Opinion: How senior citizens owned F1 over Miami track plan

It’s hard to believe it, but yesterday a well-organized group of elderly ladies gave a global sport and a multiple Superbowl-winning NFL franchise a lesson in how to make your point. They influenced a county commission meeting that made the Miami Grand Prix far less likely to happen than planned in 2021.

Opinion: How senior citizens owned F1 over Miami track plan

Miami’s already had one failed F1 bid, as a street circuit race in downtown that failed to come to fruition for a multitude of logistical reasons and local resident opposition. But shifting it to a new track built in the car parks around Hard Rock Stadium should be simple, right?

Wrong. Betty T Ferguson, a former county commissioner for Miami Gardens – the city in which the Miami Dolphins’ stadium is situated – has rallied a vociferous opposition group, mainly consisting of female senior citizens from the nearby community. It had already persuaded the city council to vote against the plan with its claims of ‘deep pockets overriding quality of life’; now it has managed to get two motions approved by the county that means far more bureaucratic red tape to be cleared before it can happen.

Read Also:

Miami track rendering

Miami track rendering

Photo by: Hard Rock Stadium

Perhaps the most shocking thing about this meeting was how badly prepared F1 and the Dolphins were. While the opposition easily filled its half hour of initial lobbying, the ‘F1 group’ came up 10 minutes short. The opposition managed to get its attorney to speak twice, the second time to counter F1’s presentation, but the other group got no such right to reply. In fact, it took the F1-supporting county Mayor to interject and ask some questions to help its cause, including its outline of benefits to the community it would hand out – such as playground rebuilds, $25 raceday tickets, etc.

Sure, F1 had its commercial chief Sean Bratches there, and the first of the Dade county residents to speak was two-time F1 world champion Emerson Fittipaldi, and both spoke eloquently about the undoubted benefits that the sport would bring to Miami. But nobody was arguing about that.

What transpired was that the F1 group found nothing like the support it required in the face of the impassioned local opposition, which included a 90-year-old lady who’d lived in the adjacent area for decades. Apparently, they had all been instructed to wear orange and the impact of that was striking – no wonder Max Verstappen gets such a boost from his army of supporters! One of the few non-orange-clad supporters was a gentleman wearing a homemade ‘TRUMP SUCKS’ shirt, who bizarrely claimed F1 had “killed many with its clouds of smoke” and that “kids are gonna breathe in that stuff thinking it’s good”.

This served to echo community activist Ferguson’s opening statements about the “deadly effects” of hosting an F1 race in a city environment. What the F1 group really needed to hand was an environmental assessment report from city-based events such as Melbourne, Montreal, Monaco or Singapore. But not one shred of evidence was put forward along those lines; only economic benefits were put forward by the F1 group – which, if anything, played into the hands of Ferguson’s “deep pockets overriding quality of life” allegations. As you can see in the render below, the track would back on to residential areas...

Miami track rendering

Miami track rendering

Photo by: Hard Rock Stadium

In fact, the only scientific evidence on show was a Miami-Dade County sound study report. It stated that hearing damage was possible after eight seconds of being exposed to 132dB. Nobody stepped forward to mention the distance away the crowd would be from the cars, and it took an F1 fan to raise the point of how sound actually travels, so fans wouldn’t be exposed to constant peaks of noise.

The majority of the opposition’s scaremongering, far-fetched and borderline preposterous claims of the “deadly effects” of F1 thus went unchallenged. And the message was compounded by the current county commissioner for Miami Gardens, Barbara Jordan, who is vehemently opposed to the plan. She actually used a crash-filled showreel of F1 racing to prove her point about how impactful it would be to the community.

“Look at the racing!” said Jordan shortly before the voting took place. “There are six schools located within a mile of the stadium. One of them is across the street! Friday is a school day. How can our kids learn when you have noise levels. The lobbyists told me the cars are quieter now, 134db. Well, I dare you to stand under the decibel noise for five minutes because you’ll walk away deaf.

“Formula 1 tires: In that video you saw the smoke coming of the tires? It’s toxic. Listen, I haven’t been able to sleep over this, just thinking about those tires going around and spinning. When I was researching all of this I came across a YouTube show by a driver called Scott Mansell, it’s called Driver61, and he took a Pirelli tire off one of the F1 cars and cut it in two. And when he did it, the smoke got to him, and he had to go and put on a mask. The shavings from the tire filled his shirt – poisonous shavings! The tire particles covered his shirt as he cut it open and the mask was needed to protect his eyes from the smoke.

“These tires are soft and degradable, it disintegrates while it is racing, and those things go out into the community. That’s what we’re talking about here, putting on this event in a bedroom community within a mile of six schools. The race cannot be run on existing roads, and the work that would be required has to have racing surfaces. If they use 199th [Street] they’d have to put up guardrails and fences, and a surface so you wouldn’t be able to skid off the road.

