Formula 1: Max Verstappen's 'mistake' could be bad news for everyone else

Lando Norris beat Max Verstappen to win the Miami Grand Prix after Verstappen made a rare mistake as he seeks his fourth straight Formula 1 world championship.
Lando Norris, McLaren, Max Verstappen, Red Bull, Formula 1
Lando Norris, McLaren, Max Verstappen, Red Bull, Formula 1 / Kym Illman/GettyImages

McLaren's Lando Norris finally earned his first career Formula 1 victory in the Miami Grand Prix at Miami International Autodrome two weekends ago. The win came in the sixth-year driver's 110th start, and it returned an unwanted record to Nick Heidfeld: most podium finishes without a win. Norris had 15; Heidfeld's mark is 13.

Norris was able to take the lead from Red Bull's Max Verstappen, winner of four of the season's first five races, due to staying out longer on his opening tire stint.

He took advantage of a safety car caused by a crash involving hometown hero Logan Sargeant of Williams and Kevin Magnussen of Haas to make his pit stop, cycling him out ahead of the three-time reigning world champion.

Max Verstappen makes rare mistake

Unlike in previous races, Verstappen was not exactly pulling away from the field even before the pit sequence, though he had still built up a decent gap. But the most surprising part of the afternoon was that he made a rare mistake, missing a chicane and plowing over a bollard.

It was later revealed that the bollard caused significant damage to the floor of the RB20, which cost Verstappen up to a quarter of a second in turn one of the 19-turn, 3.363-mile (5.412-kilometer) temporary street circuit alone.

Following the mid-race restart, Verstappen was never a threat to Norris, and it was the 24-year-old Briton who took on the usual Verstappen-like role and pulled away from the field to secure an extremely popular maiden victory that had just about everybody talking afterward.

Verstappen, of course, deflected attention from the "if, if, if" scenarios that were presented to him after the race, most notably surrounding the safety car and the questionable way in which it entered the track, picking him up as the P2 driver.

Knowing how he has been treated by the media the last few seasons, specifically since he emerged as a true title threat to Lewis Hamilton in 2021, he refused to give any sort of soundbite that could have been replayed and blown up in a viral capacity to paint him as a "sore loser".

"It's always, 'if, if, if'. If my mom had balls, she would be my dad."

Max Verstappen

While he joked about running over the bollard as well, perhaps the real question is what the 26-year-old Dutchman could have done had he simply performed like he is known to perform in this day and age: mistake-free.

And that could be bad news for everybody else.

We hear so much from the mainstream (and social) media bobbleheads about Verstappen's dominance being down to the strength of the RB20 car more so than his talent.

The same thing was said about the RB18 and the RB19 en route to his record-breaking 15-win and 19-win seasons, giving him more wins over a two-year stretch than any other driver in Formula 1 history had ever had over three.

Yet on a day when he made a single error, one which at the time actually seemed relatively insignificant, it was enough to keep him from adding to a win tally that currently ranks third on the all-time list.

On that very same day, he managed to finish runner-up in a race that saw teammate Sergio Perez run sixth before ultimately finishing in fourth due to contact between the two drivers just ahead of him.

Once again, the driver made the difference, from Norris to Verstappen to Perez to everybody else.

And given the fact that Verstappen earned 34 wins in 44 races from 2022 to 2023, including a record streak of 10 in a row during that stretch, banking on him to make the sort of uncharacteristic mistake he made in Miami is probably not the smartest thing to do moving forward.

Ferrari team principal Fred Vasseur made the claim that Red Bull are now "out of their comfort zone", given the fact that we have now seen three different teams represented on the top step of the podium in the last four races. That hadn't happened since 2018.

but the reality of it is that Formula 1 is actually quite competitive when Verstappen isn't waxing the field race after race, and nobody is perfect.

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Imola Circuit is scheduled to host the 2024 Formula 1 season's seventh race, the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix, on Sunday, May 19. ESPN2 is set to provide live coverage starting at 8:55 a.m. ET. Verstappen is the two-time reigning winner of the race, though it was canceled last year due to flooding. Begin a free trial of FuboTV now and don't miss it!