Ferrari must deploy Plan A: All-out attack to beat Max Verstappen

Ferrari are Red Bull's closest challengers in Miami and Charles Leclerc will be on the attack

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When Max Verstappen starts on pole position, he usually wins. That doesn’t bode well for the 2024 Miami Grand Prix. The last time Verstappen didn’t win from pole was the 2024 Australian GP, where he retired.

We have to go back nearly two years to the 2022 Austrian GP to find the previous occasion where Verstappen started from first but didn’t win. Charles Leclerc won that race and it’s the Ferrari driver who lines up alongside Verstappen in Miami.

Carlos Sainz and Sergio Perez make up the second row, so maybe we will get a battle for the win between Red Bull and Ferrari. The Miami GP should definitely give us a more competitive battle for the lead compared to the last two races in Japan and China.

Aggressive at the start

Verstappen didn’t get the best start in the Sprint, so had to cover off Leclerc before swinging around the outside into Turn 1. There wasn’t much more Leclerc could do, but if he gets alongside on Sunday, maybe throwing his car into the corner could give him the lead.

Starts in modern F1 are relatively even and Red Bull seemingly understand why Verstappen‘s initial launch in the Sprint wasn’t that strong.

Max Verstappen leads the field into Turn 1 at the start of the Sprint at the 2024 Miami Grand Prix | Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool
Max Verstappen leads the field into Turn 1 at the start of the Sprint at the 2024 Miami Grand Prix | Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool

“I think we know what we did wrong, what I did wrong as well,” said Verstappen, who has won every race at the Miami GP since it joined the F1 calendar in 2022.

“I’m sure that if I do my things correctly and we’re just very good with what we have been doing in the last few starts, then normally it should be alright.”

Verstappen and Leclerc on the front row is always exciting but it’s a short run to Turn 1, with contact also possible due to the pinch effect into the hairpin.

“The first corner is obviously always important,” said Leclerc. “Max has a very strong race pace. So, it’s definitely an opportunity to attack. But that’s only if there is an opportunity to attack.

“In the Sprint, there was. I didn’t make the pass. In the race, we manage to make it, then I will be happy. And if not, we will be a bit more patient and try to keep those tyres to attack later on.”

Charles Leclerc after the 2024 Miami GP Sprint | Ferrari
Charles Leclerc after the 2024 Miami GP Sprint | Ferrari

Two Ferraris vs Verstappen?

Both Ferraris must stay ahead of Perez to try and put Verstappen under pressure. Perez isn’t the best at following other cars and Ferrari can play some strategy games with the undercut to try and get by Verstappen.

If the top four stays the same in the first stint, maybe Leclerc should pit early to force Verstappen into the pit lane, while Sainz goes long in the hope of a Safety Car or Virtual Safety Car. There has been a SC or VSC intervention at the two Miami GP so far.

Ferrari should also consider starting one of their drivers on the hard tyre to go long. This is the strategy that Verstappen used last year on his way to victory from ninth on the grid.

“I think when Max starts in front, it’s always difficult to find ways to beat him,” said Sainz. “Having two cars is our best possible bet in trying to do that.

“We will give it our best shot, knowing that is… Obviously, if you look at the last statistics, it’s going to be extremely difficult, but we’ll give it our best shot.”

One stop on the cards

Getting the tyres into the optimal window has been a struggle all weekend but tyre wear isn’t much of a factor due to the slow-speed corners. A simple medium-hard or hard-medium is the way to go for every team.

Leclerc was able to keep Verstappen within two seconds for most of the Sprint, which gives Ferrari some hope. With DRS enabled after one lap, Leclerc will surely go for it early on to try and overtake Verstappen on track.

“The Sprint race we were a little bit closer to what uh to what we normally see,” said Leclerc. “However I also said that Max wasn’t really happy with his car in the Sprint race.

“So we need to see how much of a step forward he does, being happier with the car. But as I said, we did some fine tuning on our side. We’re also confident we did a step forward. so we’ll see.

“But if we have a similar pace like we’ve seen in the Sprint, then I think with strategy you can always put a bit more a bit more pressure. And I hope that is the case. We’ve got the two cars in the front, so it’s a good opportunity.”

John Smith
John Smithhttps://total-motorsport.com
Editor at Total-Motorsport.com and all round Motorsport journalist specialising in Formula 1, IndyCar and Formula E.
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