Miami Takeaways: Verstappen saves the show

Miami Takeaways: Verstappen saves the show

Miami Takeaways: Verstappen saves the show

Max Verstappen delivered a commanding drive in the 2023 Miami Grand Prix that kept us entertained, and reminded why we love Formula 1, aside from the deception of fake marinas and beaches.

There is a lot to digest after F1’s first event of 2023 stateside, but part of that has been addressed in my Editor’s Desk on Tuesday, which mostly had to do with off-track related stuff, so this column will just stick to the racing.

And despite the race around the resurfaced Miami International Autodrome not delivering any of the expected mayhem, the grand prix was full of anticipation with the backdrop of the Azerbaijan Grand Prix a week earlier fueling most of the pre-race expectations.

Miami was basically the second episode of Max Verstappen vs Sergio Perez, the first going in favor of the latter, as many awaited the former’s response on the defeat he suffered around the streets of Baku at the hands of his teammate.

Verstappen was on it from the minute his RB19 rolled on track in Miami, but then he overdid it on his first Q3 qualifying lap, a trademark of the Dutchman, relegating himself to a ninth place start after Charles Leclerc binned his Ferrari in the dying moments of the top ten shootout.

However, the double F1 Champion delivered one of his best drives on Sunday making the whole grid seem to be a Formula 2 grid, even his own teammate driving the same car, and with that we head to our first takeaway from the 2023 Miami Grand Prix.

Verstappen puts on a show for the fans

Don’t think Verstappen made a mistake in qualifying, he just did that on purpose to spice up the show that was being bombarded by criticism due to Red Bull’s utter dominance of the season so far, and by doing that kept the levels of anticipation high before and during the race which he started from ninth.

Before anyone jumps to conclusions, I am naturally kidding, and on a more serious note, Verstappen really needs to channel his aggression and know when to take risks. He most probably won’t change and that’s part of why he has become the driver we see today.

As for the boredom with one team dominating, this topic is really getting out of hand. In all the years of F1, we had eras of dominance for certain teams and this is the way it is, and we should applaud Red Bull for the job they have done. It’s not their fault Mercedes and Ferrari dropped the ball, as it’s up to these two teams to raise their games and take the fight to Red Bull, so the blame falls on them to be honest.

In Miami, we all knew that, without any twists, a Red Bull was going to win the race, but the question was which one  would win, and with #1 RB19 lining up ninth on the grid with abundance of pace, that gave us more than enough to be excited about ahead of Sunday’s race.

Despite the race lacking a bit of drama if you consider that there were none of the expected Red Flags or Safety Cars, it was nevertheless a gripping affair as we watched Verstappen slice through the field to be breathing down Sergio Perez neck as soon as lap 15.

The Mexican had no answer for his teammate’s devastating pace and had to accept defeat after arriving in Miami oozing with confidence following his Baku exploits.

As for Verstappen, Baku, which he spent moaning about Sprint Races, seemed to have served as a wakeup call, as he realized that with an on-form Perez in the other RB19, if you snooze, you will definitely lose, so he was back at his sharpest and most ruthless self in Miami doing what he does best, driving and destroying teammates.

Which brings me to my next takeaway.

Perez leaves Miami a broken man

Perez: Up until qualifying it has been a struggle

What a difference a week makes. Perez landed in Miami a serious contender to win the race and lead the Drivers’ Championship, and he was never shy to point out his plans to challenge Max Verstappen for the Title.

But the writing was on the wall from Friday, as Perez struggled to find pace around the Miami International Autodrome, while Verstappen was flying, but then the Mexican was handed that unexpected pole, and kudos to him. Unlike his teammate he did the right thing and put a decent banker lap in Q3 and reaped the rewards.

Come Sunday, Perez realized why Red Bull is Verstappen’s team when he got blown away despite racing from pole in the same machinery as his teammate who started ninth and benefited from a slick yet risky strategy starting on the Hard tyres, not to mention his immense driving skills.

The look on Perez’s face in parc ferme said it all, as he realized there and then the enormous task he was up against trying to deny Verstappen his third F1 Crown on the trot.

In my previous takeaways column from Baku, I discussed how the situation at Red Bull would be if Perez continued his strong performance and the dilemma the team would have to deal with given Verstappen’s number one status.

And while many did not agree with me, I also pointed out that “Perez’s flame may be put out as soon as Miami”, and from what we saw last Sunday, that seems to be the case.

Haas make Ferrari look like a bunch of “Vankers”

Always inspired by the great Guenther Steiner of course, but seriously, Charles Leclerc spent most of the race fighting with Kevin Magnussen instead of launching a recovery drive following his qualifying crash which put him down in sixth on the starting grid.

One can’t really make out who to feel sorry for. Frederic Vasseur? Who couldn’t even catch his breath after joining Ferrari at the start of this season as things blew up spectacularly in his face.

Or Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz? Who have to deal with a car that is so unpredictable that it’s handling changes from corner to corner.

Sainz was a bit better in Miami compared to Baku, but put himself under unnecessary pressure over speeding in the pitlane and getting the time penalty. It didn’t affect him in the end as he had enough buffer over Lewis Hamilton who finished behind him in sixth.

But along with Leclerc’s qualifying crash, that shows you that both Scuderia drivers are overdriving, or frustrated or starting to crack, maybe all three together.

Mercedes were nowhere near Ferrari in terms of pace up to qualifying, but in the race the Black Arrows thoroughly beat the Prancing Horses in contrast to what happened just one week earlier in Baku.

When and how the Red soap opera reaches its conclusion is anyone’s guess, but the ones we should be feeling sorry for are actually the Tifosi.

Quick Hits

  • After qualifying in the top ten in Baku, McLaren were out of Q1 in Miami and finished 17th and 19th with Lando Norris and Oscar Piastri respectively. Very sad times for the once great team, but have no fear, Zak Brown and his “new five-year-plan” will pull the Woking squad out of their slump. Yeah right…
  • After missing out on the podium in Baku, Alonso and Aston Martin were back on the podium, but as the Spaniard said, by now they should be looking for more. They have an update coming to the AMR23, so let’s wait and see what happens then.
  • Alpine may have scored some points in Miami, but with their bullish pre-season plans, that cannot be considered as an achievement. The blue and pink ship is definitely heading into some stormy waters.
  • Toto Wolff described Mercedes’ W14 as a nasty piece of work, but from what we saw in Sunday, Ferrari’s SF-23 is even nastier.