Miami GP: Max Verstappen romps to win ahead of teammate Sergio Perez

Max Verstappen romps to victory ahead of Red Bull teammate Sergio Perez at Miami Grand Prix despite starting ninth… as Fernando Alonso secures podium

  • Max Verstappen endured an unfortunate qualifying session but his race pace was far better than his rivals
  • Verstappen overtook Red Bull teammate Sergio Perez to take the lead within just 21 laps of the race in Miami
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Max Verstappen, in the form of his life, does not require the boos of a pre-match crowd to inspire him.

Nor would he unduly mind the jeers at the end. Not given the destructive manner of his victory in the Miami Grand Prix, a masterclass from ninth on the grid in a Red Bull admittedly operating like a magic carpet.

‘I call that simply f****** lovely,’ he declared. 

Amid all the swank of this Floridian spectacle, the Dutchman proved that sporting substance still counts in modern Formula One, with his third victory of the season to extend his lead in the drivers’ championship to 14 points over the poor sap who has the bitter-sweet experience of steering the same machinery.

That individual is Sergio Perez and he started on pole. Flushed by success in Azerbaijan last week, the Mexican might have expected to repeat the feat across 57 laps around the Hard Rock Stadium.

Max Verstappen was unbeatable at the Miami Grand Prix, climbing from ninth to win with ease ahead of Sergio Perez

Perez led Verstappen after the latter’s pit-stop, but it was short-lived as the Dutchman quickly got past his teammate again

Fernando Alonso and Verstappen spray champagne on the Miami podium after finishing third and first respectively

Verstappen (right) and Perez chat after the race in Miami, Florida, which once again finished with a Red Bull one-two

Verstappen’s Red Bull mechanics celebrate yet another race win, with their man having secured victory in three of five races

Verstappen (left) is now racing ahead of Perez (right) in the drivers’ championship, as he chases a third straight world title

This expectation, realistically, was severely tested only a few minutes in as Verstappen chewed through the field as if they were standing still, despite being shod on hard – and supposedly slower – tires.

End of lap one, he was up to eighth. Start of lap four, he put down his major marker, zooming past Haas’ Kevin Magnussen and Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc in one single move. Two for the price of one at the first corner.

At this point, you could foretell the inevitable conclusion. Factored into this belief was the fact that Verstappen had shown himself the head-and-shoulders star performer through practice, only to fall victim to Leclerc’s crash prompting a premature conclusion to qualifying on Saturday.

It denied Verstappen a shot at a final flying lap. Perez had been off the pace all weekend, but lucked in, his time already banked. You could sense the dejection in team principal Christian Horner’s voice: he had wanted a one-two on the grid. It didn’t matter in the end, the race result showing Perez in second spot, with Aston Martin’s Fernando Alonso finishing third.

At least Horner could enjoy Verstappen in race mode. The defending champion made his next move at turn 17 of lap eight, taking Mercedes’ George Russell.

Lap nine, he made mincemeat of Alpine’s Pierre Gasly. Lap 14, Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz was the next lamb to slaughter. Lap 15, he left Alonso for roadkill.

At this stage he was 3.7sec behind Perez, who, as we had just learned, was the most popular competitor among the 90,000 fans.

Fans watch on from the grandstands as Charles Leclerc leads Kevin Magnussen and Esteban Ocon through the corner

Perez (pictured) started on pole, but he could not hold off his impressive teammate Verstappen around the Miami streets

Hollywood legend and actor Vin Diesel poses with Ferrari’s mechanics on the grid ahead of the race in Miami Gardens

Fans crane for a view of the impressive podium in front of the Miami Dolphins’ Hard Rock Stadium after the race on Sunday

That had materialized on the pre-race grid, the glitziest, flashiest, loudest parade imaginable from Williams’ Fort Lauderdale-born Logan Sargeant’s at the back to Perez starting at the front.

That stretch of asphalt was a prized spot to be as LL Cool J, the now 55-year-old rapper, introduced the drivers, who entered through plumes of smoke, though the PA system was a touch muted. Here, of all places, the volume needed turning up.

Not all the drivers welcomed the fanfare interruption to their preparations, but here in the land of F1’s brave new world such considerations have to take runner-up spot.

Perez emerged to the biggest cheers of the evening. Leclerc, Russell, Lando Norris, as well as Hamilton, were well-supported. The only one who attracted derision was Verstappen, introduced last because he bears ‘No 1’ on his car.

He walked to the cockpit, his face like thunder. Or was he just concentrating on what was to come?

Perhaps his moody behavior in Baku counted against him. Or the events of Abu Dhabi in 2021. Or maybe nobody much likes a winner.

Perez gets away in front of Aston Martin superstar Alonso as the race gets underway in hot temperatures in Miami, Florida

Aston Martin’s mechanics go to work in the pit lane as Alonso – who finished third – changes his tires mid-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 did not disturb his countenance. Twenty laps later, as we pick up the race narrative again, he had closed to within 1.2sec of Perez, who was then pulled into the pits for new rubber. We were denied, at least for the time being, an on-track fight.

So now Verstappen led. He was going to go long on his hards. Remarkably 35 laps in, he set the fastest time of 1min 31.225sec, later bettered by himself at the end. He would be coming in at some distant day for medium tires. Perez had moved from mediums to hards at his stop. This was all playing into Verstappen’s hands.

He finally pitted on lap 45, leading by 18.3sec. New tires, please. He came out 1.2sec off Perez, an impressive defender, in front. At the start of lap 48, Verstappen wriggled through as inevitably he was bound to and the lead was his, irrevocably. He was 5.3sec ahead at the end.

Of all the celebrities on the grid, one was a former basketball player turned CBS analyst called Rip Hamilton. Which didn’t bode well for Lewis.

Tom Cruise was also in attendance, at the same time as he made a surprise appearance in King Charles’ coronation concert

Singer Shakira makes her way down the grid prior to the start of the Miami Grand Prix on Sunday afternoon

Serena Williams was alongside her sister Venus to watch the Grand Prix in Miami as she continues to enjoy her retirement

He had performed poorly on Saturday, only qualifying 13th. Russell was sixth quickest over one lap. Team principal Toto Wolff was moved to call the Mercedes ‘a nasty piece of work’. All I would say is, it wasn’t so bad in Russell’s hands.

And on Sunday Russell was superb. He notably passed Gasly and Sainz, a lovely move. ‘That’s how we roll,’ he chimed over the radio.

Hamilton was impressive a week ago in Baku and salvaged sixth here with a decent showing.

Mercedes are looking for significant gains when they bring their major upgrade to Imola a week on Sunday. Given the false dawns, creeping advances and rapid retreats over the past 18 months, betting men wouldn’t wager their houses on it.

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