Verstappen needs another signature fightback to deny Perez the points lead

2023 Miami Grand Prix pre-race analysis

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Since becoming world champion at the end of 2021, Max Verstappen’s tenure with the fabled number ‘1’ on his car has been defined by two things – crushingly dominant victories and spectacular fightbacks through the field.

Over three practice sessions and the first two phases of qualifying, it looked for all the world that this Miami Grand Prix weekend was going to be another weekend where Verstappen would put daylight between him and the rest of the field and convert pole position into a comfortable third win of the season. Instead, he will start outside the top six on the grid for the sixth time since the start of 2022 – but this time, he has himself to blame.

Just a small error at turns six and seven – now unquestionably the biggest danger-spot on the Miami circuit – was enough to ruin Verstappen’s first flying lap attempt in Q3. And thanks to Charles Leclerc, he never got a second.

Verstappen’s failure to set a time in Q3 not only ensured a fifth row start for today’s grand prix, it left team mate Sergio Perez a proverbial open goal to snatch pole position, which he duly converted. But while Perez recognised he hadn’t had the strongest build up into qualifying, he is determined to make the most of his opportunity starting at the front, just as he did in Jeddah earlier in the season.

Max Verstappen, Red Bull, Miami International Autodrome, 2023
Verstappen knows he should have had pole position
“It never feels nice when you see another driver crashing or a red flag on track,” Perez said. “I was a bit surprised, I thought we were going to go again and not end the session there, but that was it.

“I just want to do well tomorrow. It’s a new day and anything can happen. I have to be fully committed and we have to try to do our own race. The target is to get the perfect launch and then the perfect race.”

Verstappen is no stranger to starting well out of position in his dominant Red Bull, but this is perhaps the first time he does so entirely of his own making. However, ninth is not as drastic as 14th or even 15th on the grid, where he has recently started from and yet still either come back to win or finish second. But Verstappen knows that starting from slightly further up the grid this time will not make his journey to the front of the field much easier around this circuit.

“It will be a little bit tougher,” Verstappen said. “I think with the pace of the car we have, normally, we should have a chance of moving forward quite quickly. But I hope it’s not going to be a DRS train, because then you are in trouble.”

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In Jeddah, it took Verstappen 25 laps to make his way from 15th on the grid up to second place. Fernando Alonso, who will start alongside Perez on the front row of the grid, predicted it will take Verstappen the same amount of laps to achieve the same today.

Circuit atmosphere, Miami International Autodrome, 2023
The track lacked grip off-line and overnight rain won’t help
The biggest challenge facing Verstappen is not his fellow rivals but the circuit itself. The freshly repaved asphalt around the Hard Rock Stadium was supposed to address driver complaints about the lack of grip last year. But while lap times have decreased with the new surface, concerns over grip have not. Alexander Albon described the surface as “not good enough,” while Esteban Ocon said that overtaking is “going to be tricky for sure, because off-line is quite slippery”.

Making matters even trickier for drivers, heavy overnight rain over Miami Gardens will have washed away much of the precious rubber that has built up over the first few days. Pole-winner Perez likened opening practice on Friday to like driving in intermediate conditions in the dry. If rain has reset the track condition back to where it was at the start of the weekend, drivers will be in for a tricky opening phase of the race, heavy on fuel and low on grip.

There’s also the question of tyre strategy. The last few races have been one-stop affairs, but with such little natural grip and the potential for drivers to be stuck behind rivals with the reduced DRS zones for this weekend, Albon says it’s difficult to predict what the field could so this afternoon.

“I think there’s a big unknown on what the tyres are going to do,” he said. “It’s a weird sensation, because the tyres are very clean, but they’re just overheating. It’s going to be a challenge, I don’t think anyone really knows what to expect.

“I do think it’s going to be a one-stop for everyone, that being said, but let’s see. There is one line even if you can’t see on the track, you have to imagine it being like a like a drying track that’s kind of the margins. One tyre width is what it takes to go off and you can’t overtake.”

