Ferrari belonged to pole position, Red Bull to victory. Max Verstappen dominated the GP Miami up to the safety car and fended off the onrushing Charles Leclerc in the end. The world champion reduced the gap to 19 points with his third win of the season. And yet Verstappen still found hair in the soup.
Max Verstappen called his third win of the season a very good comeback after a completely botched Friday. Instead of getting to know the new track in Miami, the world champion only completed 15 laps in two practice sessions. A third of it was usable. The lack of preparation put Verstappen on the wrong foot in qualifying. Both Ferraris were faster than the Red Bull spearhead.
A day later, the 24-year-old reversed the picture. Verstappen overtook Carlos Sainz at the start in the first corner combination and outperformed the second Ferrari with Charles Leclerc at the wheel on the ninth lap. It was the cornerstone of later victory. The car with starting number one flew, even though Verstappen had not completed a real long run in preparation. It was precisely this circumstance that made him urge his team to be more mindful.
"Problems like the one we had on Friday spoil a weekend. I felt that on Saturday," explains the 23rd time GP winner. "I didn't know what to expect in the race. I hadn't even practiced a start. It could have gone the other way for us today. Due to our lack of reliability, we sometimes hit the setup and sometimes we don't . We have to stop that. But I'd rather have a fast car than a slow and reliable one."
Verstappen is sweating
This Sunday in Miami, Verstappen had a fast and bulletproof car. Although temperatures of 30 degrees Celsius caused problems for both the technology and the drivers. After the race, Verstappen first had to sit down and take strong sips from the drinking bottle. The Miami premiere took its toll on the body. "It was very hot in the cockpit. Especially in the second sector. I was always happy as soon as I was on the straights to cool down a bit. During the safety car I raised my visor a notch to be able to breathe better ."
But it was precisely this safety car that made the world champion sweat a lot in the final phase. A lead of 7.5 seconds to his pursuer in the Ferrari evaporated. "Of course, the safety car was completely inconvenient for me. But that's the way it is. Sometimes you're unlucky with it, sometimes lucky," says Verstappen - and is probably alluding to the season finale in Abu Dhabi in 2021, when he was hit by a late safety made Car a champion after all.
A virtual safety car on lap 40, a real one on lap 42 and the restart five laps later: With Leclerc breathing down my neck, it was clear that there would be an eleven-lap sprint to the checkered flag. A boring race turned into an exciting race. "I knew I had to give it my all until the end. It wasn't easy because it's so easy to make mistakes on this track." If you only slightly miss the ideal line on the dirty track.
World champion withstands the pressure
The final was reminiscent of Saudi Arabia. This time with Leclerc as the hunter. "We trembled in the garage. With a slipstream and DRS, you're actually defenseless on this route," reports Red Bull sports director Helmut Marko. "Max was under the greatest pressure. The DRS had a powerful effect here. And then you were allowed to open it in three places. That's why we were very worried about losing the sure win," recalls team boss Christian Horner.
His protégé didn't make the slightest mistake. He didn't even open Leclerc a crack, although he didn't bring the hard tire back into the temperature window quickly enough after the restart on lap 47. His best defense tool: top speed. In the streamlined Red Bull, the world champion was able to defend himself better than Leclerc at the beginning of the race in the Ferrari, which builds up more air resistance.
It also helped that the red car wasn't as superior in the slow corners as it was the day before. And so Verstappen brought home an important victory which, together with the extra point for the fastest lap, puts him within 19 points of Leclerc in the world championship.
Red Bull's advantage straight ahead
Red Bull has developed a small advantage. In the first part of the race on the medium tires the dark blue car was slightly faster than the red one. Because it didn't push the tires as hard. Verstappen knew how to limit the wear on the right front tire better through his driving style. "The medium tire suits us very well," said the winner. On the hard compound, on the other hand, there was practically a tie between the two best cars in the field.
Team boss Horner summarized: "Ferrari owned the first section with the fast corners. We were faster in the second and third." There it goes straight for a long time. Fully to the taste of the RB18. "The bottom line was that Ferrari and we were pretty much equal."