Can Perez keep up the pressure on Verstappen? Six Miami GP talking points

2023 Miami Grand Prix

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For the first time in 2023, Formula 1 teams head into the second leg of back-to-back race weekends as the series swaps the historic, windy city of Baku for the tropical playground of Miami.

The second Miami Grand Prix, held around a temporary street circuit in the grounds of the Miami Dolphins NFL stadium is the first of three races in the United States this season. But after a lukewarm race back in 2022, will this weekend offer more action for the fans who turn up at the Miami International Autodrome for round five?

Can Perez keep up the pressure?

Sergio Perez put his difficult Australian Grand Prix weekend behind him in the best possible way in Baku last weekend. Not just by winning the Azerbaijan Grand Prix, but taking victory in the sprint race on Saturday along the way.

But unlike his four previous wins with the Red Bull team, which all came following come kind of misfortune befalling team mate Max Verstappen, Perez might well have genuinely been the stronger of the two last weekend. Even if the timing of the Safety Car worked far more in Perez’s favour than Verstappen’s, Perez had just drawn within DRS range of his team mate at the point Verstappen was called into the pits, meaning he could soon have been about to take the lead anyway.

In a season where, for now at least, the Red Bulls only have themselves to worry about when it comes to the fight for this year’s drivers’ title, Verstappen knows that he can afford to drop a handful of points to Perez on a single weekend. That, perhaps, was the reason why he was unusually comfortable with the idea of finishing second to his team mate at the Baku City Circuit – a track where Perez has always been at his best.

Last year in Miami, Verstappen was comfortably the quicker of the two. While Verstappen took the lead from the Ferraris early and went on to win, Perez was trouble by power unit problems and had to settle for a finish off the podium, behind Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz Jnr. If Verstappen has any kind of slip-up this weekend, it will fling the door open for Perez to take the championship lead.

Salute to Sargeant

So many articles have been published analysing Formula 1’s unprecedented boost in popularity in the United States that if each of them were printed out and laid end-to-end, they would probably stretch across the width of the Florida peninsula.

Logan Sargeant, Williams, Baku City Circuit, 2023
Sargeant is flying the flag for the USA
But for decades, the prevailing wisdom has always been that for an American audience to truly buy into the sport, they needed a driver to carry the stars and stripes proudly on their racing suit and the hopes of the nation on their shoulders. After a handful of races for Alexander Rossi in 2015 – including that year’s United States Grand Prix in Austin, the thousands of F1 fans who will flock to Miami Gardens this weekend will have one of their own to cheer on.

Williams driver Logan Sargeant, a Florida native who raced go-karts not far from the site of this weekends’ race, has always set his sights on racing in Formula 1. After heading to Europe to follow that dream and progressing from Formula 3 to F2, he is already shown potential across his first four grand prix weekends, yet remains one of only two drivers yet to score a point this season along with fellow rookie Nyck de Vries.

It will be difficult for Sargeant to break through and score that first career point this weekend – especially when four teams have an exclusive hold over the top eight positions. But Williams team mate Alexander Albon managed to score points at Miami last season in a car that was not as competitive as this year’s Williams. And this is another venue where the FW45’s strong straight-line speed should prove a benefit, so Sargeant may have a chance yet.

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A fresh surface

Last year’s inaugural Miami Grand Prix earned praise from teams and drivers, but one area where there was clear room for improvement was the poor level of grip offered by the asphalt around the Hard Rock Stadium. Fernando Alonso described the track surface as “not F1-standard”, while the poor grip available off-line discouraged drivers from being aggressive about overtaking.

Miami International Autodrome track map, 2021
Track data: Miami International Autodrome
To address those concerns, the entire circuit has been resurfaced for this weekend’s second edition of the race. Speaking to RaceFans at the season-opening round in Bahrain, Miami Grand Prix president Tyler Epp said that resurfacing work was already well in its advanced stages.

“The top layer was taken off and reapplied with a new mix of aggregate,” Epp explained. “We expect it to race very well.”

However, while the fiddly chicane of turns 14 and 15 were widely panned by drivers, with Lewis Hamilton infamously comparing it to a “B&Q car park”, the chicane will remain this season due to the lack of run-off options to allow for alternative corners to be built in that section. There will be however, according to Epp, a “minor change to the rumble strip on the driver’s left” approaching the left-hander, followed by “a very slight change to the apex at turn 15” to address driver concerns.

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Who will be ‘best of the rest’?

In every round so far this year, it has been clear heading into the weekend which has been the team to beat. What has not been as predictable is which of the three other top four teams – Ferrari, Mercedes and Aston Martin – would be the ones closest to the world champions.

Charles Leclerc, Ferrari, Baku City Circuit, 2023
Ferrari and Leclerc pushed Red Bull in Baku
Aston Martin appeared to be the nearest challengers in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, with Alonso the only non-Red Bull driver to stand on the podium over those opening two rounds. In Australia, Mercedes found form to line up second and third behind Verstappen and challenge him in the early phases of the race.

Last weekend, Ferrari’s number came up, and an inspired Charles Leclerc secured a brilliant double pole position for the sprint race and the grand prix, despite little in the way of significant upgrades for the SF-23. Much like the competitive midfield battle is seeing the form book fluctuate from race to race in the battle for the last few points positions, there is no certainty which team will be the closest to Red Bull this weekend. However Ferrari is planning to bring the first noteworthy update for its SF-23, the performance of which will be keenly observed.