Pirelli are again expecting another medium-to-hard strategy race, but head of motorsport Mario Isola expects that the tropical temperatures around Miami could have an impact on degradation through the race.

“The slight shortening of the pit lane opens up the possibility of a two-stopper,” explained Isola. “But we’ve also seen a bit of graining on the softs over long runs.”

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One team that will be happy to see higher temperatures is Aston Martin. Alonso starts on the front row alongside Perez and is aiming to beat the Red Bull driver into turn one at the start for the second time in four races – albeit without repeating the grid positioning error which led to his penalty in Jeddah.

Fernando Alonso, Aston Martin, Miami International Autodrome, 2023
Aston Martin’s tyre degradation advantage may pay off
Aston Martin team principal Mike Krack feels Aston Martin’s superior tyre management could prove a more significant factor at this race than it has in the rounds since the season-opener. “In Baku, no one needed to do much tyre management because the track temperatures were not that high,” he said. “That perhaps played against us – so this weekend, higher track temps should suit us a little bit more.”

Unfortunately for the many fans who will be cheering Alonso on from second on the grid, the Aston Martin driver is ruling himself out of the hunt for a race win if a typical race unfolds and will be focusing on Carlos Sainz Jnr and others behind him.

“We have strong opposition behind,” he said. “Ferrari has been very strong this weekend and in Baku, some upgrades also on their car. Max obviously will come eventually in the race, quite fast. So yeah, a lot of things to take care of in the mirrors.”

Sainz will be leading the charge for Ferrari after Leclerc’s Q3 crash from third on the grid. He believes his opportunity lies at the start of the race, knowing that Alonso will likely be the stronger of the pair over the course of the race.

“Normally what we’ve seen this year is that the Aston and Fernando are a bit quicker in race pace than what we are,” Sainz said, “They take better care of the tyres, they have less deg, or whatever it is – which we are still trying to find out – and still trying to improve in our car. But let’s see how overtaking is, let’s see where we are after lap one.”

With a freshly-washed track, threats from Alonso and Sainz behind at the start, his hard-charging team mate looking to catch up to him and a 40% risk of rain at the start of the race, Perez’s path to victory is not as simple as it may appear. But having finally appeared to have got comfortable with his car when it mattered most on Saturday, Perez knows he just has to keep it clean and he has a genuine chance of taking the championship lead for the first time in his 13-season F1 career.

“I’m mainly focusing now on getting a good start and being able to manage our first stint,” he said. “It’s a very long race and still a lot can happen.”

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Qualifying times in full

PositionNumberDriverTeamQ1 timeQ2 time (vs Q1)Q3 time (vs Q2)
111Sergio PerezRed Bull-Honda RBPT1’27.7131’27.328 (-0.385s)1’26.841 (-0.487s)
214Fernando AlonsoAston Martin-Mercedes1’28.1791’27.097 (-1.082s)1’27.202 (+0.105s)
355Carlos Sainz JnrFerrari1’27.6861’27.148 (-0.538s)1’27.349 (+0.201s)
420Kevin MagnussenHaas-Ferrari1’27.8091’27.673 (-0.136s)1’27.767 (+0.094s)
510Pierre GaslyAlpine-Renault1’28.0611’27.612 (-0.449s)1’27.786 (+0.174s)
663George RussellMercedes1’28.0861’27.743 (-0.343s)1’27.804 (+0.061s)
716Charles LeclercFerrari1’27.7131’26.964 (-0.749s)1’27.861 (+0.897s)
831Esteban OconAlpine-Renault1’27.8721’27.444 (-0.428s)1’27.935 (+0.491s)
91Max VerstappenRed Bull-Honda RBPT1’27.3631’26.814 (-0.549s)
1077Valtteri BottasAlfa Romeo-Ferrari1’27.8641’27.564 (-0.300s)
1123Alexander AlbonWilliams-Mercedes1’28.2341’27.795 (-0.439s)Missed by 0.052s
1227Nico HulkenbergHaas-Ferrari1’27.9451’27.903 (-0.042s)Missed by 0.160s
1344Lewis HamiltonMercedes1’27.8461’27.975 (+0.129s)Missed by 0.232s
1424Zhou GuanyuAlfa Romeo-Ferrari1’28.1801’28.091 (-0.089s)Missed by 0.348s
1521Nyck de VriesAlphaTauri-Honda RBPT1’28.3251’28.395 (+0.070s)Missed by 0.652s
164Lando NorrisMcLaren-Mercedes1’28.394Missed by 0.069s
1722Yuki TsunodaAlphaTauri-Honda RBPT1’28.429Missed by 0.104s
1818Lance StrollAston Martin-Mercedes1’28.476Missed by 0.151s
1981Oscar PiastriMcLaren-Mercedes1’28.484Missed by 0.159s
202Logan SargeantWilliams-Mercedes1’28.577Missed by 0.252s

