Race: Max Verstappen takes victory in battle of the Red Bulls in Miami GP
Max Verstappen passed Sergio Perez to take victory in the Miami Grand Prix on Sunday, moving up from ninth on the grid to win his third race of the season.
Verstappen swiftly moved up from his P9 grid slot to second and, starting on different tyres to Perez and the Red Bull drivers leading the pack for much of the race, it was set up for a showdown in the final laps once Verstappen had pitted for mediums.
The Red Bull drivers emerged close together on track and while Perez looked to put up a fight to hold onto the lead, Verstappen made a move stick around the outside of Turn 1 and into Turn 2 to take the lead away from his team-mate and went on to take victory around Miami.
Fernando Alonso completed the podium for Aston Martin on Sunday, with George Russell and Carlos Sainz also making the top five come the chequered flag.
After a frantic qualifying session ended prematurely, a mixed-up grid saw Perez joined by Alonso on the front row and, after rapper LL Cool J introduced the drivers individually onto the grid, it was down to business at the Miami International Autodrome.
But unlike the last time the two were on the front row together in Jeddah, Perez was able to keep hold of his lead and moved across Alonso to take the inside line into Turn 1, crucially holding the Aston Martin driver behind as Sainz remained in third.
Kevin Magnussen fell three places at the start, with Pierre Gasly, George Russell and Charles Leclerc all overtaking the Haas driver following his second-row grid placing.
At the back, Lando Norris and Nyck de Vries were involved in a tangle at Turn 1, with the FIA concluding no further investigation required after the Dutchman locked up and ran into the back of Norris.
Despite a slow start and dropping to 10th, Verstappen was able to pick his way past Esteban Ocon and Valtteri Bottas by the end of the second lap on hard tyres as he looked to make his way through the pack.
And with Magnussen and Leclerc battling each other a lap later, Verstappen was able to get the exit he needed out of Turn 17 and put himself in prime position on the start/finish straight to overtake both of them heading into Turn 1 again – the Red Bull driver up to P6 by the start of Lap 4.
After contact of his own on the first lap, Lewis Hamilton reported worries around damage on the front right of his Mercedes, concerned that he may not be able to make it through the race with only a few laps elapsed, stuck in 13th behind Alex Albon’s Williams in the early stages.
But in his quest to make it to the front, Verstappen caught up to Russell in front to get into the top five. The Red Bull driver used his extra top speed with DRS on the back straight to make a lunge on the Mercedes into Turn 17 on Lap 8, with Russell not putting up too much of a fight on this occasion – and Verstappen copying the move on Gasly a lap later.
Russell kept close enough to Verstappen to capitalise on his overtake on the Alpine of Gasly too, with the Mercedes driver using his speed advantage on the start/finish straight to make a move on Gasly himself heading into the braking zone at Turn 1, putting himself back into the top five to leave no net loss to him at least.
Verstappen, who started on hard tyres compared to mediums for Perez, was biding his time as he looked to pick off those in front one by one, but a burst of pace saw him close up to the back of Sainz and pass him for third on Lap 14 – putting him in the podium places.
Alonso had predicted the reigning World Champion would be in his wing mirrors by Lap 25, but it was 10 laps before that he managed to make his way by the Aston Martin and make it a Red Bull one-two out in front.
Perez reported that his mediums were beginning to “give up a bit” as his team-mate brought the gap below three seconds, with a complete switch set to come later in the race between them.
Away from the leaders, Sainz looked to make a move on Alonso by springing an undercut attempt on Aston Martin as he dived into the pits for hard tyres. A swift 2.2-second stop for Ferrari crucially put Sainz out ahead of a group of drivers led by Albon in a ‘DRS train’, with the Spaniard quickly able to pass Hamilton too as he looked to gain the time he needed to overtake Alonso.
Perez made it to lap 20 before pitting, but while Ferrari and Sainz looked to have pulled a masterstroke strategically, Sainz was quickly under investigation for allegedly speeding in the pit lane, and a five-second penalty was sent his way once it was confirmed, undoing all of Ferrari’s good work.
In response, Alonso extended his strategy six laps beyond Sainz, and while he came out behind the Ferrari, he was quickly all over the back of him once again – and moved past down the inside at Turn 11.
With fresher tyres and a five-second penalty for Sainz as a bonus, Alonso’s podium chances were boosted significantly with that move.
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Elsewhere, team orders came into play at Mercedes as Hamilton was asked to move aside for Russell for sixth place, with Hamilton yet to stop on Lap 33. The seven-time World Champion did allow his team-mate through, with the two in different races on Sunday.
This was evidenced shortly afterwards by Russell being able to chase after and overtake Sainz in the Ferrari for P4, with Russell able to make solid headway with his race pace, whereas Hamilton pitted and re-joined behind Albon in 13th on Lap 38.
But a swift out lap and a couple of bold overtakes, alongside a stop for Ocon quickly saw Hamilton back in the points again.
At the front, Verstappen was upping the pace as he looked to get as close to Perez as possible when he eventually had to swap for medium tyres, but a message from race engineer Gianpiero Lambiase in fact told him he may even come out ahead, such was his advantage.
It wasn’t until Lap 45 that Verstappen would pit, and when he re-emerged, he was only 1.5s behind Perez – on tyres 25 laps younger than those of his team-mate.
It looked as though Perez would be a sitting duck, with Verstappen taking a full second out of the lead of Perez on his out lap, but the Mexican would not let go of the lead without a fight.
Verstappen cruised up to the back of Perez on the back straight and Perez defended the inside line into Turn 17, with Verstappen forced to back out and try again into the next DRS zone.
Perez took the inside line towards Turn 1 and Verstappen looked to get the move done around the outside of his team-mate, holding on and giving himself the inside for the left-hander at Turn 2, edging clear of Perez to take the lead of the race and quickly breaking clear of DRS range to boot.
In the chasing pack, Hamilton and Leclerc were looking to make the most of a bad weekend and, while both were able to get past Gasly, Hamilton was able to dive past the Ferrari of Leclerc to move into sixth, bravely getting close to the wall at Turn 11 as he made his way by into the top six.
But it was plain sailing for Verstappen at the end as he crossed the line first, ahead of Perez and Alonso to complete the podium, with Russell and Sainz rounding out the top five in the Miami Grand Prix.
Race classification: 2023 Miami Grand Prix
1 Max VERSTAPPEN Red Bull 1:27:38.241 57 laps
2 Sergio PEREZ Red Bull +5.384
3 Fernando ALONSO Aston Martin +26.305
4 George RUSSELL Mercedes +33.229
5 Carlos SAINZ Ferrari +42.511
6 Lewis HAMILTON Mercedes +51.249
7 Charles LECLERC Ferrari +52.988
8 Pierre GASLY Alpine +55.670
9 Esteban OCON Alpine +58.123
10 Kevin MAGNUSSEN Haas +62.945
11 Yuki TSUNODA AlphaTauri +64.309
12 Lance STROLL Aston Martin +64.754
13 Valtteri BOTTAS Alfa Romeo +71.637
14 Alexander ALBON Williams +72.861
15 Nico HULKENBERG Haas +74.950
16 ZHOU Guanyu Alfa Romeo +78.440
17 Lando NORRIS McLaren +87.717
18 Nyck DE VRIES AlphaTauri +88.949
19 Oscar PIASTRI McLaren +1 lap
20 Logan SARGEANT Williams +1 lap
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