Formula 1 descended on Florida for the 2023 Miami Grand Prix, but an intriguing setup post-qualifying failed to translate into an entertaining race for the second year in a row.
Max Verstappen took a win that seemed unlikely at lights out but was entirely predictable from around halfway through the grand prix, and Ferrari‘s collapse in pace removed any chance of a battle for the podium.
There was no lack of glitz and glamour with F1 and Miami pulling out all the stops to make the weekend a spectacle off-track but this race once again proves that an event will live and die by the entertainment on Sunday
However, an upshot of such a star-studded event was the potential for some entertaining celebrity interactions… and some less entertaining ones. Sir Jackie Stewart deserves an honorary mention, it was very tempting to include him in the winners for his brilliant effort against the might of Miami security to secure a Roger Federer interview for Sky Sports.
On the other side of the coin, Fast and Furious 10’s Vin Diesel and Michelle Rodriguez really do deserve to be in the losers for an achingly unwatchable pre-race feature followed by a hype video that had the complete opposite effect.
Loser: Sergio Perez
Once again the Red Bull duo are both included in this list and once against Sergio Perez leads us off, this time as a loser though.
Everything looked written in the stars for the Mexican to complete a lights-to-flag victory after Charles Leclerc gave him a massive boost by ending qualifying early and condemning Verstappen to ninth, nine places behind Perez.
But as soon as the lights went out, Verstappen just looked the man to beat. He’ll get his due shortly but after some initial hope that Perez was managing the tyres and driving within himself, it became clear he just didn’t have it on the Miami International Autodrome.
There was probably an overreaction from fans and the media to Perez‘s impressive Baku win, but this was definitely a crash back to earth.
Winner: Max Verstappen
‘I’m him’ performances are in vogue at the moment, and that sums up Verstappen‘s Sunday perfectly.
A rare error in qualifying came back to bite him in the worse way possible, but as soon as Verstappen launched that double-pass on Leclerc and Kevin Magnussen on lap four it became clear he was a man on a mission.
Verstappen wasted no time scything through the field in what was clearly the fastest car, but it was the way he responded to Perez that truly stood out, he was just better than his teammate in all areas of the race.
Verstappen probably would’ve won whatever strategy Red Bull set him on, his pace on noticably worn hard tyres was just masterful and he deservedly extended his championship lead.
Loser: Logan Sargeant
The driver with all the hype leading into his hometown grand prix, the most positive thing to say about Sargeant‘s time in Miami is that he finished, making it just the 14th race in F1 history where all the starters finished.
Aside from that, his afternoon was pretty much over after he suffered damage on the opening lap and spent nearly 30 seconds in his pit box getting a new front wing.
Sargeant‘s 2023 is beginning to reflect Yuki Tsunoda‘s rookie season – a bright start on a familiar circuit in Bahrain but largely downhill after that. He’s not helped by his own version of 2021 Gasly – Alex Albon – who was battling Mercedes and Haas over the grand prix but couldn’t quite get into contention for points.
Sargeant will need to put this home disappointment behind him though, he didn’t particularly shine at Imola or Monaco in 2022 F2 but how he responds over the next triple-header could define his season.
Winner: Kevin Magnussen
It got a bit lost in the mayhem of qualifying that Kevin Magnussen went top in Q3, and though he did get some fortune to bag fourth on the grid, sometimes you make your own luck in F1.
On raceday he picked his battles well and showed plenty of guile to continually thwart Leclerc over the whole of his first stint, after the Ferrari first got ahead on lap three.
He’s had a difficult start to the season and been outshone by Hulkenberg over the opening rounds of the season, but this was a measure of fightback from the ‘Bad boy of F1 turned good’, according to LL Cool J.
In a season where the top seven or eight will often be the reserve of the four frontrunners, points places are at a premium so even tenth place is a good haul for Haas.
Loser: Charles Leclerc
The other side of that coin, Charles Leclerc‘s 40 laps behind Magnussen really cost him dear. Ferrari very much could’ve been in this list as a team instead here but Carlos Sainz put in a battling performance as the lead man in red.
It was the complete inverse of the Azerbaijan GP, where he could get nowhere near Leclerc in qualifying or the race, Leclerc just tried to bite off a bit too much on Saturday looking for what could’ve genuinely been a very quick lap.
But more concerning than that inconsistency was Ferrari‘s complete lack of race competitiveness. Their tyre wear was a problem in 2022 and they don’t seem to have got any closer to solving it one year on.
Sainz looked like he could be in with a shot of third place at the first pitstop phase but was flailing as soon as he got onto the hard rubber and was closer to losing fifth to Lewis Hamilton than gaining a podium by the end.
Winner: George Russell
Another driver who flipped the teammate tables after Baku, this time in a positive way as George Russell looked back to his best.
In Azerbaijan, the Mercedes drivers’ weekends diverged after they were separated by the smallest of margins in qualifying. However, in Miami qualifying Russell was a comfortable two-tenths ahead of Hamilton and was always a race ahead of his illustrious teammate, maximising his points haul with a late overtake on Sainz to seal fourth.
Hamilton had a more rollercoaster weekend but saved it somewhat with an efficient late stint that featured a slick overtake on Leclerc.
People do maybe need to calm down a bit on expectations for the Mercedes upgrades that are coming for Imola in a fortnight, but two months on from that hugely depressing Bahrain GP weekend there are definitely reasons to be cheerful at Brackley.
Loser: Lance Stroll
Qualified 18th while his teammate got Aston Martin on the front row, and finished 12th as Fernando Alonso scored yet another podium. That makes it 12 competitive sessions out of 12 this season that Alonso has beaten Lance Stroll, who didn’t even perform this poorly in Bahrain when he only had one wrist.
Laurent Rossi, are you not entertained? The Alpine CEO gave a scathing assessment of the team’s start to the 2023 season – and in fairness they wouldn’t have expected to be behind McLaren after four races.
However, they leave Florida level on points with the Woking team and all from a performance that didn’t rely on luck.
Alpine were genuinely quick all weekend, they’ll struggle to beat Mercedes, Ferrari or Alonso many times without weather or incident-affected races but within those parameters they pretty much maximised their points haul from Miami.
It could’ve been even better for Pierre Gasly, who lost two places late on when saving fuel, but eighth and ninth is still a great result for Alpine all-round.
So how about those upgrades? McLaren hoped they’d push them up to where they expected to be at the start of the season, but in reality this was their worst weekend since the Bahrain GP.
There’s no great scoop to provide here, McLaren were simply the slowest team all weekend and finished as such in qualifying and the race.
Their strategy of sending both cars out on soft tyres and relying on an early safety car was certainly ambitious – the only action for Bert Mylander in 2022 came late on – and after this was an incident-free race maybe teams will shy away from anything similar in 2024.
Still, Vin Diesel and Michelle Rodriguez found literally everything Lando Norris and Oscar Piastri said absolutely hilarious so it wasn’t all bad.