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Sector times

PositionNumberDriverSector oneSector twoSector threeUltimate lapDeficit to ultimate lap
111Sergio Perez28.942 (1)33.04 (3)24.755 (1)1’26.7370.104
216Charles Leclerc29.085 (3)32.935 (1)24.784 (3)1’26.8040.160
31Max Verstappen29.073 (2)32.956 (2)24.785 (4)1’26.814
414Fernando Alonso29.14 (5)33.125 (5)24.756 (2)1’27.0210.076
555Carlos Sainz Jnr29.123 (4)33.113 (4)24.885 (5)1’27.1210.027
631Esteban Ocon29.288 (7)33.193 (7)24.945 (7)1’27.4260.018
777Valtteri Bottas29.166 (6)33.32 (10)24.954 (9)1’27.4400.124
810Pierre Gasly29.325 (8)33.226 (8)24.982 (12)1’27.5330.079
920Kevin Magnussen29.338 (9)33.268 (9)24.975 (10)1’27.5810.092
1063George Russell29.364 (10)33.165 (6)25.12 (18)1’27.6490.094
1144Lewis Hamilton29.37 (11)33.357 (12)24.979 (11)1’27.7060.140
1227Nico Hulkenberg29.477 (16)33.348 (11)24.894 (6)1’27.7190.184
1323Alexander Albon29.414 (13)33.399 (13)24.982 (12)1’27.795
1424Zhou Guanyu29.408 (12)33.461 (14)25.061 (16)1’27.9300.161
1522Yuki Tsunoda29.609 (17)33.494 (15)25.129 (19)1’28.2320.197
1621Nyck de Vries29.453 (14)33.683 (18)25.113 (17)1’28.2490.076
174Lando Norris29.471 (15)33.652 (16)25.271 (20)1’28.394
1818Lance Stroll29.768 (19)33.696 (19)24.952 (8)1’28.4160.060
1981Oscar Piastri29.756 (18)33.681 (17)25.047 (15)1’28.484
202Logan Sargeant29.832 (20)33.759 (20)24.986 (14)1’28.577

Speed trap

PositionNumberDriverCarEngineModelMax kph (mph)
111Sergio PerezRed BullHonda RBPTRB19342.8 (213.0)
21Max VerstappenRed BullHonda RBPTRB19341.2 (212.0)
32Logan SargeantWilliamsMercedesFW45340.6 (211.6)
431Esteban OconAlpineRenaultA523339.9 (211.2)
523Alexander AlbonWilliamsMercedesFW45338.8 (210.5)
627Nico HulkenbergHaasFerrariVF-23338.8 (210.5)
721Nyck de VriesAlphaTauriHonda RBPTAT04338.4 (210.3)
820Kevin MagnussenHaasFerrariVF-23338.3 (210.2)
924Zhou GuanyuAlfa RomeoFerrariC43338.3 (210.2)
1014Fernando AlonsoAston MartinMercedesAMR23338.0 (210.0)
1144Lewis HamiltonMercedesMercedesW14337.9 (210.0)
1277Valtteri BottasAlfa RomeoFerrariC43337.6 (209.8)
1381Oscar PiastriMcLarenMercedesMCL60337.0 (209.4)
1463George RussellMercedesMercedesW14336.9 (209.3)
1510Pierre GaslyAlpineRenaultA523336.2 (208.9)
1616Charles LeclercFerrariFerrariSF-23336.2 (208.9)
174Lando NorrisMcLarenMercedesMCL60336.0 (208.8)
1818Lance StrollAston MartinMercedesAMR23336.0 (208.8)
1922Yuki TsunodaAlphaTauriHonda RBPTAT04334.8 (208.0)
2055Carlos Sainz JnrFerrariFerrariSF-23333.3 (207.1)

