Downtown Miami

Formula One's hitting the brakes on Miami Grand Prix. But it still could happen.

Formula One is negotiating with Miami to bring a series of Grand Prix races — like this one in Austria — to the city’s downtown. The earliest Miami race would be in 2020. A planned city and county trip to see a Grand Prix in Singapore has hit some controversy.
Formula One is negotiating with Miami to bring a series of Grand Prix races — like this one in Austria — to the city’s downtown. The earliest Miami race would be in 2020. A planned city and county trip to see a Grand Prix in Singapore has hit some controversy. Getty Images

Formula One will not run a Grand Prix race through downtown Miami in 2019 after delayed contract negotiations forced organizers to push back the intended inaugural race to 2020.

Last week, Miami Mayor Francis Suarez confirmed a delay in the contract negotiations, saying the city would not consider a proposed contract until September. He and City Manager Emilio Gonzalez said the postponement would allow more input from downtown residents, many of whom have opposed a Grand Prix in their neighborhood.

In a statement released Monday morning, a Formula One official confirmed that this delay means a Grand Prix will not be held in Miami in October 2019, which was intended to be the date of the first race.

“Whilst our preference would have been to race in Miami in 2019, there was always a point by which delivering the best possible wheel-to-wheel racing experience for our fans, drivers and teams wouldn’t be possible in the time available. We have now reached that point as far as racing in Miami in 2019 is concerned,” wrote Sean Bratches, managing director of commercial operations at Formula One. “However, we are taking a long-term view and as a result, we have 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.”

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Bratches also indicated that issues around the track layout have not been resolved.

“We have always said that we wouldn’t compromise on delivering the best possible race, for the people of Miami, our fans and the 1.8 billion people who watch F1 globally every year, and if that meant waiting until 2020, then that was far more preferable than signing off on a sub-optimal race track, just to do a deal,” he wrote. “At every stage of this process we’ve enjoyed positive collaboration and co-operation with the city of Miami, Miami-Dade County, Port of Miami, Bayfront Park’s management, residents and businesses. As a result of these discussions, we have listened and adapted our plans, including elements of the track layout.”

People who live in condo towers downtown have taken a more aggressive stance against events in the area this year, loudly decrying plans for Formula One and other major events that are held on Miami’s public waterfront, including Ultra Music Festival. The debate has forced elected officials to contend with angry neighbors while considering large-scale events that they consider economic generators for the city.

“The residents are relieved for the moment that the city is not trying to force another major disruption to the entire downtown community under ridiculously rushed circumstances,” said Sam Dubbin, an attorney representing a group of downtown residents.

In May, Miami commissioners unanimously authorized Gonzalez to negotiate a contract with Formula One by July 1. That deadline came and went with no final contract proposed, raising questions about whether a race could be run in October 2019.

A draft contract obtained by the Miami Herald through a public records request called for a 10-year deal with an option for a 10-year extension. If this provision were to remain and be approved by the commission in September, Grand Prix could run in downtown Miami through 2040.

Under terms of the draft agreement, Formula One would have access to the race site to make preparations for up to six months leading up to the event — likely a major bone of contention with residents upset they can’t use the park when big events force closure.

This summer, residents have strongly condemned the use of Bayfront Park as a large event space, particularly for big concerts and other gatherings that require extended closures of the park for event organizers to set up and tear down. Citing these concerns and others, including the impact of excessive noise, Dubbin sent the city a cease-and-desist letter in June demanding the city stop negotiations with Formula One and end other massive events like Ultra Music Festival.

Nevertheless, Miami commissioners will still consider a new contract for Ultra at a meeting Thursday.

Miami Herald writer Jacob Sweet contributed to this report.
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