2023 Miami Grand Prix Roundup
After the confusing changes to the format in Azerbaijan last weekend it was good to get back to normal with the Miami Grand Prix this weekend. Apart from nothing seems to be normal when Formula 1 visits Miami. After the controversy of the fake water around the boats in the fake marina last time around, this year saw plenty of things to distract from the promise of real water this year.
For starters the whole weekend was like a party atmosphere, drivers were introduced to the crowds like they were wrestlers entering an arena with excessive fanfare, the drivers opted for special helmet designs to match the enthusiasm of the event, even some of the cars had bespoke paintwork just for this Grand Prix. The track had a fresh layer of tarmac despite being technically a street circuit, and celebrity fans attended in their droves to show that the USA are serious about F1 these days. It must have worked because hardly anyone mentioned the fact that the water in the pretend marina remains a graphic not actual water.
The first Free Practice saw a Mercedes 1-2, something not expected and brought optimism of a bit of a mix up in the pecking order. By the time Qualifying was done however, there was a familiar team topping the time sheets, although maybe not the one you’d expect. Sergio Perez had proved last time around how good he is on a street circuit, and he set the fastest time to ensure pole position for the Mexican.
It was a mixed result for the Red Bull team however, as Max Verstappen had bailed on his initial qualifying run after a few hairy moments from pushing a bit too hard, a crash from Leclerc in his Ferrari meant that yellow flags which then turned to red flags, and an abandoned Qualifying session, and the reigning champion was unable to return for another attempt at pole position. This left the frustrated Dutchman in P9 and plenty left to do in the race.
This left the front row open for Fernando Alonso to continue his impressive form as he qualified in P2 ahead of Carlos Sainz in his Ferrari. Kevin Magnussen pulled a fantastic lap out of the bag early on to secure an amazing P4 for Haas, with Gasly in P5, George Russell in P6, Leclerc managed P7 before his spin ended the session, with Ocon completing the top 8.
Further frustrations continued for Lewis Hamilton who missed out on Q3 and had to settle for P13, not the best result after looking so promising after the first practice session. McLaren also feeling the pressure after a disappointing P16 and P19 for Norris and Piastri leaving them with little hope of points in the race.
Come race day, Perez was hopeful of continuing his world championship momentum, with just 6 points the gap to teammate Verstappen. Alonso had hoped for a ‘boring’ race in pre-race interviews, although that might have been something to do with his front row starting position. Verstappen said a win ‘wasn’t impossible’ and with he speed of the Red Bull cars this year, Perez would seemingly be the only obstacle in that scenario.
Overnight, heavy rainfall had meant that the usual ‘rubbering-in’ of the track had been undone, so despite a dry track, conditions would be slippery in the early stages and would take some getting used to. The fanfare continued prior to the racing with musical performances and ceremonies proving that the Miami Grand Prix is as over the top as it can be.
A good start by Perez ensured that he beat Alonso and Sainz to the first corner, while Magnussen’s impressive P4 turned into P6 almost instantly, and then P7 before the end of the first lap thanks to late braking from Leclerc. Verstappen, keen to just avoid trouble in the midfield early on, knew that the race pace would be enough to fight his way through, and that’s just what he did.
After clearing Ocon early on, then Bottas soon after, a fantastic approach of a squabbling Leclerc and Magnussen meant that he cleared both cars on the main straight with the cars three abreast at one point.
Perez focussed on maintaining his lead at the front which quickly grew to a two second advantage, with Alonso more occupied at keeping Sainz at bay every time he was within DRS range of the Aston Martin. Meanwhile Verstappen continued to work his way through the field even further, with little that Russell could do on Lap 9 braking into turn 17, which then offered exactly the same opportunity on the following lap for the Red Bull driver. With clear air in front of him, Verstappen set fastest lap after fastest lap to catch up to the back of Sainz and Alonso.
