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Miami Grand Prix 2023

The major F1 conflict highlighted by Brundle-Stewart incident

F1 is facing a battle to please fans both old and new, but the incident involving three-time World Champion Sir Jackie Stewart underlined the difficulty in maintaining harmony.

The addition of the Miami Grand Prix to the Formula 1 calendar has provided extra razzmatazz to what is already a glamorous sport.

The Hard Rock Stadium venue held its second race last weekend, with a huge turnout of celebrities and social media personalities joining festivities in the paddock and on the grid.

Such presence will help to promote Formula 1 to a new group of fans, as the sport aims to capitalise on the popularity boom experienced since the emergence of Netflix docuseries Drive to Survive.

But one incident from before the race underlined the fine balance that must be found by F1's hierarchy in order to preserve the upward trend of followers.

Critical demonstration

One of the biggest criticisms from the 'heritage' fanbase since F1 began to target growth in markets such as the United States and the Middle East has been that they felt key values and the history of the sport were beginning to be left by the wayside.

So when former driver-turned-pundit Martin Brundle was conducting his revered grid walk and was greeted with a rope barrier halting his progress, the Briton was unable to greet his desired interviewee – tennis legend Roger Federer.

Cue three-time World Champion Sir Jackie Stewart, who ducked under the rope and was instantly met with security. This is a critical demonstration of the divide fans new and old feel is taking place.

Taking a look at social media, new fans feel harshly treated by the core supporters and feel there needs to be a reduction in the amount of 'gatekeeping' taking place.

But for the core fanbase, the fact that 83-year-old legend of the sport Stewart was being manhandled on an F1 grid was a disgraceful scene – especially given the fact so many celebrities were being given access-all-areas. The fact it took Mercedes driver George Russell to step in and diffuse the situation speaks volumes.

Fade away into irrelevance

As Lewis Hamilton explained when addressing the pre-race driver introductions, F1 must continue to show an attitude to change.

If the sport remains stagnant and is unable to stimulate new viewers, the unfortunate truth is that it will likely fade away into irrelevance. CEO Stefano Domenicali and owners Liberty Media are absolutely correct to address a new fanbase at various stages of the season and the Miami Grand Prix is a key part of that formula.

Events like Monaco, where the cars essentially race in qualifying and follow each other for 78 laps, are the historic elements that must be retained to keep that balancing act – a point at which it seems fans old and new are aligned.

But there must be respect for those that have influenced the evolution of the sport. Notwithstanding Stewart's championship achievements, his role in promoting radical change to safety measures in F1 was outstanding – the mortality rate since he stepped in is far lower than preceding the changes.

The scenes during the grid walk were not pleasant to watch and race promoters must learn a lesson – so must F1. The situation highlighted the discourse between fan groups. If the sport's higher powers can make tweaks for similar events moving forward, harmonious growth can be achieved.

Also interesting:

Balve Bains is joined by RacingNews365.com Editorial Director Dieter Rencken and Asia Correspondent Michael Butterworth to dissect the key talking points from the Miami Grand Prix.

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