On the weekend of his coronation, Max Verstappen reminded everyone that he has no intention of relinquishing his Formula One world championship. The Dutchman won the Miami Grand Prix with a relentless and flawlessly executed drive, putting the pretender to the throne, his Red Bull comrade Sergio Pérez, to the sword with clinical efficiency.
The duo began the race eight positions apart, with Pérez on the pole and Verstappen in ninth. When he took the flag, the world champion was a full five seconds ahead of his teammate, who was rendered impotent by Verstappen’s masterclass in speed and tire control, despite seemingly scarcely breaking a sweat.
“We kept it calm, we kept it clean, and winning a race from P9 is very satisfying,” he modestly said. “It was an exciting run. I avoided trouble at the outset, ran a clean race, and eliminated cars one by one. I remained out on the hard tires for a very long time, and I believe that made the difference.”
Fans were blessed Verstappen had a lot of work to do. His charge through the field at the Miami International Autodrome, which landed him in second place by the 15th lap, was by far the most exciting aspect of an otherwise lackluster race, as F1 struggles with one-stop races becoming too quickly a procession.
When Formula One visits Miami, the commitment to making it larger, louder, and more entertaining is palpable.
The Miami Dolphins’ Hard Rock Stadium circuit reads, “It’s showtime in Florida.” This year, at least before the race, everything was thrown at it.
F1’s new pre-race ceremonial, to many fans’ dismay, will be used at eight races this season.
It is understood that drivers are not wholly fond of this grandiose display. As they entered the grid, rapper LL Cool J dramatically announced their names. In case this was not enough, they also arrived at a cheerleader honor guard and a 30-piece black-tie orchestra conducted by the singer and songwriter Will.i.am from a pedestal.
It was a grandstand opening for a race that was mainly unremarkable. As anticipated, taking over was a somewhat difficult endeavor. The promoters and F1 desperately want it to be a destination city race, so the cars must race more.
Fortunately for Verstappen and Red Bull, their formidable straight-line speed and DRS advantage meant that he was hardly hampered. Their vehicle functions on every track and surface variation and is still miles ahead of the competition. Verstappen calmly completed a sequence of quick circuits on a tyre strategy to take the lead over Pérez.
The world champion once again demonstrated why he remains the heavy favorite to win a third title this season with another impressive performance.
After five matches, his margin over Pérez in the world championship has grown to 14 points.
Fernando Alonso of Aston Martin and George Russell of Mercedes was once again in a race of their own at the front of the field, a pattern that only seems likely to repeat itself this season, with Alonso finishing third and Russell fourth, while teammate Lewis Hamilton advanced from 13th to sixth. The planned upgrades for the next race at Imola cannot arrive soon enough for Mercedes.
Verstappen was furious with his qualifying error, which compromised his first rapid run and left him with much to do on Sunday. Yet in the vehicle, his delivery was excessively controlled. In Jeddah this season, he moved from 15th to second in just 25 laps. But considering how difficult overtaking was in Miami despite Red Bull’s advantage, this was also noteworthy.
Pérez maintained his lead through the first turn, while Verstappen pursued him. To overtake his teammate, he slashed through the field with little hesitation, but their tire selection proved decisive. Starting from the ninth, Verstappen’s mechanics chose a difficult start, which proved to be an excellent choice.
After Pérez pitted and the Dutchman went long, he drove important laps between laps 20 and 40. His speed on the worn-out rubber was decisive.
The world champion’s lead was 18 seconds when he pitted on lap 45, and he emerged less than two seconds behind Pérez with 12 laps remaining.
With new tires and a light fuel burden, Verstappen was ruthless in his pursuit of victory. Two laps later, he passed him for the lead, from which he coasted to the finish line. Crown and scepter remain firmly in his possession, despite the lack of a grand spectacle.
Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc finished fifth and seventh for Ferrari, Pierre Gasly and Esteban Ocon placed eighth and ninth for Alpine, and Kevin Magnussen placed tenth for Haas.