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Over to you

Will Perez hold on to claim his third grand prix victory of the season? Share your views on the Miami Grand Prix in the comments.

2023 Miami Grand Prix

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Author information

Will Wood
Will has been a RaceFans contributor since 2012 during which time he has covered F1 test sessions, launch events and interviewed drivers. He mainly...

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14 comments on “Verstappen needs another signature fightback to deny Perez the points lead”

  1. Will Perez hold on to claim his third grand prix victory of the season? – Possibly.
    Considering Max’s starting position is six higher than in Jeddah, I expect him to reach P2 within the first five laps.
    I’m somewhat unsure, but I think Isola refers to the pit entry line because the fast lane portion, i.e., the actual pit lane, isn’t any shorter in length.

  2. Would do the sport a modicum of good if Trout Pout stayed off the podium today. Kinda wanna see his sulking face if he loses the championship lead to Perez tho. And the ensuing Jos Verstappen column would be very entertaining.

    1. Itsmeagain (@)
      7th May 2023, 17:48

      ….and than ‘they’ say those max fans don’t bring anything positive to the sport….I’m glad you are showing what a hero fan should be like.

  3. BLS (@brightlampshade)
    7th May 2023, 14:41

    Even though overtaking is looking to be tricky here I expect the Red Bull / Max combination to be far too strong to get anything worse than 2nd.
    I’m going to guess 13 laps before he’s up to 2nd.

  4. I’m thinking 12-15 laps to 2nd place and then 40-odd laps to figure out what I expect a 4-5 sec lead with a significant pace advantage.

    So … P1 by lap 20?

    1. I’d think so too, but why didn’t that happen in Jeddah or Baku?

      1. Not sure about Jeddah, but in Baku Checo was closer to Max in pace than he has so far shown this weekend.

    2. P2, Lap 15, gap to PER 3.790s


    3. And P1 by the end of Lap 20, though that was thanks to PER coming in for fresh rubber.

      Last gap VER +1.210s

  5. Now that DRS has been neutered, the race will favor those cars with systems in place to maximize their straight-line speed. This means the likes of Verstappen will catch up soon enough to the front runner, aka Perez who, baring a mistake, is likely to pocket this one.

    Hamilton is another one of those faster-paced cars whom one would normally expect to provide the entertainment of on-track overtakes, however, with the Shorter DRS zones, even this is not guaranteed.

    We shall see.

  6. Steve (@duuxdeluxe)
    7th May 2023, 15:29

    Biggest thing will be to stay out of trouble for Verstappen. P9 with Rusell in front, as well as Leclerc directly in front and Ocon next to him, turn 1 is going to be crucial. Wouldn’t be at all surprised to see either of them not giving an inch and Verstappen yet again having to manage a broken car to the end (if not a full-blown DNF). He did manage to stay out of trouble in Hungary last year by driving very carefully, but P9 is right in the middle of the manace…

    If Verstappen manages that, it should be pretty smooth sailing to P2 with the straight line speed of that Red Bull. Seeing as how much faster he was than Perez, I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see him pass Checo pretty rapidly as well. If not too many laps have gone by that is. Otherwise a red flag or safety car is definately required to get anything more than a P2.

  7. Davethechicken
    7th May 2023, 15:46

    The inevitable safety car and red flag should help him, and will negate any advantage Perez gets whilst Max battles through the traffic.

  8. Damn, that was a lot of rain, I didn’t see a droplet.

Comments are closed.