Max Verstappen races to victory ahead of Red Bull teammate Sergio Perez at the Miami Grand Prix
Max Verstappen, in the form of his life, doesn’t need the boos of a pre-match crowd to inspire him.
He wouldn’t care about the spot at the end either. Not considering the destructive manner of his victory in the Miami Grand Prix, a masterclass from ninth on the grid in a Red Bull that, admittedly, works like a magic carpet.
“I just call that f****** delicious,” he declared.
Amidst all the pomp and circumstance of this Floridian spectacle, the Dutchman proved that sporting substance still counts in modern Formula 1, taking his third win of the season to extend his lead in the Drivers’ Championship to 14 points on the poor juice the bitter taste has sweet experience of driving the same machines.
That person is Sergio Perez and he started on pole. Overwhelmed by the success in Azerbaijan last week, the Mexican might have expected to repeat this feat in 57 rounds around Hard Rock Stadium.
Max Verstappen was unbeatable at the Miami Grand Prix, moving up from ninth to win easily ahead of Sergio Perez
Perez led Verstappen after his pit stop, but it was short-lived, as the Dutchman quickly got past his teammate
Verstappen (right) and Perez talk after the race in Miami, Florida, which again ended with a Red Bull one-two
Verstappen’s Red Bull mechanics celebrate another race win, with their man winning three of five races
Verstappen (left) now races ahead of Perez (right) in the Drivers’ Championship as he chases a third consecutive world title
This expectation was realistically tested after only a few minutes as Verstappen chewed through the field as if they were standing still, despite being shod on hard – and supposedly slower – tyres.
At the end of the first lap he was eighth. At the start of the fourth lap, he put down his key marker and whizzed past Kevin Magnussen of Haas and Charles Leclerc of Ferrari in one move. Two for the price of one on the first corner.
At this point, you could predict the inevitable conclusion. This belief took into account the fact that Verstappen had shown in practice that he was head and shoulders the best performer, only to fall victim to Leclerc’s crash, leading to a premature conclusion of qualifying at Saturday.
It denied Verstappen a chance for a final flying lap. Perez had been off the rhythm all weekend, but luckily, his time had already run out. You could feel the dejection in team principal Christian Horner’s voice: he would have wanted a one-two on the grid. In the end it didn’t matter, the result of the race showed Perez in second place, with Aston Martin’s Fernando Alonso in third.
At least Horner could enjoy Verstappen in race mode. The defending champion made his next move in turn 17 of lap eight, taking George Russell from Mercedes.
In the ninth round he crushed Alpine’s Pierre Gasly. On lap 14, Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz was the next lamb to be slaughtered. On lap 15 he left Alonso for roadkill.
At this stage he was 3.7 seconds behind Perez who, as we had just learned, was the most popular entrant among the 90,000 fans.
Fans watch from the stands as Charles Leclerc leads Kevin Magnussen and Esteban Ocon through the corner
Perez (pictured) started on pole but couldn’t hold back his impressive team-mate Verstappen on the streets of Miami
Hollywood legend and actor Vin Diesel poses with Ferrari’s mechanics on the grid ahead of the race at Miami Gardens
That had happened on the pre-race grid, the flashiest, flashiest, loudest parade imaginable, from Williams’ Fort Lauderdale-born Logan Sargeant’s at the back to Perez starting at the front.
That stretch of tarmac was a prized place to be when LL Cool J, the now 55-year-old rapper, introduced the drivers, who came in through plumes of smoke, though the PA system was a little muffled. It was precisely here that the volume had to be turned up.
Not all drivers welcomed the fanfare interruption to their preparations, but here in the land of F1’s brave new world, such considerations should take second place.
Perez emerged to the biggest cheer of the night. Leclerc, Russell, Lando Norris and Hamilton were well supported. The only one to be ridiculed was Verstappen, who was introduced last for being ‘Nr. 1’ on his car.
He walked to the cockpit, his face like a clap of thunder. Or was he just focusing on what was to come?
Perhaps his moody behavior in Baku counted against him. Or the events of Abu Dhabi in 2021. Or maybe no one likes a winner.
Perez gets away from Fernando Alonso as the race gets underway in hot temperatures in Miami, Florida
Aston Martin mechanics get to work in the pit lane as Fernando Alonso – who finished third – changes his tires midway through the race
Roger Federer was among the star-studded crowd at the track on Sunday and he even got a ride with Mick Schumacher
Whatever the reason, it didn’t bother his face. Twenty laps later, when we picked up the race story again, he had come within 1.2 seconds of Perez, who was then pulled into the pits for fresh rubber. We were denied a fight on the track, at least for the time being.
So now Verstappen was leading. He would go on for a long time on his hards. Remarkably, after 35 laps he set the fastest time of 1min 31.
225sec, later bettered by himself at the end. He would come on a distant day for medium tyres. Perez had moved from mediums to hards at his stop. This all played into the hands of Verstappen.
He eventually pitted on lap 45, with an 18.3 second lead. New tires, please. He finished 1.2 seconds behind Perez, an impressive defender, up front. At the start of lap 48, Verstappen inevitably squeezed through and the lead was irrevocably his. At the end he had a lead of 5.3 seconds.
Of all the celebrities on the grid, one was a former basketball player turned CBS analyst named Rip Hamilton. Which didn’t bode well for Lewis.
Tom Cruise was also in attendance, at the same time he made a surprise appearance in King Charles’ coronation concert
Serena Williams was with her sister Venus to watch the Grand Prix in Miami while enjoying her retirement
He had performed poorly on Saturday and only qualified 13th. Russell was sixth fastest over one lap. Team boss Toto Wolff was moved to call the Mercedes “a nasty piece of work”. All I can say is it wasn’t so bad in Russell’s hands.
And on Sunday, Russell was super. He passed Galsy and Sainz in particular, a nice move. “That’s how we roll,” he boomed over the radio.
Hamilton was impressive in Baku a week ago and saved sixth here with a decent performance.
Mercedes are looking to make significant gains when they bring their major upgrade to Imola for a week on Sunday. Given the false dawn, creeping advances and rapid pullbacks over the past 18 months, bets wouldn’t bet their houses on it.