Red Bull Racing’s Max Verstappen extended his lead over team-mate Sergio Perez in the drivers’ standings with an impressive recovery at the Miami Grand Prix, the fifth round of the FIA Formula 1 World Championship.
Verstappen was caught out by the red flag brought out in the final minutes of the session, ending Q3 early. Having not put in a competitive lap early on, he would start out of position in ninth place. He ran an alternative strategy, starting on the hard tyre while the drivers ahead selected the medium compound for their first stint.
It took only until lap fifteen for Verstappen to overtake every driver ahead, apart from Perez, who had started on pole and continued to lead the race. Perez took the more popular strategy of starting on mediums and finishing on hards– he took to the pits on lap twenty-one, with Verstappen just over a second behind.
All eyes were on the battle between the Red Bull Team-mates, and it became clear in the race’s final stages that Verstappen had the upper-hand. He overtook Perez for the lead with ten laps to go, after pitting for fresh mediums that gave him a significant advantage on low fuel and a rubbered-in track.
Verstappen was “satisfied” with his win from all the way down in ninth place, and said that he was pleased to have had a clean, competitive battle with his team-mate.
“Today was a good day, I stayed out of trouble at the beginning and I had a smooth race, I picked the cars off one by one. I had a good stint on the hard tyres which I think was integral to the win today.”
“I had a good battle with Checo towards the end there too. I of course had the advantage with the new tyres but I think that’s what we like to see, we are free to race.
“Yesterday was a bit of a setback, today we kept it calm and clean, and winning the race from P9 was very satisfying.”
“This is one to learn from because clearly Max had the fastest pace” – Sergio Perez
Perez congratulated Verstappen on taking the victory, and said that he wasn’t able to match his pace in the end, which kept him from converting his pole position and taking a second consecutive win.
“Well done to Max, he had a tremendous race and deserved to win, I am really happy for him. It is not always nice when you lead the race and end up second, certainly I didn’t have the pace of Max and it is something we are going to analyse to see how we can do better.”
Perez added that Verstappen’s strategy of starting on hards played a major role in how the race played out, and that it would have been a risky option for him to take, potentially opening the door for Fernando Alonso on the start.
“When I saw how strong Max was coming through the field and I was struggling a bit, I thought ‘this isn’t looking too good’. It would have been a gamble on strategy to start on the hard tyre from pole position. Of course, I wanted to win but I knew early on the race was looking tricky for us.”
Ultimately, Perez admitted that Verstappen got the better of him at Miami International Autodrome, and that he’ll need to review and see where improvements can be made for future races.
“This is one to learn from because clearly Max had the fastest pace. I think the performance Max showed today was not reachable for me, so I have to understand why. I think some was tyre related but equally, overall, he was the stronger driver today.”
“There was maybe a bit more we could have done; it is a bit of a shame really but in general, on a tough weekend P2 is not a bad result. We will review the weekend. I want to get back strong for Imola and get back to our normal level.”