Max Verstappen stamped his authority on the inter-team Red Bull battle at the Miami Grand Prix, coming through the field from ninth at the start to snatch the win from Sergio Perez and extend his advantage to 14 points in the world championship.
The Dutchman started on the hard tyres and set up the victory with a mega first stint, before switching onto the mediums and passing his teammate with less than 10 laps left to complete a superb comeback.
“It was a good race, I stayed out of trouble and was able to stay out long on the first stint,” Verstappen said.
“Yesterday was a bit of a setback, but today we kept it clean and it feels so good to win from ninth.”
The result will be a bitter pill to swallow for Perez, who was on cloud nine after qualifying on pole, eight places ahead of his championship rival. He was on the reverse strategy to Verstappen and was powerless to resist his teammate’s advances.
Behind Perez, and in another race entirely, Fernando Alonso kept Carlos Sainz at bay in the early stages, before completing a solid podium drive, albeit finishing more than 20 seconds behind the Red Bulls.
George Russell took fourth for Mercedes, ahead of Sainz in fifth and Lewis Hamilton in sixth, whose excellent second stint saw him surge through the field from 13th to limit the damage of a disappointing qualifying.
Charles Leclerc polished off a weekend to forget in seventh, ahead of the Alpines of Pierre Gasly and Esteban Ocon, with Kevin Magnussen rounding out the points after a great drive in the Haas.
How Verstappen blitzed the field in Miami
If there were any lingering doubts about the dominance of Red Bull’s RB19, they can now be put to bed.
After qualifying second, Alonso smiled when predicting it would take Verstappen 25 laps to catch and pass him; he did it in 15, and that was after a sluggish launch off the line.
The best of the moves was a beauty of a double overtake on Lap 4, as he pounced on the squabbles of Magnussen and Leclerc to pick both of their pockets into Turn 1 for sixth.
From there, his ascent to top spot was processional. The long DRS zone down to Turn 17 saw plenty of action, none of it hard-fought, sadly, with Russell, Gasly, Sainz and Alonso smart enough to know a losing battle when they saw it.
Credit where it is due, though; when the world champion began Lap 16, he was just 3.2 seconds behind his teammate, despite his lowly starting berth.
When Perez pitted at the end of Lap 20 to ditch his medium tyres, Verstappen inherited top spot and actually extended his advantage over the Mexican towards the end of a mega 45-lap stint.
When he emerged from the pits on fresh mediums, he was just 1.5 seconds in arrears to Perez on old hards, and made it past on Lap 48, despite the Mexican’s best defensive efforts.
It was the kind of drive that showed why Verstappen has become the dominant force in this era of F1. Yes, the car has no equal, but it’s hard to argue the same can’t be said about the driver.
Second stint spares Hamilton’s blushes
Hamilton lined up 13th after a miserable Miami Saturday and made little progress off the line come race day as the Brit found himself at the back of a DRS train – the sight of which is becoming all too frequent and threatens to define the ground-effect regulations.
With some of the runners on the medium tyres ahead and pitting early, he was finally able to get past Alex Albon on Lap 16, before inheriting a couple more places and overtaking Nico Hulkenberg for sixth.
Sixth became seventh when he was told to let his teammate past, and seventh became 13th all over again when he pitted himself at the end of Lap 37.
However, with 20 laps to make amends for what came before, the seven-time world champion pulled off some brilliant moves to take a hard-earned sixth.
Crossing the line, his radio message in the opening laps claiming he didn’t think he’d be able to make it to the chequered flag after an early knick on his front wing would have felt a distant memory.
Hamilton’s late surge included another battle with Albon, a crucial switch-back on Valtteri Bottas that ensured he undertook Ocon who was on the same strategy, a simple pass on Gasly, and a last-gasp move under braking on Leclerc.
Sixth is certainly nothing to celebrate, but with no safety cars or red flags, it’s hard to see how Hamilton, or anyone for that matter, could have done any more in the circumstances.
Those upgrades can’t come soon enough for the Brackley outfit.