With the pace of the Red Bull clearly a step above the rest of the field, Sainz was easily despatched on Lap 14 between Turn 10 and 11. Verstappen, clearly a fan of repeating the same move two laps in a row, again did the same move again on Alonso the following lap. Just his teammate remained with much of the race still to go.
The Red Bull’s Out Front
Just a few laps later and the front runners tyres were starting to wear out with Sainz the first of the front runners to opt for new rubber on Lap 19. His eagerness for new tyres meant he braked too late for the speed check in the pit lane, resulting in a 5 second penalty to be served after the race. Perez, on medium tyres, had radioed his concern of his levels of grip a lap earlier, especially since Verstappen was now in hot pursuit on his hard compound set.
With Red Bull giving the ‘Box, Box’ call 2 laps later, Verstappen was promote to the lead of the race and free to try build up as big a lead as possible before his mandatory pit stop. Other than Verstappen, Alonso was the last of the front runners to stop, on Lap 25, giving him fresh tyres to challenge and pass Leclerc just 2 laps after re-joining the race.
Verstappen stretched his lead over Perez to a healthy 15 seconds, who himself lead Ocon by over 10 seconds. Ocon’s ageing hard tyres proving to be easy pickings for Alonso and Sainz towards the second half of the race. Mercedes were doing all they could to salvage something from the race with Hamilton, on a long stint on hard tyres, letting teammate Russell past and into P6 so that he could try see if he could clear the struggling Ocon and catch up to the back of Sainz.
Verstappen, realising that his one and only pit stop was due in the next few laps pushed harder to ensure that after a few fastest laps were set, he would return just behind his teammate on fresher tyres and with a sprint to the chequered flag. With little that Perez could do once the few car lengths had been disposed of, Verstappen’s fresh tyres were more than a match for Perez’s ageing rubber and he retook the lead on Lap 47 of the race.
Verstappen’s fresher tyres and clean air meant that he took the race win and the extra point for fastest lap, and re-extending his lead at the top of the championship over second placed Perez. Another strong race for Alonso meant that he was unchallenged for third place and took his fourth podium in five races for the high flying Aston Martin team.
Russell salvaged a good result for a struggling Mercedes team in Miami, finishing in fourth place ahead of Sainz, who remained in fifth despite the addition of his five-second penalty. Lewis Hamilton was sixth, not a bad result after starting the race in lowly 13th position, with Leclerc in seventh. Alpine returned to the points with Gasly just ahead of teammate Ocon in eighth and ninth respectively, with Magnussen claiming the final point in tenth, a disappointment for Haas after starting the race in fourth place.
Up next is Round 6 and the first of the European round of the Formula 1 calendar, the Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix at Imola racing circuit in northern Italy in 2 weeks’ time. Max Verstappen will be happier that he has managed to extend his lead at the top of the championship, overcoming the surge of Sergio Perez who was closing in fast. Can he keep the Mexican at bay at the next race or will Perez be able to claw his way back to close the gap again?
Fernando Alonso gave another strong performance cementing his position in third place in the standings, extending the gap even further to the chasing Mercedes and Ferrari drivers of Hamilton, Sainz, Russell then Leclerc, with Stroll rounding up the top 8 drivers.
Red Bull also extended their lead at the top of the Constructor’s Championship taking maximum points in Miami. Is Round 5 too early to say they have the Constructor’s title in the bag for this year? Aston Martin remain in second place, yet despite Alonso’s continued strong results are just six points ahead of Mercedes in third. Ferrari are currently not too far off the pace in 4th and have plenty t race for to challenge Mercedes and Aston Martin.
The rest of the teams seem to currently just pick up the odd point here and there, with no distinguishable results to give them an edge over the other teams. McLaren and Alpine are tied and lead the best of the rest, yet are barely into double figures themselves. Haas, Alfa Romeo, AlphaTauri and Williams remain on single points, some showing promise at times but plenty more to do for the rest of the season.
Find out more about the race and the calendar for the 2023 season here: F1 – The Official Home of Formula 1