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Gasly needs to get it together

Moving to Alpine was supposed to be an exciting, fresh start for Pierre Gasly, finally freed from the Red Bull ecosystem after many years at AlphaTauri. However, over the first four rounds at the Enstone team, it has not been the new beginning he would have hoped for.

After two ninth place finishes at the start of the year putting him level on points with team mate Esteban Ocon, Gasly had a nightmare end to the Australian Grand Prix when he clashed with Ocon at the final restart and his Azerbaijan Grand Prix weekend was poor to say the least. He crashed out of Friday qualifying, was eliminated from SQ1 in qualifying for Saturday’s sprint race, then finished well outside the top ten after pitting twice during the grand prix.

Gasly also has just two more weekends to get through until he starts to earn some relief on his superlicence predicament. Until the end of the Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix weekend, he remains just two points from a race ban. If he can last just two more rounds without any further penalty points, he will finally lose two from that tally.

Fake no more

Last year’s inaugural Miami Grand Prix weekend saw an artificial marina constructed on the inside of turns six, seven and eight attain instant meme status as symbolic of how many fans felt the event was prioritising spectacle over substance. The ‘fake’ marina became the subject of endless mirth on TV coverage, social media and news sites throughout the race weekend.

But for the second edition of Miami’s race, the marina installation now sports a genuine water feature replacing the printed boards from 2022. Fans can rejoice in the knowledge that this fact will now become the subject of endless mirth on TV coverage, social media and news sites throughout the race weekend instead.

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Are you going to the Miami Grand Prix?

If you’re heading to USA for this weekend’s race, we want to hear from you:

Who do you think will be the team to beat in the Miami Grand Prix? Have your say below.

And don’t forget to enter your predictions for this weekend’s race. You can edit your predictions until the start of qualifying:

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    Author information

    Keith Collantine
    Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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    10 comments on “Can Perez keep up the pressure on Verstappen? Six Miami GP talking points”

    1. Can Perez keep up the pressure? – For now, but I doubt he could throughout the season.
      Salute to Sargeant – Yes, as from the three US events, Miami GP is the closest to where he’s from, Fort Lauderdale, but unfortunately, the machinery at his disposal probably won’t allow for points.
      A fresh surface – Hopefully, the re-laid tarmac will be better, although I don’t expect the chicane to be any more enjoyable.
      Who will be ‘best of the rest’? – Should be Alpine behind RBR & the AM-Ferrari-Mercedes trio in any given order unless they drop the ball again.
      Gasly needs to get it together – Indeed, as things haven’t really gone his way so far.
      Fake no more – I couldn’t care less about the artificial marina in the first place regardless of whether the water is fake or real. Just a triviality that has zero concern for on-track action.

      1. The really important point would be whether Miami can deliver a good experience for the fans attending. Last year was expensive but rather lacklustre if we judge from the various fan experiences we’ve heard of. The Marina is really completely pointless unless it give those present a better time.

        That they find time to comment on this on the race coverage rather shows the racing itself lacks. That is the other concern F1 should worry about.

        And no, I do not at all expect Perez to be challenging Max, although I would be pleasantly surprised if he did. I do not think there will be much of a fight for the win if he doesn’t, although maybe Leclerc, or say Hamilton or Alonso can make it harder on the Bulls to make it a 1-2 if they have a good weekend.

      2. Did you mean ‘Should be Alpine behind RBR & the AM-Ferrari-Mercedes trio’ or Aston? If so why would it be Alpine?

    2. I was surprised how calm Verstappen was when he lost to Perez. It’s a side I have never seen. Even though he is still young he seem to be happy finishing second or at least behind Perez. Which got me thinking. All racing drivers want to win. When you are happy with second you are not a true winner. If you whine about not winning you are a crying kid. It is The pressure from the outside can get a lot bigger than if you’re just driving for you and your team.

      1. I think it is Max knowing they have the car to win all races this year and knowing Perez was never consistently better than him and rather performing at one of the tracks he seems to excel at @qeki. Currently it does not look like anyone of the other teams can get close enough to them to make the calculation harder.

        If this is Perez’ high point and Max finishes easily second behind his teammate here, he knows he will beat him more often than not in the races where Perez does not have that bit extra. Giving him say Baku, Monaco, Mexico is no issue when Max can win Miami, Spa, Zandvoort, Suzuka, Qatar, Brazil, Austria, Barcelona, Hungary etc.

      2. I think it’s because he knows Perez isn’t a threat to him as he’s Horner’s Golden Boy.

    3. I believe the two RedBull drivers are very closely matched, with Max probably in the lead, especially in race pace. I think the big decider will be which driver benefits most from Safety Cars, Red Flags and strategy.

      1. I think reliability can make more of a difference than that with how superior the car is.

    4. Yes, given the amount of street races at the beginning of the season. No on the long run and at the end of the season. Let’s move on. He was hired as a Bottas (“Valtteri, it’s James”). We can write 1000 articles on it (and I am sure the media will) but it won’t change anything.

    5. Alan S Thomson
      7th May 2023, 22:56

      No more talk about Perez being a title contender. He does not have what it takes. He’s no Rosberg.

    Comments are closed.