F1 Miami Grand Prix: The Hard Decision Behind Verstappen's Win
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Max Verstappen cruised from ninth to first to extend his championship lead at Formula 1’s Miami Grand Prix and preserve Red Bull’s unbeaten start to the 2023 season.
Verstappen Takes the Hard Way to Miami GP Win
Max Verstappen started Sunday’s race from only ninth on the grid but such was the pace of the RB19 that he carved his way through the pack to hold second after just 15 laps. Verstappen did so on the harder compound tire, with Sergio Perez on the mediums, and the reigning champion slashed the gap to his teammate.
Perez came into the pits first, switching to hards, before Verstappen eventually made his lone stop on lap 45 of 57 to put on mediums. Verstappen emerged from his pit stop just 1.5 seconds behind Perez, but on significantly fresher and softer tires it was not a contest.
Perez attempted to put up a defense, but Verstappen went around the outside of turn 1 to claim the lead and secure the victory.
Combined with the bonus point for fastest lap it puts Verstappen 14 points clear. Red Bull’s domination was such that Verstappen’s advantage over the next-best Red Bull car was 26 seconds, marking the fourth time in five races that the gap has been at least 20 seconds. Red Bull’s advantage in the Constructors’ Championship is already 122 points.
“Yesterday I said to myself ‘minimum P2’ because I think that is where we should finish anyway with the car we have,” said Verstappen. “But it’s always difficult to know what is going to happen. If you have a terrible lap then you make it even harder for yourself, but luckily it didn’t work out too bad just making sure we didn’t have any damage on the car. But then again it’s all about the performance of the car, how you feel in the car and the performance you can extract. Luckily that all worked out today and you can move forward and win the race.”
Red Bull boss Christian Horner was understandably delighted by the outcome.
“It was a big win, to win in America, the second time here, to get our fifth victory, our fourth 1-2 of the year, particularly from starting first and ninth on the grid, was a huge performance,” he said.
No Podium for Ferrari
Ferrari showed glimpses of promise in Azerbaijan, especially in the hands of Charles Leclerc, but in Miami it was off the pace.
Carlos Sainz was third on the grid but dropped behind the charging Verstappen and Mercedes’ George Russell, meaning Ferrari was only the fourth-best car in race trim. Sainz finished fifth.
Leclerc had a scrappy weekend as he crashed in practice, went off in the same place in qualifying, and was a modest seventh in the race.
“Tough,” said Sainz. “I was a bit surprised with how much we struggled with the hard tires after a very strong stint on the mediums. By pushing the (hard) tires for three or four laps for the undercut it meant for some reason right now with our car we have zero flexibility with how much we can push and not push. I had to stay under the limit for the rest of the race if I wanted to make it to the end.”
Sainz explained that “as soon as you do one good fast lap the next lap you are three-tenths slower with the tires.”
Leclerc echoed Sainz’s downbeat analysis of Ferrari’s SF-23.
“What we are lacking is consistency on the car,” said Leclerc. “It’s not even from corner to corner, it’s just in the same corner I can have a huge oversteer balance and then a huge understeer balance. Our car is so wind affected.
“We are going from one (tire) compound to the other, and we never know what’s going to happen on the new compound. It’s always an unknown, whether the car is going to react well, whether the tires are going to be in the right window. This is just very difficult also as a driver to gain the confidence and to adapt your driving. You get from one set to the other, and the car is completely in a different window.”
Ferrari remains only fourth in the Constructors’ Championship.
Haas Picks Up a Point
In a normal race the advantage of the leading four teams is such that the rest of the field is scrapping for the leftovers.
Haas driver Kevin Magnussen executed a fine weekend to be one of the few to go home with a reward, rounding out the top 10 in a race in which all 20 drivers finished. Magnussen started from fourth place following an excellent display in qualifying and held his own toward the front of the midfield for large swathes of the race.
Magnussen put up a spirited display before eventually ceding position to Charles Leclerc before being helpless to prevent Lewis Hamilton and Esteban Ocon—on the alternative tire strategy—to also move ahead.
“I was dreaming of a little more than one point but still, it’s what we came here to do – to get points and finish in the top 10,” said Magnussen. “I don’t think it was an easy race to get points in because all the big teams finished up there and P10 is more or less the best we could’ve hoped for in terms of the pace we had. I think the pace was good, but we had a little bit more degradation than the rest of the field. It was a strong weekend, bringing something good to the car and getting a point at home.”
