Max Verstappen says his early overtakes on the two Ferrari drivers were crucial to him winning the Miami Grand Prix, feeling as though the pace of the two cars was similar, as demonstrated by a “flat out” fight late on.
Charles Leclerc started from pole ahead of Carlos Sainz but Verstappen cleared the Spaniard at the start and then overtook Leclerc nine laps later to move into the lead in the opening stint. Leading by more than seven seconds, Verstappen traded fastest laps with Leclerc before a late safety car saw a tense fight to the finish.
“It’s a very good comeback,” Verstappen said. “I didn’t even do a [practice] start so I didn’t know what to expect in the actual start, but we had a good launch and I saw the opportunity to go round the outside at Turn 1.
“I tried to see the pace of Charles in front of me. From the start, it was very close. I couldn’t get into the DRS initially but then, at one point, Charles started to struggle a bit more with the front tires and it seemed like our car was very good on the medium compound. Once I got ahead I think that basically made my race because I opened up the gap. Once we stopped and put the hard tire on we were actually very closely matched in pace.
“It was very crucial to get that gap. I was not very happy with that safety car. It was fully understandable with what happened and you can’t be too disappointed about it because in the past it has benefitted me in some other races.
“I knew it was going to be a tough one to the end because it was quite physical out there. I knew the next 10 laps we would have to be flat out — which on a track like this is not easy. I was struggling a bit, initially, with the tire temps. I was sliding around a bit too much for my liking, but once the tires came back up to temperature I think I had a little bit more pace and pulled him out of the DRS which was very crucial around here.
“He was trying everything…to have a go and it was not easy to stay ahead because it’s easy to make a mistake around here in certain places.”
Verstappen says the whole race was a physical challenge for the drivers.
“It’s very hot in sector two as well, and because this is a day race with the sun out, it makes it really hot. I was very happy once we got to the straight because it gave you a bit of air. With the safety car, just clicking your visor once step up to have a bit more air coming in was pretty nice!”
Despite winning all of the races he has finished so far this season, Verstappen says the two retirements he has suffered — plus a number of disjointed Fridays — leaves him wanting more from Red Bull.
“We are still having a few issues we have to solve. We are quick, but…my Friday was terrible, which is not great if you want to have a good weekend. I think Checo [Perez] had a few issues in the race so we have to be on top of that. Clearly there is a lot of potential; we just have to make sure it’s reliable.”