Race Weekend Central

F1 Review: Max Verstappen Makes it Look Easy in Miami

Ferrari started one-two on the grid for the first time since the Mexican Grand Prix in 2019 but were not enough to hold off Max Verstappen, who took the win at the first Miami Grand Prix. Verstappen earned his third victory of the year and 23rd of his career as he closed the gap to Charles Leclerc to 19 points (104–85).

Leclerc, who started on the pole could not keep the better-suited Red Bull behind and settled for second with his Ferrari teammate Carlos Sainz taking third. The double-podium for Ferrari helped the team maintain its lead in the constructorʻs championship 157–151 over Red Bull.

Sergio Perez suffered a sensor issue that robbed him of roughly 17 HP but still managed to finish in fourth. George Russell started 11th and stayed on track long enough after starting on hard tyres to benefit from the safety car late in the race to pit and keep his track position. He finished fifth with his Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton ending where he started in sixth.

Valtteri Bottas started the day in fifth and looked like he would finish there but he slipped up with a few laps left and allowed the two Mercedes drivers to pass, relegating him to seventh.  Esteban Ocon scored a surprising eighth-place finish after starting from the back.

Alexander Albon scored his first points for Williams with his ninth-place finish.  Lance Stroll benefitted from attrition in front of him and helped Aston Martin gain valuable points on the day.

The Race

Leclerc got a strong start and looked like he would be in a position to manage the race. By lap 9, his tyres had begun to fall away enough to give Verstappen all he needed to overtake the leader and showcase how strong this yearʻs Red Bull is. Leclerc looked like he could never find enough pace to challenge Verstappen and the Dutch driver seemed to be on his way to cruising to the checkered flag.

Then Pierre Gasly and Lando Norris created excitement on lap 41 with a collision between the two that ended Norrisʻ day and brought out a safety car that brought the field together. With Verstappen again in his vision, Leclerc put a valiant effort into trying to challenge Verstappen but after a few laps, Verstappen again pulled away and came away with a win about two seconds ahead of second.

The Good

Valterri Bottas gave Alfa Romeo its best starting position since 2019.  Not only does that indicate that the Alfa pace for 2020 and 2021 was terrible, as they could never hit sixth for qualifying but also shows that Bottas may have been the driver signing of the season.  So far, he is putting together excellent results for a team that is supposed to be an afterthought.  He is currently eighth in the standings with 30 points and might be seventh had he not endured a DNF in the Saudi Arabian GP.  Even though he gave away two spots at the end of the Miami GP, his results are still above expectation.

The Bad

– Pierre Gasly already struggled with his car after Fernando Alonso banged into him, for which Alonso earned a five-second penalty. But Gasly’s strange on-track behavior over the next few laps seemed to indicate that his car had been compromised in some sort of fashion. He did not, however, pit and that made him a moving obstacle, one that collected Lando Norris as he tried to speed past.

For Norris, the incident came as the conclusion to a rough day where both McLarenʻs failed to replicate the pace they had found at Imola, instead falling through the field. His early Gasly’s DNF is the result of a season during which he has found little to enjoy, unable to earn surprising results, and instead hanging on to finishes at the back half of the top ten.

Mick Schumacher saw his first F1 points in reach.  They sat there for easy taking.  Then he gave them away by torpedoing Sebastian Vettel with a handful of laps to go. Vettel made an opportune pass by his mentee and Schumacher rewarded him by punting Vettel and ending his day while taking himself out of the points and ruining any chance for Haas to score points in its home country. Schumacher appears to be a talented driver but he has yet to find circumstances that work with is ability, first troubled with a terrible car and Nikita Mazepin as his lackluster teammate. Now, with an improved car but a solid partner in the garage, he is re-finding his footing and the turmoil may be causing a pressure build.

The Questionable

Zhou Guanyu retired on lap eight with a mechanical issue. The DNF seems to signal the ultimate fall from his opening race when he finished 10th and scored points in his F1 debut. Since then he has continued to finish out of the points and this ending looks all the more worse as his teammate Bottas continues to earn decent results, finishing seventh in Miami. For Zhou, things should not seem so bleak, especially as Yuki Tsunoda admitted that last year, “I didn’t know what I was doing, you know? And every lap just pushing to the limit, and that’s how things happen.”  Perhaps expectations on first-year drivers should be tempered.

