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Analysis
Formula 1 Miami GP

10 things we learned at the 2023 F1 Miami Grand Prix

Formula 1's return to Miami last weekend yielded a repeat result to the inaugural 2022 Grand Prix as Max Verstappen once more stood atop the podium. And just like last year, the Red Bull driver had to do the job on track after missing out in qualifying, securing a result that will sting for his chief title rival. Here's what we learned from F1's first of three trips Stateside in 2023

Podium: race winner Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing, second place Sergio Perez, Red Bull Racing, third place Fernando Alonso, Aston Martin F1 Team, and Oliver Hughes, Chief Marketing Officer at Red Bull Racing

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With five successive wins at the start of the 2023 Formula 1 season, there was little to be learned in Max Verstappen’s Miami Grand Prix triumph for his Red Bull squad – bar the team nailing the tricky demands of the track’s new surface around the home of the Miami Dolphins NFL team.

But for the Dutchman, his recovery from a wrecked Q3 to win ahead of pole-sitting team-mate Sergio Perez set out a narrative-shifting marker that is predicted to become the main basis of his title defence in what is clearly, solely, an intra-Red Bull affair.

Elsewhere, Ferrari’s tough 2023 start continued, Alpine had to hear some strong criticism from its boss and the FIA introduced new personnel rules following Esteban Ocon’s pitlane near-miss a week ago in Baku.

This what we learned from F1’s second trip to Miami.

1. Verstappen snaps Perez’s early title momentum

Perez and Verstappen had won two races each heading to Miami, but the Dutchman's stylish victory was a mark of authority

Perez and Verstappen had won two races each heading to Miami, but the Dutchman's stylish victory was a mark of authority

Photo by: Zak Mauger / Motorsport Images

Perez arrived in Miami riding high after his impressive Baku weekend performances, where Verstappen had looked out of sorts and rattled. The Dutchman then rather startlingly admitted to not liking street tracks in the pre-event press conference once the paddock had rocked up on the other side of the world in Miami and was punished for his early Q3 error.

But, come the race, Verstappen showed Perez exactly how hard it’s going to be to mount at true title challenge as he quickly and ferociously rose from ninth on the grid to trail his team-mate after just 15 laps.

The pair engaged in a tyre management duel – not the stuff of F1 legend – with the hard tyre performing better and confounding Red Bull’s pre-race expectations Verstappen would have a harder race. In fact, Perez was worse off and that must be remembered. This was not an equal fight, but starting eight spots higher should’ve yielded a bigger advantage.

PLUS: How Verstappen deployed an under-appreciated strong suit to defeat Perez in Miami

Once they’d swapped rubber, the pair went wheel to wheel – Perez mounting a defence and earning credit, but it was to no avail. They gave each other respectful room at Turn 1 and Verstappen then disappeared, his dominance restored at a track with the higher speed stuff he excels in compared to Perez.

With only Monaco to come back on the ground Perez prefers for the next phase of the season, this felt like a defining, momentum sapping moment in their title battle.

2. Verstappen closes on another Red Bull record

Verstappen's 38 wins for Red Bull draw him level with Vettel's tally for the squad, which will soon surely be surpassed

Verstappen's 38 wins for Red Bull draw him level with Vettel's tally for the squad, which will soon surely be surpassed

Photo by: Steven Tee / Motorsport Images

Verstappen became F1 and Red Bull’s youngest race winner with his stunning victory on team debut at the 2016 Spanish GP. Now, just one week shy of the seventh anniversary of that famous moment in his story, with his Miami triumph Verstappen has equalled Sebastian Vettel’s record of 38 wins for the team.

His success has come over a longer period, as Vettel’s victories came just before and then throughout Red Bull’s first period as F1’s dominating squad – covering four years between the 2009 Chinese GP and the 2013 season-ender in Brazil. Plus, Verstappen still trails Vettel in the ultimate measure of success – team or otherwise – with two titles to the German’s four.

But he’s on-course to take a third successive championship now his lead over Perez is back up to 14 points. And should Red Bull’s crushing car advantage last to the end of this rules era in 2025, there’s every chance he could beat Vettel’s title haul and take five in a row. That’s something Red Bull’s other champion never managed once the start of the V6 hybrid era ended its first period atop F1’s pecking order.

3. Leclerc is back to making 2020-style errors

Qualifying crash for Leclerc was his second in as many days as he floundered in efforts to keep pace with Red Bull

Qualifying crash for Leclerc was his second in as many days as he floundered in efforts to keep pace with Red Bull

Photo by: Steven Tee / Motorsport Images

Having finally kickstarted his 2023 season with his Baku GP podium and sprint second place, plus two poles, Leclerc then made it two weekends in a row where he shunted in qualifying. But where his Baku sprint qualifying Q3 crash didn’t prove costly, his high-speed off exiting Turn 6 in Miami stopped him starting higher than seventh and wrecked the late final segment hopes for the rest too.

