track that would mostly run in the grounds of the Hard Rock Stadium.

While racing events are currently permitted under the current terms of the agreement Jordan wants it amended to state that “automotive races and automotive racing special events, may only be approved as a special exception after public hearing”.

According to Forbes, the amendment adds that “an applicant for an automotive race use shall submit the following materials… a plan for mitigating potential impacts to single-family residential properties from noise, odors, accidents, congregation of people, and other impacts inherent to spectator sports and automobile race uses”.

Should the call for a public hearing be written into legislation it would come as a blow to F1’s owners who have already had their plan for a track passing through the city’s Bayfront Area rejected.

In June 2018, a group of 11 Bayfront Park residents sent a cease and deist order to Miami’s City Hall demanding that negotiations should cease.

A month later, F1’s commercial boss, Sean Bratches revealed that Formula One Management, “decided, in consultation with the Miami authorities, to postpone sign-off until later in the summer, with the aim of running the first Formula 1 Miami Grand Prix in the 2020 season”.

Come September 2018 and the Miami City Commission was due to vote on whether to approve the contract for the race and its organiser Stephen Ross, owner of the Miami Dolphins NFL team, who will cover all race costs.

However, this was indefinitely deferred, with a spokesperson for the City of Miami saying that there was a six-month window for the Commissioners to vote on the race again.

A month later, and though plans for the Miami event were effectively up in the air, F1 hosted a Fan Festival in the city, with a number of F1 cars giving demo runs in the infamous Bayfront Park. However, while the event attracted 80,000 spectators, this wasn’t enough to get the Grand Prix the all-clear.

City Commissioners re-scheduled their vote on the Grand Prix for 28th March – just before the six-month deadline expired – however the vote was delayed again (sound familiar?) at which point FOM changed tack and came up with the idea of a race around the Hard Rock Stadium.

However, despite the planned race being moved away from town, opposition to the event has continued, and, according to the Miami Herald, at a recent meeting of the Miami Gardens City Council, a resolution was unanimously passed to oppose the race.

Driving force behind the proposal was Councilwoman Lillie Q. Odom, who said she is worried about “days of deafening engine noise” and “a disruption of the regular flow of traffic,” as well as air quality concerns.

The Herald subsequently reported that the plan attracted criticism from community leaders including former Miami Gardens mayor Shirley Gibson and county commission candidate Sybrina Fulton, a lifelong Miami Gardens resident.

Though Miami Gardens Mayor, Oliver G. Gilbert III was out of town when the meeting took place, he told the Herald: “while I believe that large scale events at the stadium are necessary for the continued development of Miami Gardens, there has to be a balance, deep consideration for the community, and constant communication regarding how proposed events will impact the community.”

In a controversial move, Formula One Management then took the unusual step of drafting letters for fans to send to the city commissioners through a form on its website.

“Thank you for your interest in bringing F1 to South Florida,” read the blurb. “Unfortunately, a neighborhood group is trying to block the Formula 1 Miami Grand Prix. If you want to see Formula 1 racing at Hard Rock Stadium, tell your Miami-Dade County Commissioners what F1 means to you by clicking the appropriate button below.”

Indeed, as F1 ramps up the pressure, Ross Brawn insists the event would be “spectacular”.

“We’ve all got these memories of car park racing circuits, they were dreadful,” he said, according to the official F1 website. “Our mantra is it has to be a great racing circuit to begin with. We’re not just going to cram races in to get them in a place because they don’t last. We’ve designed a 5.6 km racing circuit, average speed of about 230 km/h, good complex of corners.

“It will be semi-permanent,” he continued, “there will be a lot of things they’ll put up for the race and take down for when they’re using the stadium for its usual purpose. But actually I think a great solution for us to race in Miami.

“We hope the Miami fans and the Miami people get behind it because it would be a fantastic event for the area. But also the prestige of an international sporting event in that area, I think is a great asset, a great event. I think it would be spectacular.”