Max Verstappen Dominates First-Ever Miami Grand Prix

Formula One / 9 Comments

There was no stopping the Flying Dutchman.

The first Miami Grand Prix is done and dusted, and as we suspected, it was a sort of newly-minted version of the upcoming Monaco Grand Prix.

First off, the track was great. A new street track can go one of two ways. For reference, look at the inaugural 2021 Saudi Arabia Grand Prix. It was absolute carnage and deeply annoying to watch.

The folks in Miami went through 36 possible setups before settling on the track we watched yesterday. Despite minor complaints about visibility and a crash or two, things went down relatively well.

One complaint, however. Ditch the fake marina. The Hard Rock Stadium is roughly nine miles from the ocean, and creating a phony marina was silly. Miami is more than just a seaside city. Instead, lean into other things Miami is known for. Like old people.

Miami was also celeb central this past weekend. David Beckham was there, as was will.i.am We can't believe anyone let him near a car again so soon after the horror he unveiled last week.

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Max Was Mobbing

Max Verstappen's victory in Miami was dominant. He was well clear of Charles Leclerc until the safety car was deployed following a shunt between Pierre Gasly and Lando Norris.

There was nothing Leclerc could do but watch as Verstappen pulled away. It must have been highly frustrating to the current leader of the pack to watch his only real competitor hurl toward the horizon.

As fast as the Ferraris are, Red Bull made some magic happen. Sergio Perez had a minor sensor issue and had to run the latter half of the race minus roughly 20 hp. Even so, he managed to stay on Sainz's rear.

Apart from scoring a much-needed 26 points for winning the race and setting the fastest lap, Verstappen's podium helped him join another group of select F1 drivers. Thanks to the Miami podium, Verstappen is officially on the list of drivers with the most podiums, replacing the legend David Coulthard in tenth place.

Verstappen is officially 17 podiums away from beating Ayrton Senna, but still 120 podiums from Lewis Hamilton's current record-breaking figure of 183.

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An Epic Midfield Battle

We'll be honest about what happened at the front. Verstappen had a brilliant start, immediately flying past Sainz. He only managed to get by Leclerc once DRS had been activated, but once that overtake was complete, the race was pretty much over. It's pretty clear that Verstappen has matured as a driver and is less prone to mistakes under pressure.

We're not entirely sure the same is true of Leclerc. In his bid to catch up to Verstappen, he made some critical mistakes. He attacked the curbs between turns 14 and 15 as if they said something dreadful about his mother, nearly launching himself to the moon in the process.

Thankfully, the coverage of the event was much better this time. The commentators soon dropped the action at the front and focused on the DRS train in the middle.

The midfield battle is where it's at. It's pretty clear the championship will be between Red Bull and Ferrari, so we're more interested in the spots five and above.

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Alonso was on fire, but he ran a dirty race. He was responsible for a shunt with Pierre Gasly, for which he received a five-second penalty. After the race, the stewards added another five seconds for leaving the track and gaining a lasting advantage. Thanks to these penalties, he dropped from P9 to P11, promoting Lance Stroll to tenth place. Pretty soon, Aston Martin's collective points will hit double digits.

Pierre Gasly seemed distracted when he caused an accident with Lando Norris, taking him out of the race. Valtteri Bottas was magnificent to watch, giving his previous bosses something to think about. He was on the verge of finishing fifth in front of the two Mercs, but then he messed up and lightly caressed the wall. This gave George Russell and Lewis Hamilton a prime opportunity to pass the Alfa Romeo.

The biggest heartbreak of the race was Mick Schumacher being denied points yet again. He was in a strong position, but a collision with Sebastian Vettel dropped him to last place. It was his fault, but Seb seemed relaxed enough about it afterward.

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The Standings

Charles Leclerc remains at the top but not as firmly as before. The last two Grand Prix helped Max Verstappen close the gap considerably.

Leclerc sits on 104 points, while Verstappen is second with 85 points. The pressure is on Leclerc. One mishap and Verstappen will be right there alongside him. The Mexican Minister of Defence (Sergio Perez) is third on 66 points, followed by George Russell on 59 points. Has Lewis Hamilton lost his standing at Mercedes-Benz?

Let's put it this way. To catch up with the current frontrunners, Hamilton needs three wins and three DNFs from Leclerc and Verstappen just to catch up. That's an improbable scenario, but stranger things have happened.

As for the constructor's championship, Ferrari is still in the lead. Even though Leclerc didn't win, Scuderia Ferrari scored a double podium, elevating it to 157 points. Red Bull is just six points behind, however. Then it's a significant 50-point gap to third pace runners, Mercedes-Benz.

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What's Next?

The teams are heading to Barcelona for the next Grand Prix. Unlike the first Miami Grand Prix, they know the Barcelona track quite well. That's where the season officially kicks off, with pre-season testing. After that, it's the most famous street race of them all, Monaco.

Barcelona is a fast track with a long straight. Looking at Red Bull's current speed, which makes DRS kind of irrelevant, it's hard to bet against them. But Charles Leclerc grew up in Monaco, and he'll want to win in front of his home crowd. When not racing, fans regularly spot him on parts of the street circuit in his custom Ferrari 488 Pista Spider.

Either way, you can bet the racing will be epic.

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