There’s an ongoing debate about striking the right balance between adding new venues to Formula 1 and keeping some of the more historic tracks, but in just its second year on the calendar, Miami is proving to be a massive hit. There has been a huge buzz around the circuit since Thursday, and that’s reached fever pitch this afternoon with stars of sport and entertainment everywhere you looked. Of course, the most important stars were the ones we saw out on track.
The forecast for much of the Miami weekend was that there’d be rain and possible storms on Sunday afternoon. That hadn’t come to fruition, with the rain having come overnight, and the skies looking pretty clear as we approached the start of the fifth round of the 2023 Formula 1 championship, the Miami Grand Prix. However, that meant much of the rubber laid down on the new surface over the weekend was cleared away, making the track pretty slippery this afternoon.
We also have a significant wind, which was likely to make things even more tricky for the drivers at the Miami International Autodrome in Florida, USA.
Martin Brundle was down on the grid as the drivers made their way into their positions and had some news on the work Ferrari had been doing to get Charles Leclerc’s SF-23 car ready after his crash in the final stages of the qualifying session: “It’s had an all-new floor on it since the crash yesterday, they’ve put an older gearbox back on, so a lot of work gone into that car. A new rear wing – that’s the problem when you have a shunt like that right at the end of qualifying.” – the Sky Sports F1 commentator explained.
Before the start we saw some spectacular razzmatazz – of the sort you only get in Miami. Will.I.Am was conducting an orchestra as rap legend LL Cool J gave each and every driver their own introduction. Each driver then appeared from behind a screen, flanked by cheerleaders! The National Anthem was then performed by Gale, a Grammy nominated singer and we were just 10 minutes away from the race start.
While rain was unlikely at this stage, the FIA offered up an official 10 per cent chance of showers during the event, as we were ready for the start of the Miami Grand Prix, with Sergio Perez leading the cars around on their formation lap. The top seven were starting on medium tyres, but world championship leader Max Verstappen opted to begin on the hard compound. There were seven drivers in total on hards, including Lewis Hamilton (P13) and Lance Stroll (P18). Meanwhile, the only cars opting to start on softs were McLaren duo Lando Norris and Oscar Piastri.
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Sergio Perez held the lead off the start, with Fernando Alonso and Carlos Sainz in hot pursuit. Max Verstappen lost a place as Valtteri Bottas made his way past the Red Bull and Esteban Ocon, while Lewis Hamilton also lost a place and was running in 14th after running wide. At the back of the pack, Lando Norris ran wide early on but continued.
Charles Leclerc gained a position at the race start and was running in sixth place, behind the Mercedes of George Russell. Max Verstappen easily made his way past Esteban Ocon and was back in his original grid position. Only moments later, he then took 8th place from Valtteri Bottas and that was more like it from the world champion. As Charles Leclerc and Kevin Magnussen were fighting with each other, Max Verstappen used his incredible speed on the straights to get past them both and was up into sixth.
On lap 7, Max Verstappen passed George Russell as they brake heading into the corner and it was looking ominous for those ahead now. The pace of the Red Bull RB19 was clearly far superior, unlike that of the Ferrari SF-23, who struggled behind Kevin Magnussen. With a DRS train having formed from Valtteri Bottas in 10th in the midfield, Lewis Hamilton was also struggling to make a move. He was +0.616s behind the Williams of Alex Albon.
Carlos Sainz, currently third, was having a few issues with his medium-compound tyres: “It feels the fronts are struggling now,” the Spaniard reported, with the team advising him the hard compound were looking like the quickest tyres. Two laps later, Max Verstappen, who had been right on Carlos Sainz’s tail for a while, used that superior speed on the straight and cruised past the Ferrari SF-23 car. The Dutchman was up into the podium places.
Kevin Magnussen headed to the pits and comes back out on the hard tyre, while Scuderia Ferrari called Charles Leclerc in for a pit stop on lap 18, on the same lap as George Russell. The Monegasque returned in P15 with the hards, once again behind Kevin Magnussen. A few moments later it was another great pit stop for the Maranello team, who sent Carlos Sainz back on track after just 2.2 seconds in the pits. The Spaniard was back in P7, behind the Mercedes of Lewis Hamilton. It didn’t take long after that pit stop for the Spanish driver to overtake Lewis Hamilton and move into sixth place which soon became P5 after passing the Haas of Nico Hulkenberg.
It didn’t take long for Sergio Perez to move back up into the top three as he passed Esteban Ocon. He was nearly 14 seconds behind Fernando Alonso who is yet to pit at this stage. Unfortunately we got the confirmation that Carlos Sainz was given a five second time penalty for speeding in the pit lane, which made things even more difficult for the Maranello team in the fight for a podium finish.
On lap 25, Fernando Alonso finally headed to the pits and came back out in fifth behind Carlos Sainz, while Charles Leclerc was having a tricky afternoon out there as he found himself stuck in 13th in the DRS train. He was more than two seconds behind Kevin Magnussen ahead of him.
Another place gained for Fernando Alonso as the Aston Martin driver went up the inside of Ocon in the Alpine to put himself in position to secure a podium place. Not a great couple of laps for Ocon as he lost two places, with Carlos Sainz passing him to move up to fourth, but still having to take that five-second time penalty.
Charles Leclerc, who was out of the points down in 12th, was clearly having a few issues with his Ferrari: “The car is jumping all over the place,” – the Monegasque reported over the team radio. There was sadly no pace in the SF-23 car and tyre degradation was once again a major issue, as George Russell took advantage and easily went past Carlos to move up into fourth.
The race leader finally pitted on lap 46 to change onto the medium compound tyres – and he came out behind team-mate Sergio Perez, but with a clear tyre advantage. He bided his time for a while but then down at Turn One, Max Verstappen finally pounced and was back out into the lead.
The final four laps were marked by a nice duel between Charles Leclerc, Lewis Hamilton and Pierre Gasly: the Ferrari man overtook the Alpine car of the Frenchman, but Hamilton capitalized on the medium tyres to pass the Monegasque and take sixth place from Charles.
That was an incredible drive from Max Verstappen as he managed his tyres brilliantly and made all his overtakes look easy, cruising to a phenomenal victory from ninth on the grid, while Sergio Perez made it another one-two finish for Red Bull. A difficult afternoon for Ferrari in Miami, with the SF-23 car proving to be only the fourth fastest car at the Miami International Autodrome in Florida: Carlos Sainz had to settle for fifth place, while his Maranello teammate Charles Leclerc ended the race in P7.