“I just want you to get a picture of what we’re talking about here: we’re not talking about the races that go on in Homestead Speedway, they have never had a race like this in the United States, apart from Austin, Texas.”

So apart from the fact a far-louder iteration of F1 has raced on the streets of Long Beach, Las Vegas and Detroit; apart from the fact a new road surface you can’t skid off might be a good thing; I’ve never seen any scientific evidence about an adverse medical impact of Pirelli’s high-degradation tires; and why on earth would anyone think a former BOSS Formula racer’s YouTube clip of him chopping up a tire is relevant?

But the simple fact was that it worked. The commissioners voted 7-6 and then 8-5 to pass both motions, which now means a full public hearing must happen in December, and any county road closures for motor racing must be approved by the commission – adding another layer of bureaucracy.

And it was those health and quality of living fears that clearly swung it, and that was the battleground that F1 and the Dolphins group must now focus their attentions upon if this event is going to happen. Going forwards, put bluntly, it needs to shut down the bullshit claims with science.

One thing on its side is the fact that the county Mayor has a right of veto over the motions, but if he does so it will look like some blatant railroading against a community’s wishes.

The moral of the story? Never underestimate some angry old ladies, whoever you think you are.

Proposed track layout for Miami Grand Prix track at Hard Rock Stadium

Proposed track layout for Miami Grand Prix track at Hard Rock Stadium

Photo by: Motorsport.com

shares
comments
Marko: Mexico deadline for 2020 F1 line-up "a mistake"
Previous article

Marko: Mexico deadline for 2020 F1 line-up "a mistake"

Next article

Ferrari, Williams against delaying 2021 F1 rules

Ferrari, Williams against delaying 2021 F1 rules
Why is Oscar Piastri F1's most sought-after rookie? Prime

Why is Oscar Piastri F1's most sought-after rookie?

The Australian rising star is fast, consistent, confident, adaptable and has shown excellent racecraft, but there’s already a taint to his reputation. That hasn’t stopped him becoming the hottest property in this year’s F1 driver market and why McLaren moved fast to snap up the 21-year-old

Formula 1
Sep 30, 2022
The unintended benefit that F1's new engine rules era will deliver Prime

The unintended benefit that F1's new engine rules era will deliver

Formula 1's incoming engine rules shake-up has multiple targets. But it may also solve what has been a bone of contention since the hybrids arrived in 2014. The new plan will allow the series to pump up the volume

Formula 1
Sep 29, 2022
How de Vries made himself impossible to ignore for a belated F1 chance Prime

How de Vries made himself impossible to ignore for a belated F1 chance

Nyck de Vries appeared to have missed his opportunity to break into Formula 1 as he was passed over for more exciting talents who have now become frontrunners and title fighters. But after catching the eye outside of the F1 sphere, before his stunning impromptu grand prix debut in Italy, will it lead to a delayed full-time race seat?

Formula 1
Sep 29, 2022
Can Hamilton produce another Singapore magic moment? Prime

Can Hamilton produce another Singapore magic moment?

The Singapore Grand Prix has, explains Ben Edwards, played an important role in Lewis Hamilton’s Formula 1 career. As the series returns to the Marina Bay Street Circuit for the first time in three years, he faces the latest challenge with an underperforming Mercedes car.

Formula 1
Sep 28, 2022
Why Sainz is key to Ferrari achieving its chairman's F1 goals Prime

Why Sainz is key to Ferrari achieving its chairman's F1 goals

Although Ferrari's chances of title glory in 2022 have evaporated, chairman John Elkann expects the team to have chalked up both championships by 2026. Both require drivers to play the team game and, having now become more comfortable with the F1-75, Carlos Sainz may be Ferrari's key to title glory

Formula 1
Sep 27, 2022
How its faltering first turbo car advanced a Williams-Honda glory era Prime

How its faltering first turbo car advanced a Williams-Honda glory era

Stuart Codling charts the development of the Williams FW09, the ugly duckling that heralded the start of the title-winning Williams-Honda partnership

Formula 1
Sep 25, 2022
The Moss-Ferrari farce that current F1 drivers are thankfully spared Prime

The Moss-Ferrari farce that current F1 drivers are thankfully spared

Recent moves within the driver market have reminded Maurce Hamilton of a time when contracts weren’t worth the paper they weren’t written on…

Formula 1
Sep 24, 2022
The seven factors powering Verstappen's 2022 F1 domination Prime

The seven factors powering Verstappen's 2022 F1 domination

After a tooth and nail and, at times, toxic Formula 1 world championship scrap last year, Max Verstappen's march to a second consecutive title has been the exact opposite. But has he really changed in 2022? Here's a dive into what factors have played a crucial role, both inside the Verstappen camp and elsewhere, in the Dutch driver's domination.

Formula 1
Sep 23, 2022