Sebastian Vettel and Lance Stroll both started from the pit lane because of fears that their fuel was too cool. You did, in fact, read that right. Formula 1 does indeed check for the temperature of a team’s fuel, seeking to mitigate any advantage that teams find from manipulating any competition aspect.

This rule, however, seems wild. The convergence of how to test for versus how teams might take advantage of fuel temperatures is fascinating and illustrates the engineered elements of the sport and how the gaps for finding ways to succeed are minimal and everywhere.

The Driver

– A number of drivers looked like they might be in contention to walk away with honors for the day. The winning driver often takes the award but that is not always the case here. However, today is a different story. Verstappen clearly deserves all the recognition for a fantastic drive where he passed the leader with predatory patience and then controlled the race from there.

Verstappen never came across as flustered on his radio, as he frequently does, nor did his car ever seem to be out of congruence with what he was doing. In many ways, this win came as the inevitable result between a talented driver in touch with his car with a team able to supply him with everything he needed. It may have looked easy but this win is the culmination of a long-developed relationship.

The Quotable

– Max Verstappen looked beat after the race and said, “It was an incredible Grand Prix – very physical as well, but I think we kept it exciting until the end.”

– Charles Leclerc seemed well aware of Ferrariʻs tyre issue, offering his frustration by saying “Yes, I’m disappointed.  We are very strong in terms of tyre warm up so at the beginning of every run we are strong. But after four, five laps they [Red Bull] seem to stabilize the tyres in a better window and there they are just quicker than us and it’s very difficult for us to do anything.

– Geroge Russell, after benefitting from a fortunate safety car that helped him finish in fifth said, “I think it’s mixed feelings, to be honest,” he added, “because obviously based on where we were yesterday, today was a good result. But if you told me after Friday that we would finish P5 and P6 and that far behind P1, I would have been pretty disappointed.”

The Results: Miami Grand Prix; Miami International Autodrome, Miami, Florida (May 8)

Pos No Driver Car Laps Time/Retired PTS
1 1 Max Verstappen Red Bull Racing RBPT 57 1:34:24.258 26
2 16 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 57 +3.786s 18
3 55 Carlos Sainz Ferrari 57 +8.229s 15
4 11 Sergio Perez Red Bull Racing RBPT 57 +10.638s 12
5 63 George Russell Mercedes 57 +18.582s 10
6 44 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 57 +21.368s 8
7 77 Valtteri Bottas Alfa Romeo Ferrari 57 +25.073s 6
8 31 Esteban Ocon Alpine Renault 57 +28.386s 4
9 23 Alexander Albon Williams Mercedes 57 +32.365s 2
10 18 Lance Stroll Aston Martin Aramco Mercedes 57 +37.026s 1
11 14 Fernando Alonso Alpine Renault 57 +37.128s 0
12 22 Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri RBPT 57 +40.146s 0
13 3 Daniel Ricciardo McLaren Mercedes 57 +40.902s 0
14 6 Nicholas Latifi Williams Mercedes 57 +49.936s 0
15 47 Mick Schumacher Haas Ferrari 57 +73.305s 0
16 20 Kevin Magnussen Haas Ferrari 56 DNF 0
17 5 Sebastian Vettel Aston Martin Aramco Mercedes 54 DNF 0
NC 10 Pierre Gasly AlphaTauri RBPT 45 DNF 0
NC 4 Lando Norris McLaren Mercedes 39 DNF 0
NC 24 Zhou Guanyu Alfa Romeo Ferrari 6 DNF 0

Note – Verstappen scored an additional point for setting the fastest lap of the race. Alonso and Magnussen received five-second timed penalties for causing collisions. Ricciardo and Alonso received five-second timed penalties for leaving the track and gaining an advantage.

About the author

As a writer and editor, Ava anchors the Formula 1 coverage for the site, while working through many of its biggest columns. Ava earned a Masters in Sports Studies at UGA and a PhD in American Studies from UH-Mānoa. Her dissertation Chased Women, NASCAR Dads, and Southern Inhospitality: How NASCAR Exports The South is in the process of becoming a book.

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