Max Verstappen turned P9 on the grid to a fine victory at the Miami Grand Prix, Round 5 of the 2023 Formula 1 World Championship, beating his teammate and closest title challenger Sergio Perez in convincing style.
The Dutch ace was masterful as he popped fastest laps with 40-lap old tyres, as he built a pitstop gap to Perez, who had started from pole. The Mexican veteran, unlike in Baku, simply had no answer to Verstappen’s relentless consistency on ageing rubber, 20 laps older than the ones bolted onto the other Red Bull.
This time Perez had to play second fiddle and accept the message: Max is the boss at Red Bull, no matter what Checo threw at the World Champ today.
On Lap 46 we had it again, Perez on Hards (with 26 laps on them) ahead of Verstappen when the #1 car pitted for fresh Mediums, the gap was 1.4 seconds when he emerged behind Perez, but it was over as a contest thanks to one of the greatest stints on Pirelli Hards witnessed in recent memory.
Today he was King of the Streets, and the Tyre Whisperer all rolled into one and on lap 48 Max was through into the lead, Checo gave it a go to defend, but it was a done deal for the number one racing driver in the world.
Victory at the Hard Rock Stadium venue in Miami, is Verstappen’s 38th Grand Prix victory, among his best and the third win of his season thus far, which means the six points gap he enjoyed over Perez before the race, is now 14 points and increasingly a third F1 title (if the sparkling form he showed today is anything to go by) is becoming a foregone conclusion, at this rate he will probably have F1 world title number three wrapped-up sooner than when he claimed his second one last year.
Verstappen: Winning a race from P9 is always very satisfying
After the 57-lap-race, surprisingly devoid of race-affecting incidents, Verstappen summed up his afternoon in Miami which apart from maximum points for the win, included one point for the fastest lap of the race: “It was a good race. I stayed out of trouble at the beginning, had a clean race, picked off the cars one by one and I could stay out really long on the hard tyre.
In the sister car, Perez said in parce ferme: “I gave it all. I think the first stint was really poor with the graining we had and that compromised quite a lot of the race because we didn’t have too much of a difference.
“It is a well-deserved win (for Max). I think the medium initially was really poor and that was unexpected. That really compromised our pace and I also think Max had tremendous pace on the hard tyres. I think I have to analyse what went wrong today because I simply didn’t have the pace,” admitted Perez.
Alonso: At the beginning of the year a podium was amazing, but now we want more
‘Winner’ of the ‘other race’ in Miami today was Fernando Alonso, his fourth podium of the season and another healthy haul of points for Aston Martin, on a day the former Big Guns – Ferrari and Mercedes – were out of sorts. Another great showing by the Spaniard relative to Lance Stroll who was not close to his teammate all weekend, ditto the race.
Alonso, enjoying his resurgence with enthusiasm that belies his age, said after scoring his 102nd F1 career podium: “The car is amazing and it was a bit of a lonely race today. It’s never easy. Everything was fine, we take the podium, and going into Imola, Monaco and Barcelona we hope to keep going. At the beginning of the year a podium was amazing, but now we want more.”
George Russell followed the Mercedes-powered customer car (which the Aston is) across the line in fourth, a strong showing ahead of their heavily revised car for Imola, which cannot come soon enough. In the sister car, Lewis Hamilton turned P13 on the grid into sixth place when the chequered waved to end the second Miami Grand Prix.
Russell said after the race: “I am feeling pumped to be honest because it has been a while since we had a good race like that where we made overtakes stick. The pace, relatively speaking, was strong and I felt good in the car so for sure it was a satisfying one. I would have liked to have been three positions higher but we know the position we are as a team right now and P4 was the maximum today.
Carlos Sainz was the best of the Ferrari duo in fifth place, on an afternoon his teammate Charles Leclerc struggles, in the wake of his crash in Qualifying on Saturday and had to settle for seventh, the Reds simply had no firepower to defend, and the fact that Charles struggled for so long behind Kevin Magnussen’s Haas was telling and concerning for the great Italian team.
A double points score on the day was redemption for Alpine after the Baku debacle, Pierre Galsy had a strong race, mixing it up at the sharp end on his way to eighth, ahead of teammate Esteban Ocon in ninth.
The final point went to Magnussen, who enjoyed himself among the Big Guns, and made life difficult for them on his way to tenth. Teammate Nico Hulkenberg was only good for 15th.
Out of the top ten were the usual suspects, McLaren were particularly disappointing all weekend, with Lando Norris and Oscar Piastri labouring to 17th and 19th respectively. Only local hero, rookie Logan Sargeant was worse, finishing 20th at his home race in Miami.
In closing, winning Red Bull team boss Christian Horner, savouring yet another one-two by his drivers, summed up what most F1 fans were left thinking after Miami: Where are the others?
Clean getaway for most of the field, Verstappen dropped a position early in the lap but then regained it remaining ninth at the end of lap one. As expected Magnussen dropped three positions in the Haas. The biggest climber from deep on the grid was McLaren’s Oscar Piastri up to 14th. The top three remained the same as they were on the grid.