Said boss Guenther Steiner: “We scored points again, three times out of five this year and that’s good, but it’s a tough crowd out there. We’re there or abouts and if nothing happens at the front then we’re fighting for the last points which are leftover, and we got them this weekend after a very good qualifying.”
The result ensured Haas retained seventh in the Constructors’ Championship.
Dismal Describes McLaren’s Miami Weekend
McLaren endured a dismal weekend in Miami.
Neither Lando Norris nor Oscar Piastri made it out of the first qualifying session—the team’s first double exit at the first hurdle of qualifying since 2018—owing to the lackluster performance of the MCL60.
McLaren has spotted a trend with its package that it is strong at high-grip venues but when that is reduced, such as in Miami, it dearly struggles for overall performance. From lowly grid positions Norris and Piastri both had issues; Norris was hit by Nyck de Vries on the opening lap while Piastri suffered a brake-by-wire problem after only a few laps. McLaren reckoned the damage to Norris’ MCL60 cost him two or three tenths of a second per lap—a deficit it could ill-afford given its predicament—and team boss Andrea Stella said Piastri did “an incredible job” to reach the finish given the nature of the brake issue.
“Our main takeaway from Miami is that we were not quick enough this weekend,” said Stella. After scoring points in Baku, this weekend serves as a reality check on how much work we have ahead of us. The plan doesn’t change: we have good developments coming, we keep our heads down, regroup and go again in Imola.”
McLaren held on to fifth in the standings but is now ahead of Alpine only on best individual season results tie-breaker.
American Logan Sargeant Brings Up the Rear
Qualified 20th, finished 20th—it was hardly a shining display from Logan Sargeant on his first Formula 1 race on home soil.
There were mitigating circumstances. It was Sargeant’s first experience of the Miami International Autodrome—the inexperience factor showing as the two other rookies, Oscar Piastri and Nyck de Vries, were only 18th and 19th respectively, while Williams’ FW45 was not especially suited to the layout.
In a race with little drama or curveballs to shake up proceedings Sargeant effectively took himself out of the battle on the opening lap when he ran into the rear of Lance Stroll. That damaged the front wing, necessitating a replacement, and forcing Sargeant to complete the race on the same set of tires.
“I think the start itself was okay,” said Sargeant. “I probably just put the car in a place I shouldn’t have in that second sector, took the front wing off, and that ruined the race from there. It sucks, it was a mistake on the first lap, I ruined our chances, so I’m sorry to the team but I’ll take it on the chin."
F1 Miami Grand Prix
Max Verstappen, Red Bull, 57 laps
Sergio Perez, Red Bull, +5.384 seconds
Fernando Alonso, Aston Martin, +26.305
George Russell, Mercedes, ++33.229
Carlos Sainz, Ferrari, +42.511
Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, +51.249
Charles Leclerc, Ferrari, +52.988
Pierre Gasly, Alpine, +55.670
Esteban Ocon, Alpine, +58.123
Kevin Magnussen, Haas, +1:02.945
Yuki Tsunoda, AlphaTauri, +1:04.309
Lance Stroll, Aston Martin, +1:04.754
Valtteri Bottas, Alfa Romeo, +1:11.637
Alexander Albon, Williams, +1:12.861
Nico Hulkenberg, Haas, +1:14.950
Zhou Guanyu, Alfa Romeo, +1:18.440
Lando Norris, McLaren, +1:27.717
Nyck De Vries, AlphaTauri, +1:28.949
Oscar Piastri, McLaren, +1 lap
Logan Sargeant, Williams, + 1 lap
Max Verstappen 119
Sergio Perez 105
Fernando Alonso 75
Lewis Hamilton 56
Carlos Sainz 44
George Russell 40
Charles Leclerc 34
Lance Stroll 27
Lando Norris 10
Pierre Gasly 8
Nico Hulkenberg 6
Esteban Ocon 6
Valtteri Bottas 4
Oscar Piastri 4
Zhou Guanyu 2
Yuki Tsunoda 2
Kevin Magnussen 2
Alexander Albon 1
Logan Sargeant 0
Nyck De Vries 0
Red Bull 224
Aston Martin 102
Alfa Romeo 6