Verstappen expected Miami GP recovery

Max Verstappen never doubted he could rise from ninth place to the podium in Miami

Max Verstappen never doubted he could rise from ninth place to the podium in Miami

Max Verstappen always believed he would recover from ninth on the grid at the Miami GP to at least the podium.

The Dutchman was caught out by a red flag in Qualifying 3 on Saturday and started the race ninth as a result.

He stormed through the field in the opening stages to run second to pole-sitting team-mate Sergio Perez on Lap 15.

That became the lead on Lap 20 when the medium-shod Perez headed to the pits.

Verstappen held top spot until his tyre change on Lap 45, swapping the hard compound Pirellis for a set of medium rubber.

That saw him drop to second behind Perez, though he reversed that order just three laps later to go on a win the race.

“[After qualifying,] I said to myself minimum P2 because I think that is where we should finish anyway with the car we have,” Verstappen said.

“But it’s always difficult to know, of course, what’s going to happen.

If you have a terrible Lap 1, you make it even harder for yourself, right?

“But luckily it didn’t work out too bad, just making sure you didn’t have any damage on the car but then again, it’s all about how the performance is of the car and how well you feel in the car, how much you can extract out of it.

“Lucky that all worked out very well today so then of course you can move forward and win the race.”

Verstappen’s performance came at an important time in the drivers’ championship.

Perez won both the F1 Sprint and race proper in Azerbaijan to close the gap at the top of the standings.

He carried good momentum and confidence into Miami and, heading into the race, held the upper hand strategically.

The decision to start on the hard compound tyres, a choice Verstappen lobbied his engineers for, left him on what proved to be the better race tyre.

More important was his ability to carve through the field quickly, meaning he didn’t overly stress the tyres.

His cause was helped by Perez struggling on the medium rubber, which prevented him from extending a more significant gap before his first stop.

After that point, the Mexican needed to manage his tyres to the finish, meaning he had little hope of fending off Verstappen.

The difference between the pair following the Dutchman’s stop was just a handful of seconds, a gap that quickly closed.

With newer, softer rubber, on a circuit with more grip and a car that had burned off much of its fuel, the medium tyre was less troublesome for Verstappen than it had been his team-mate.

Therefore, the run to the flag was comparatively straightforward; the championship leader needed little more than to manage his pace and tyres in case of a late Safety Car.

In the end, he cantered to the line, winning by 5.3s over Perez in what was Red Bull’s fourth one-two from five races.

Verstappen holds a 14-point advantage at the top of the drivers’ championship as the circus heads to Europe and the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix on May 19-21.

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