Perez had a growing gap to Alonso with Sainz stalking his fellow countryman with Gasly, Russell, Magnussen and Leclerc, with Verestappen (on Pirelli Hard tyres, with the front runners all on the Mediums) blitzing past the Haas and Ferrari with one slick move.
Down in 13th, where he started from on lap five Hamilton reported damage after a three-into-one situation, over the radio expressed doubts he would last to the end of the race.
Verstappen was on the attack, getting by Russell with relative ease into fifth place and then gobbled up Gasly, with the Mercedes also nipping through.
Lap 10 top ten order: PER-ALO-SAI-VER-RUS-GAS-MAG-LEC-OCO-BOT, with Verstappen fastest on track, two seconds down on Sainz, who trailed Alonso by less than a second and Perez ahead by two seconds.
A dozen laps into the race Sainz was on the radio complaining about tyres, t which points both McLaren’s had pitted for hards, as did Sargeant in the Williams. As Leclerc struggled to get by Magnussen’s Haas; Russell and Gasly were running in big space to the top four.
On lap 14 Verstappen was glued to Sainz’s wing, with Alonso not too far ahead and soon the Red Bull was through, again making it look easy getting by the Ferrari. Alonso was next in the bullseye. Perez was making good use of Verstappen’s battles, with a gap of 3.7s to the World Champ when the #1 car popped into second place; a Red Bull one-two on the cards by lap 15 in Miami.
Perez versus Verstappen again! Jeddah and Baku all over. The Mexican reporting his front right Pirelli Mediums with issues on lap 17; meanwhile Verstappen was fastest of all on track on the hards clipping the gap to his teammate ahead to under three tenths, at about a tenth a lap from that point on. A lap later, a flurry of pitstops began for the medium-shod cars.
Lap 20 top ten order: PER-VER-ALO-OCO-HUL-HAM-SAI-ALB-TSU-STR. Verstappen was now 1.4s behind Perez neither had stopped; only Sainz had stopped at this point among the top ten.
Perez dived into the pits on lap 21, and despite moaning about upshifts, Verstappen took the lead; with Alonso hanging on gamely in second, 3.6s down on the leader. Checo emerged third on Hards and immediately started putting in fastest laps, 14 seconds down on Verstappen who had yet to stop.
On Lap 23, Sainz was handed a five seconds penalty for speeding in the pits. Two laps later Alonso made his stop and although the emerged behind Sainz, the latter had that five seconds penalty hanging over him.
As for Red Bull’s duelling drivers, at the halfway mark Horner reported from the pitwall: “They get pretty close with three laps to go. It really depends how the deg is and how it unfolds. In our simulation, with three laps to go. they will be racing each other.”
The gap from Max to Checo was 16 seconds at that point, the World Champ doing the same times as his teammate on 20-laps older tyres!
On lap 27, Alonso ambushed Sainz, to take fourth to cement what was looking like another well-earned and deserved podium for the Aston Martin veteran.
Lap 30 order: VER-PER-ALO-OCO-SAI-HAM-RUS-HUL-TSU-GAS; with Verstappen, Ocon, Hamilton, Hulkenberg, Tsunoda still running on the Hards and yet to stop.
At the front, the battle of lap times ensued, like Baku the pair started trading fastest laps, the gap hovering between 15-16 seconds as they shadow-boxed. Russell was on the move with fresher tyres he was onto Hamilton who got the call that amounted to ‘George is faster than you and on another race plan, let him through’ and, of course, Sir Lewis obliged.
The pace of the RBRs fighting at the front was such that Alonso in third, fastest of the rest, was being dropped at almost a second per lap by the rampaging Bulls, as Verstappen continued to set purple laps on tyres that were 35 laps old; in contrast, Perez’s rubber was 20 laps fresher.
At ths point, Hulkenberg who swapped his hards for fresh Mediums set the fastest lap, which prompted another slew of pitstops.
Lap 40 order: VER-PER-ALO-RUS-SAI-OCO-GAS-STR-LEC-MAG. Hamilton was now climbing through the field, back into the top ten when Ocon pitted. Only Verstappen and Stroll had not pitted with 17 laps to go.
Verstappen was simply on another planet, maximum attack as he grew the gap to 18 seconds on the oldest tyres out there, with Perez struggling for answers, this was Baku in reverse, with Max really on it clearly wanting to build a pitstop gap to his chasing teammate.
Lap 50 order: VER-PER-ALO-RUS-SAI-GAS-LEC-HAM-OCO-MAG
On lap 55, Hamilton was up to sixth after dispatching an out-of-sorts Leclerc, with Gasly climbing to sixth before he was overtaken by Leclerc and Hamilton, the Mercedes man getting by the Ferrari in the closing stages to finish sixth.
At the front, Verstappen won by a tad over five seconds, from Perez who was a whopping 26 seconds up on third-placed Alonso. The Red Bulls again totally on another level, with the incredible RB19, embarrassing their pursuers, barring Aston Martin, make that Alonso (because Stroll was comparatively poor) as they canter to both F1 titles yet again.