Formula 1: New favorite emerges after surprising Miami qualifying

Sergio Perez, Red Bull, Miami, Formula 1 (Photo by CHANDAN KHANNA/AFP via Getty Images)
Sergio Perez, Red Bull, Miami, Formula 1 (Photo by CHANDAN KHANNA/AFP via Getty Images) /

Sergio Perez is the favorite to win the Miami Grand Prix after a surprising end to Saturday’s Formula 1 qualifying session.

As he does every weekend, two-time reigning Formula 1 world champion Max Verstappen started as the prohibitive favorite to win the second annual Miami Grand Prix at Miami International Autodrome, a race he won last year as part of his record-breaking 15-win campaign.

Verstappen looked poised to take his first pole position at the 19-turn, 3.363-mile (5.412-kilometer) temporary street circuit outside Hard Rock Stadium after having been, in Formula 1 terms, in somewhat of a different time zone throughout the weekend.

But things did not go according to plan for the 25-year-old Dutchman in the third and final qualifying session. While Charles Leclerc’s crash ultimately prevented him from getting a second run to try to beat teammate Sergio Perez to the pole position, it was a mistake by Verstappen on his first run that prevented him from setting a time at all.

Perez took the pole position with a lap time slower than that which Verstappen posted in Q2. Meanwhile, Verstappen is set to start four rows behind his teammate in ninth place.

The pair are separated by six points in the driver standings, and a win for Perez would guarantee him his first career lead of the championship. Verstappen could tie him with a second place finish and fastest lap, but Perez would own the tiebreaker with one additional win.

Verstappen is still the favorite to win the title, though by a far less extent than he was to start the weekend (-500 instead of -700). Perez, meanwhile, has moved from +650 to +470.

It’s crazy what one session on a tight street track can do to the odds — and with 19 of 23 races still remaining on the 2023 Formula 1 schedule.

And for tomorrow’s 57-lap race, Verstappen is no longer the favorite. That title belongs to Perez. Here are the odds, courtesy of FanDuel Sportsbook, for the only seven drivers with odds shorter than +10000.

  • Sergio Perez, Red Bull: -115
  • Max Verstappen, Red Bull: +160
  • Fernando Alonso, Aston Martin: +700
  • Carlos Sainz Jr., Ferrari: +2200
  • Charles Leclerc, Ferrari: +5000
  • George Russell, Mercedes: +5000
  • Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes: +6500

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Of course, Verstappen has won with worse odds than +160 before, and from positions outside of the top nine. In fact, he became just the second driver in Formula 1 history to win back-to-back races from outside the top nine last year when he won in Hungary (+900) from 10th place and then in Belgium in 14th.

In Belgium, however, he was still the favorite, given that his poor starting position came as a result of a grid penalty and he had been by far the quickest driver of the weekend leading up to the Grand Prix.

But it will be tough for him to make up eight spots from ninth place on a tight street circuit, even one at which he had been lightning fast until the disaster that was Q3.

There are inherent challenges that come with starting in the middle of the pack, in addition to the fact that his biggest championship rival is set to start eight positions ahead, presumably with clean air after the lights go out.

With 20 cars barreling into turn one — and beyond — packed tightly together, Verstappen’s goal will undoubtedly be to keep the RB19 out of trouble and let the race come to him as his afternoon hopefully progresses.

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ABC is set to broadcast the Miami Grand Prix live from outside the home of the Miami Dolphins beginning at 3:30 p.m. ET on Sunday, May 7. Pre-race coverage is set to begin at 2:00 p.m. ET. Begin a free trial of FuboTV today and don’t miss it!