His race performance actually wasn’t as bad as it appeared on the surface given he was battling a bizarrely shifting oversteer-then-understeer balance and an apparent wind weakness in the SF-23. But even though he caught and passed Pierre Gasly’s Alpine late on, he still got mired battling Kevin Magnussen’s Haas and was beaten by Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes, which had started six spots back albeit on the stronger strategy.

But the crashes are really starting to mount once Leclerc’s Australia early exit is considered. He appears to have regressed to the down moments registered in 2020, when his disappointment at Ferrari delivering a poor package – then all to do with its power output – led to him trying too hard to make up the difference. This led to several crashes, including a shunt with then team-mate Vettel in Austria and triggering a pile-up in Bahrain.

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Leclerc’s wild style is thrilling and has won him many fans, but it appears it becoming as big a hinderance as it is often a strength as the Scuderia’s underwhelming 2023 continues.

4. Mercedes has made it to its Imola upgrade milestone

The bouncing trait of Mercedes' 2022 W13 car reared its head in Miami with W14

The bouncing trait of Mercedes' 2022 W13 car reared its head in Miami with W14

Photo by: Jake Grant / Motorsport Images

Mercedes had quite the rollercoaster weekend in Miami. It led FP1 with a 1-2, then saw its pace disappear as it couldn’t get the softs working in qualifying, where Hamilton was dumped out in Q2. Then in the race, George Russell starred and Hamilton produced a fine recovery effort.

PLUS: Miami Grand Prix Driver Ratings 2023

Inconsistency is something both the W13 and W14 packages have featured, with the latter having the ride problems so famously encountered in the former return in the corners around the Hard Rock Stadium last weekend. Now, Mercedes is on the verge of implementing its much-vaunted Imola upgrade – having decided to switch car concept around another poor season start.

But Toto Wolff is refusing to get carried away, even if Mercedes is hoping its most-painful part of 2023 is now behind it.

“We need to manage our own expectations,” said Wolff. “Because we're bringing an update package that's going to consist of new suspension parts and bodywork and some other things. But I have never in my 15 years in Formula 1 seen a silver bullet being introduced, where suddenly you unlock half a second of performance.

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“So I very much doubt that this is going to happen here. What I'm looking forward is that we take certain variables off the table where we believe we could have introduced something that we don't understand in the car. And to go more, let's say, to a stable platform. And then we should see where the baseline is and what we can do from there.”

5. Alpine responds to CEO home truths

Rossi was outspoken in his criticism of Alpine's performance so far in 2023, but saw a response in Miami

Rossi was outspoken in his criticism of Alpine's performance so far in 2023, but saw a response in Miami

Photo by: Alpine

“It's disappointing, it's actually bad. This year ended up starting with a flawed performance and flawed delivery. It's obvious our position in the standings is not worthy of the resources we spend, and we are quite far – in fact very far – from this year's end goal. I'm noting not only an obvious lack of performance and rigour in the delivery, but also potentially a state of mind that is not up to this team's past standards.”

Damning stuff from Alpine CEO Laurent Rossi, who was unloading to French TV station Canal+ before Miami qualifying and thinking back to his team’s disastrous Baku event. That had followed a shambolic start in Bahrain, plus the painful double crash at the late Melbourne restart. All told, Alpine had taken just eight points from the first four races and trailed rival McLaren despite the orange team’s slow season start.

But at least Pierre Gasly and Esteban Ocon then delivered for the French team – each making Q3 and the former starting fifth thanks to Leclerc’s crash preserving his banker Q3 effort. Split strategies led to the eighth and ninth in the race, with all the faster leading teams ahead. But that at least put Alpine backs where Rossi expects it to be at a minimum and the team is now level with McLaren on 14 points.

6. Miami’s new surface holds up and adds to race intrigue

The Magnussen-Leclerc battle raged for much of the race, as racing proved better than expected on the slippery surface

The Magnussen-Leclerc battle raged for much of the race, as racing proved better than expected on the slippery surface

Photo by: Andy Hone / Motorsport Images

At the inaugural Miami GP last year, aggressive water blasting was thought to have contributed to the track breaking up in several spots, which meant the race organisers opted for a full resurfacing ahead of the second race. This time the water blasting was much less intense, which meant the surface remained oily and very low-grip off-line.

This, plus rain overnight ahead of race day, meant the drivers had a tricky time managing their rubber even as the hards proved to be durable, with the slightest error or botched overtake heavily penalised.

