Formula 1: Max Verstappen win a more crushing blow than usual

Max Verstappen, Red Bull, Formula 1 (Photo by Eva Marie Uzcategul T/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
Max Verstappen, Red Bull, Formula 1 (Photo by Eva Marie Uzcategul T/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images) /

Sergio Perez was poised to lead the Formula 1 world championship for the first time, but Max Verstappen had other plans in Miami.

Sergio Perez had a chance to take the lead of the Formula 1 world championship standings for the first time in his career on Sunday at Miami International Autodrome, and he was in the perfect position to do it, starting on the pole position with two-time reigning world champion and points leader Max Verstappen starting in ninth place.

No matter where Verstappen finished, Perez was guaranteed to lead the standings with a win in Sunday’s 57-lap race around the 19-turn, 3.363-mile (5.412-kilometer) temporary street circuit around Hard Rock Stadium.

A Verstappen runner-up finish with a fastest lap would have seen the two level on points with 112 each, but Perez would have owned the tiebreaker with one additional win.

Instead, it was Verstappen crossing the finish line to take the checkered flag by more than five seconds ahead of his Red Bull teammate, extending his lead atop the standings and making the Miami Grand Prix the 22nd consecutive race after which he has owned the points lead.

Perez has finished behind his teammate before, and in second place. The result is not uncommon. The pair split the season’s first four races, with Perez finishing in second in Bahrain. Verstappen also led all five Red Bull 1-2 finishes last year in the RB18.

But this race was by far the most crushing blow that Max Verstappen has delivered to his teammate’s Formula 1 world championship hopes.

Heading into Sunday, this was one of the rare races Verstappen was not supposed to win. Perez was the odds-on favorite to win the race after Verstappen’s mistake and Charles Leclerc’s subsequent session-ending qualifying crash, putting Perez on pole and Verstappen four rows behind his teammate on the grid.

After Verstappen was lightyears ahead of everybody else throughout practice, a P9 effort in qualifying was a massive blow to his chances, especially since he entered the weekend seeking to slow Perez and halt the momentum he had gained with a victory in Baku. Perez had a chance to win back-to-back races for the first time in his Formula 1 career.

But despite being an underdog, and despite Miami International Autodrome being seen as a track where passing is a challenge, Verstappen still managed to find a way to win it, becoming the first driver to win from ninth place on the grid since Niki Lauda won from there at Circuit de Dijon-Prenois in 1984. Verstappen now has three wins from ninth or lower since last July.

He stayed out of trouble at the start, picked off slower traffic one by one (or, in one case, two at a time), and kept to within a few seconds of his teammate before Perez needed to pit for hard tires.

Verstappen extended his opening stint on the hard compound to more than 40 laps, and he actually extended his lead over Perez toward the end of the stint by more than three and a half seconds (less than 15 to more than 18.5).

Keep in mind, Perez, who is known for being the “tire whisperer”, was on 20-lap fresher rubber of the same compound when Verstappen added to this margin. It makes the question of whether Perez starting on the hard tire would have made a difference a silly one to ask.

Given that roughly 20 seconds are lost on each pit stops (and Verstappen’s pit stop was noticeably slower than Perez’s), Perez took the lead once Verstappen came in for mediums for the final handful of laps. But it didn’t take long for the 25-year-old Dutchman to pass his chief championship rival and pull away.

The championship is far from decided, though the two Red Bull drivers are in a class of their own. In fact, both have scored more points individually than second place constructor Aston Martin through five races.

But Verstappen proved yet again why he is the man to beat. Overcoming the odds on a street circuit, which is where Perez has been strongest, makes it an extra tough pill to swallow for Perez, who had won three of the last four street races heading into Sunday. Verstappen actually finished the current stretch of four straight street course races with more points (94 to 87) than Perez.

Now more than half of the season’s seven street course races are in the books, and Perez trails his teammate by 14 points.

Verstappen has won 10 of the last 11 road course races, while Perez is still seeking his first road course win as a Red Bull driver. Of the season’s remaining 18 races, 15 are road course events.

Next. All-time Formula 1 wins list. dark

The season’s sixth race, the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix, is scheduled to take place at Imola on Sunday, May 21. Max Verstappen led a 1-2 Red Bull finish in this race last year, the team’s first 1-2 finish in six years at the time.