Brilliant Verstappen runs down Perez to win in Miami
By Mat Coch
Monday 8th May, 2023 - 7:02am
An incredible opening stint set Max Verstappen up to run down Sergio Perez and claim victory in the Miami Grand Prix.
The Dutchman ran long on the hard compound tyres, carving his way through the pack in the early laps before closing the effective gap to team-mate Perez ahead of his stop.
With fresh tyres, there was no contest as Verstappen eased by at Turn 1 despite his team-mate’s best efforts to fend off the move.
Perez held on to second while Fernando Alonso had a lonely race to complete the podium.
Starting from pole, Perez started well as Alonso swept from the inside to the outside of the circuit to slot into second.
Further back, contact for Nyck de Vries dropped the Dutchman to the back as Oscar Piastri rose from 19th to 13th.
Lando Norris ran wide at Turn 1 and slipped to 19th, the McLaren driver having copped a whack from de Vries who’d locked up into the right-hander.
At the end of the opening lap, Perez had broken clear of Alonso in second, with Sainz third from Pierre Gasly, George Russell, Charles Leclerc, and Kevin Magnussen who’d fallen from fourth.
Verstappen had started ninth but slipped to 10th briefly before quickly moving forward.
He’d risen to eighth by the end of the following lap and was soon tucked up behind Magnussen.
A squabble between Charles Leclerc and Magnussen resulted in the pair losing a position as they completed Lap 3.
The Ferrari and Haas ran wheel to wheel around Turn 17, Magnussen hanging around the outside before slotting in behind while in his slipstream Verstappen pounced on the two cars ahead to claim sixth into Turn 1.
Having started on the soft tyres, both McLaren drivers stopped to swap their soft tyres – Norris after four laps and Piastri after five.
Verstappen’s charge forward continued by picking off Russell under brakes at Turn 17 on Lap 9 to move up to fifth.
A lap later, Gasly fell victim to the Dutchman, Russell following him through two corners later as the Alpine was wrong-footed through Turn 17.
Leclerc out a move on Magnussen into Turn 1 to claim seventh, only for the Dane to cut back underneath and reclaim the place immediately as they embarked on Lap 13.
The Ferrari driver attacked again into Turn 11 but the Haas driver had parked his car in the middle of the track to defend to spot.
Leclerc’s team-mate slipped to fourth at the same corner on the next lap as Verstappen dived up the inside of Sainz and move into the podium places.
It was a Red Bull one-two a lap later as the championship leader breezed by Alonso courtesy of DRS into the braking zone at Turn 11.
The pit sequence had really begun around Lap 15, but it was l 19 before Ferrari hauled in Sainz from fourth – an undercut attempt on Alonso.
Upon entry into the lane, the Spaniard had locked up badly, sliding over the speed limit line.
However, he emerged in a gaggle of cars, slotting in between Hamilton and Albon.
That was a lap after Russell and Leclerc had stopped as they exchanged their medium rubber for a new set of hards.
The white-walled rubber had proved to be the better race tyre, Verstappen reaping its benefits in the opening stanza.
Perez boxed from the lead at the end of Lap 20, handing the lead to Verstappen.
Running fifth as those around him pitted, Sainz picked up a five-second penalty for speeding in pit lane.
A longer opening stint for Alonso saw the Aston Martin driver swap tyres after 24 laps, feeding out behind Sainz.
The pair were soon locked in battle, Alonso making the move into Turn 11 on Lap 27.
Sainz wasn’t willing to cede the spot and immediately looked to launch a counter-attack.
He had a look into Turn 1 as they started the next lap before beginning to all back from the Aston Martin ahead and instead coming under the attentions of Esteban Ocon – the Alpine driver having started on the hard tyres and yet to stop.
Sainz was struggling, having briefly dropped behind Ocon before recovering the spot, he fell victim to Russell as the Mercedes moved forward on Lap 37.
Tyres were again the issue for the Ferrari as he struggled for grip on the hard rubber.
Ocon finally pitted after 39 laps, rejoining between Hamilton and Bottas, the Mercedes had just cleared the Alfa Romeo Sauber.
Verstappen was the last to stop when he took to the lane after 45 laps.
That saw Perez retake the lead, the two Red Bulls with little between them.
With a significant tyre advantage, Verstappen soon moved into DRS range, forcing Perez top defend into Turn 17 on Lap 47.
They were at it again at Turn 1, Perez again moving to the inside but without the grip to really mix it with his team-mate.
Verstappen went around the outside to complete the pass before quickly skipping clear.
Once clear of DRS range, the new leader simply managed his pace to the flag to take victory.
With Perez second, it marked the fourth Red Bull one-two from four races, while Alonso claimed his fourth podium of the season.
Russell was fourth from Sainz over the line from Hamilton, Leclerc, Gasly, Ocon, and Magnussen.
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