This all added up to a lively race, especially compared to the Baku snoozefest, with overtaking occurring throughout the order and once the early mid-pack DRS train had been ended up the medium starting drivers stopping.

But the main reason for this action was cars starting out of position and then racing back through, which suggests a more processional race might’ve occurred but for the Saturday struggles. These included several teams battling to get the softs in the right window on the low-grip surface.

7. New driver intros ceremony proves divisive

Norris was among the more outspoken drivers on the driver introduction ceremony

Norris was among the more outspoken drivers on the driver introduction ceremony

Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images

In scenes reminiscent of boxing MC Michael Buffer introducing drivers to the grid at Austin in 2017, F1 hosted the first in a series of special driver introductions on the Miami grid last weekend.

This time rapper LL Cool J presented the drivers on a huge gantry erected at the head of the grid and this was followed by Will.i.am leading an orchestra performing his and Lil Wayne’s new F1-inspired song ‘The Formula’ that had come out the day before.

Inevitably, social media reaction was snarky, but, much more importantly, the ceremony got a big set of thumbs down from the drivers. Although Lewis Hamilton expressed support for the scenes that are set to return at certain future races this year, Lando Norris claimed “none of the drivers like it”.

8. De Ferran returns to try and boost McLaren rebuild

McLaren's former sporting director de Ferran has returned as a consultant

McLaren's former sporting director de Ferran has returned as a consultant

Photo by: Steven Tee / Motorsport Images

McLaren had its raised hopes from its Baku floor upgrade rather dashed with its Miami showing – where the MCL60’s remaining drag problem was a big hinderance and incidents stopped its race progressing before it ever got going.

But the team had at least a small bright spot to converge on from Miami, where former sporting director Gil de Ferran returned to work as a consultant to its new leadership structure, helmed by team principal Andrea Stella.

“Gil is essentially a consultant, so non-operational, non-executive and that's a role as a consultant to myself and to Piers [Thynne, McLaren Racing COO],” Stella explained.

“We thought that Gil, with us during this process, during this journey, would add horsepower from a leadership point of view. Gil is not only very knowledgeable about racing, but is definitely strong in identifying talent, supporting talent.”

De Ferran’s return is one McLaren fans should welcome given his previous stint coincided with the team rising from the 2017 nadir of its Honda partnership to beat Ferrari to third place in the constructors’ championship in 2020.

9. AlphaTauri drivers continue their contrasting 2023 starts

As Tsunoda enjoyed a strong race, De Vries again struggled after reaching Q2 as the best of the AlphaTauris

As Tsunoda enjoyed a strong race, De Vries again struggled after reaching Q2 as the best of the AlphaTauris

Photo by: Red Bull Content Pool

One week on from Yuki Tsunoda and Nyck de Vries delivering starkly contrasting results in the Baku GP, it was the same story for AlphaTauri pair in Miami – although only after the latter finally got the better of his team-mate in qualifying.

But de Vries undid all his good Saturday work in making Q2 by locking up and clattering into Lando Norris at Turn 1, which gave him flat-stop vibrations and a rather lonely race at the back. Tsunoda, meanwhile had a brilliant and battling first lap, then made the contra-strategy work well as he rose from 18th to 11th – finishing there for the third time in 2023 as he defied Lance Stroll’s rapid Aston Martin at the flag.

Next up its AlphaTauri’s home race at Imola, with the team expressing its condolences to the families of two people who died in heavy flooding in and around Faenza upon arriving in Miami.

10. The FIA responds to late-race Baku pitlane shambles

There will be no repeat of Ocon's Baku pitlane near miss

There will be no repeat of Ocon's Baku pitlane near miss

Photo by: Mark Sutton

After the horrifying scenes that ended the Baku race with Ocon entering a pitlane packed with people heading to parc ferme, in Miami the FIA revealed the changes it had implemented in a bid to avoid such scenes being repeated.

In the usual post-race procedure document distributed to the teams pre-each GP, this was updated last weekend to include the following: "Team mechanics are not permitted to move from their garages to the parc ferme with cooling fans in anticipation of their cars stopping at the end of the race until after the last car has taken the chequered flag.

"Any other personnel or VIPs are not permitted to enter the pit lane until after the last car has taken the chequered flag. Any infringement will result in the removal of passes from the team(s) in question from subsequent events, and potential reporting of the infringing team(s) to the stewards."

The lack of any unusual tyre strategies meant the pit lane was not a late focus in Miami, where Red Bulls mechanics were spotted abiding by the requirement – since Australia – not to climb to the top of the debris fences lining most pit straights in celebration and stressing the angled part of the barrier at the top as they, and staff from Aston, had done in Jeddah.

The race was thankfully devoid of concerning incidents

The race was thankfully devoid of concerning incidents

Photo by: Red Bull Content Pool

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