Starting ninth didn’t stop Max Verstappen from winning the Miami Grand Prix.
Verstappen easily beat Red Bull Racing teammate Sergio Perez to win the second edition of the race on Sunday. Verstappen was the 20th of 20 drivers to pit after he started the race on hard compound tires but easily passed Perez for the lead on lap 48 of the 57-lap race.
Perez tried his best to block Verstappen from taking the lead, but Verstappen drove deeper into Turn 1 with 10 laps to go and Perez backed off knowing that Verstappen had much more grip and would have many more opportunities to make the winning pass.
Verstappen made his pit stop from the lead after he drove up to third in less than 14 laps and was in second place a lap later. Perez started on pole and relinquished the lead to Verstappen less than halfway through when he pitted for a fresh set of hard tires after starting on the mediums.
With fresher and softer tires at the end of the race, Verstappen breezed past Perez and cruised to the win.
Aston Martin’s Fernando Alonso finished third for his fourth third-place finish in five races to start 2023 while Mercedes’ George Russell was fourth ahead of Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz.
The top seven cars all started on the medium compound tires and had to pit before drivers like Verstappen, Lewis Hamilton and Esteban Ocon. They all started on the hard compound tires. The tire strategy was about the only thing that jumbled the field over the course of the race as no drivers spun or crashed and there were no caution flags.
Hamilton gained seven spots to finish sixth thanks to his tire strategy. He had an abysmal second part of qualifying on Saturday and started 13th. He failed to make up any spaces straight up in the opening laps of the race but made multiple passes on the medium compound tires over the final 20 laps of the race as the drivers ahead of him had older hard compound tires.
Verstappen hasn’t finished lower than 2nd all year
Verstappen had the fastest car throughout the entirety of the weekend but started at the back of the top 10 because of a mistake in qualifying on Saturday. Verstappen pushed too hard in Turn 7 on his first lap of the final qualifying session and had to back out of the lap. And before Verstappen had a chance to go again to get his car on the pole, the qualifying session ended prematurely because of Charles Leclerc’s spin.
The mistake probably made Sunday’s race better than it would have been otherwise. Verstappen’s drive through the field was impressive and incredibly easy as no one had any issues with the track after multiple incidents in practice and qualifying. You could have turned Sunday’s race off and found something else to do halfway through if Verstappen had started on the front row.
The win means Verstappen has three wins and two second-place finishes over the first five races of the season and will very likely win his third consecutive championship barring an unexpected turn of events. Perez looks to be his closest challenger for the title but Sunday’s race was a great example of the gap between the two drivers.
Perez should have been able to close the gap between Verstappen and himself before Verstappen pitted because of Verstappen’s older tires. But Perez didn’t have the speed that Verstappen did as Verstappen’s stop got closer and closer and had a lead of under two seconds as Verstappen exited the pits. It was unlikely that Perez would have been able to hold Verstappen off if the lead was four or five seconds, but it at least would have made for a much more entertaining race for the finish.
1. Max Verstappen
2. Sergio Perez
3. Fernando Alonso
4. George Russell
5. Carlos Sainz
6. Lewis Hamilton
7. Charles Leclerc
8. Pierre Gasly
9. Esteban Ocon
10. Kevin Magnussen
11. Yuki Tsunoda
12. Lance Stroll
13. Valtteri Bottas
14. Alex Albon
15. Nico Hulkenberg
16. Zhou Guanyu
17. Lando Norris
18. Nyck De Vries
19. Oscar Piastri
20. Logan Sargeant