Preparation is critical to each race weekend, but how do you tackle getting ready to race around a circuit that is a completely unknown quantity to both you and your team?

That’s the task that awaited 11 drivers in Round 2, as both rookies and returnees embarked on their first appearance around the Miami International Autodrome. Whilst Round 1’s Jeddah Corniche Circuit was a new venue to all; the three days of extensive testing gave everyone a chance to learn the track at their own pace.

However, this time around, they aren’t afforded the same luxury — with the field facing the challenge head on with two 40-minute Free Practice sessions ahead of Qualifying and both races. Having worked extensively back at their respective bases, we caught up with three of our drivers to see how they geared up for the weekend.

“I have been preparing Miami with the simulator together with the team, and on top of that at home I’ve been watching onboard videos,” explained Doriane Pin. “As the track is technical, the focus was obviously the two parts of the track were its successive corners link together — the fast successive corners in Sector 1 and the technical part with successive corners in Sector 2.”

The opening round was a statement of intent for Pin, but the Mercedes driver’s task has been made harder by the fact that neither she nor PREMA Racing have any prior experience of Miami. Describing the circuit as “challenging”, she emphasized how valuable her time in the simulator was given the limited track time.

She said: “It was important to prepare Miami race with the simulator to get some laps in the pocket and get the flow of the track because we don’t have too much driving before Qualifying.”

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Meanwhile, over in the ART Grand Prix garage, Aurelia Nobels echoed Pin’s sentiments on the simulator. The PUMA driver explained how the simulator provides her with an initial understanding of how to handle the track’s characteristics which she can then reference with her on-track running.

“The Miami circuit is a mix of everything,” she explained. “There are fast corners, medium corners and slow corners, so it’s going to be very hard. It’s going to be there where you can really see who is really fast and who can adapt to different things.

“There are a lot of straights as well, so it’s going to be very important to prepare the maximum for the exit and then the rotating will be very hard. I really like the slow corners where there is a chicane, I think it’s going to be very tricky with the wall.”

READ MORE: Pin admits there's 'work to do' as she sets sights on Miami clean sweep

However, nothing can top time behind the wheel. Still acclimatising herself to the F1 ACADEMY car, Nobels made full use out of the three days of in-season testing in Zandvoort and cited it as “the most important test so far”.

Whilst the wet conditions were a stark contrast to Miami’s sunshine and humidity, the fact that she overcame them has made her more self-assured in her abilities.

“Zandvoort testing was very, very important for me because we drove in many conditions and I feel much more confident with the car and myself and also with the team,” Nobels noted. “Zandvoort is a very, very hard track with a lot of different corners like Miami, so this will be good to (help) adapt. Zandvoort testing was definitely the most important test so far.”

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It’s not only the 2024 newcomers who are Miami rookies this weekend. Hamda Al Qubaisi, the highest returning driver from last season, is also starting from scratch.

With track temperatures reaching over 50˚C, the second round will be a test of the drivers’ endurance. Utilising the facilities at the Red Bull Racing factory, Al Qubaisi says that ensuring she’s physically equipped to deal with the conditions has been as much a part of her preparations as learning the track.

READ MORE: Pulling delighted after turning around FP1 struggles as she vows to stay 'grounded' on Miami potential

“We’ve been focusing a lot on Qualifying sims at the simulator in Milton Keynes and it’s been going really well,” she said. “We also focused a lot on physical preparation to make sure we’re ready for the weekend as it’s going to be really hot, so hydration is key."

Yet their preparation doesn’t stop as soon as they hit the track, with their performances in Free Practice having the potential to set the tone for the rest of the weekend.

Whilst Pin topped the timing sheets in FP1, Nobels and Al Qubaisi earned a top five and top 10 spot respectively in FP2 and all their efforts will come to fruition when they tackle Qualifying followed by Race 1 on Saturday.