Max Verstappen, The Comeback Kid

In the long history of Formula 1 racing, only four drivers have come from ninth position on the starting grid to win a Grand Prix.  Max Verstappen makes the fifth.  Verstappen’s win in Miami is his second victory in Miami and third victory of the year.  Yesterday’s qualification netted some surprising results.  Neither McLaren couldn’t make it out of Q1, and Lewis Hamilton didn’t make it out of Q2.  Then, Verstappen had to cut his flying lap short in Q3 and didn’t log a time.  As he was getting ready for his second run, Charles Leclerc slammed into the wall again for the second time this weekend, red flagging Q3 and leaving the starting grid with Sergio Perez, Fernando Alonso, Carlos Sainz and Kevin Magnussen as the top four on the grid.  Neither Verstappen nor Valtteri Bottas logged a time for Q3, and they started the race ninth and tenth respectively.  Despite starting ninth, the flying Dutchman stole the show in Miami as he put on a dominating display of his driving prowess.

Red Bull driver Sergio Perez, left, of Mexico, is pursued by Red Bull driver Max Verstappen, of the Netherlands, during the Formula One Miami Grand Prix auto race at Miami International Autodrome in Miami Gardens, Fla., Sunday, May 7, 2023. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell)

The Miami Grand Prix featured lots of overtaking.  Wind, heat and tire wear were also major factors.  Wind affected the practice runs and qualification more than the race.  Remarkably there wasn’t one yellow flag the whole race.  However, there was a fair amount of strong racing amongst the competitors.  With Verstappen starting in ninth, he opted to go with the hard tires.  It was evident from the start that he intended to run as long as he could while putting himself in the position to pit later down the race.

By lap 16, Verstappen had already made it to second place.  He overtook Fernando Alonso and Carlos Sainz during lap 15.  When Perez pitted during lap 21, Verstappen was all alone in first place roughly 12 seconds ahead of the field.   By lap 27 he was plus 16 seconds ahead of Perez.   With 36 laps on his tires, Verstappen still set race high times while leading the field.  Once he got to about 19 seconds ahead of Perez he boxed during lap 45 for a tire change.  When he came out of pit lane, he was only 1.6 seconds behind Perez.  Checo held Verstappen off for three laps, with a particularly good but respectful battle during lap 48, but Verstappen’s car was too much, and he overtook Checo as they rolled thru the S turns.  Verstappen coasted to victory the remaining nine laps.

Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton drives through a curve during the Formula One Miami Grand Prix auto race at the Miami International Autodrome, Sunday, May 7, 2023, in Miami Gardens, Fla. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell)

Further back in the field, Sir Lewis Hamilton made some waves.  He also pitted late to position himself well to have a strong finish.  He worked with his teammate George Russell in order to allow Russell to get past Esteban Ocon’s Alpine.  During lap 54 Hamilton was running ninth until he overtook Pierre Gasly.  Then he overtook Charles Leclerc’s Ferrari during lap 55 on long straight securing a sixth-place finish.  It was obviously not what he wanted but it was a great effort coming from thirteenth in a struggling Mercedes.

Aston Martin driver Fernando Alonso works his way through a turn during the Formula One Miami Grand Prix auto race at the Miami International Autodrome, Sunday, May 7, 2023, in Miami Gardens, Fla. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell)

Fernando Alonso’s reemergence cannot be overstated enough.  Alonso was known as the ultimate competitor, shunning interviews, and ignoring teammates.  After taking a two-year break, it is clear Alonso did some soul searching.  During today’s interview he talked about taking the time to enjoy all the trappings of Formula 1. He is enjoying the little things such as bantering with the guys in the paddock as well as listening to the winning driver’s national anthem.  It is a fine example of how one can be reflective of themselves over time and grow into an even better person, appreciating all that life has to offer.  Alonso’s third place finish marks his fourth podium in five races.  Now he has his sights set higher.  He believes he can compete for P1 in Italy, Monaco and Spain.  We shall see!

Red Bull driver Max Verstappen, right, celebrates with Fernando Alonso after winning the Formula One Miami Grand Prix auto race at the Miami International Autodrome, Sunday, May 7, 2023, in Miami Gardens, Fla. Alonso finished in third place. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

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