Brought to you by TheJudge13 contributor CFD1801J
Ambient 30.8° Track 39.9° Humidity 58% Wind 0.5 m/s
Miami was in full form as the start of the race approached, flip flopping between full on deluge and blazing sun and no doubt setting the strategists’ hearts on edge. Big news was both Astons with a fuel temperature problem were starting from the pits on the Hard tyre. Joining them on that strategy were Ocon and Latifi, both at the back of the grid with the rest on the Medium tyre save Russell.
Pirelli was predicting a two stop for the race Medium-Hard-Hard (or Medium) but with the rain turning the track green and the likelihood of a Safety Car somewhat greater than zero it was more of a guess than usual. Oh, and should the rains come, utter madness likely to be the result as in the heat the track will dry quickly and the decisions will be painful on the pitwall…Short run to the start favors the polesitter but the traction advantage has been somewhat erased by the weather….
Lights Out!!!! Great Start by Leclerc but Verstappen managed to jump Sainz round the outside of Turn 1 and then shoved him out into Turn 2. Hamiton came off worst of the top 10, dropping down to P8 with Alonso and Gasly being the winners in that contest.
AS the race settled, it was clear that the open space that the Aston left on the grid was a key advantage for Alonso as it allowed him to build a nice run down to turn 1 and, as in Imola, that the dirty side of the grid had once again earned it’s reputation. By lap 3, though, Hamilton had reclaimed the spot, taking advantage of DRS on the way down to Turn 11 and blazing by Alonso who put up no kind of fight whatsoever.
On replay Hamilton had to get out of it a little bit due to Perez’ braking and Alonso, coming round the outside gave him a bit of a tap on the rear wheel which opened the door for him. Russell too, had a bad start but in his case, there was some movement prior to the start which seemed to unsettle him.
On the radio Hamilton felt he might have some left rear damage, but that did not seem to slow him tracking down Gasly and rounding into the end of lap 6 Hamilton rocked past the Alpha Tauri and set his cap at Bottas 2 seconds up the road. Behind, Alonso was having quite the go at Gasly and as Lap 7 was halfway done, it was Zhou, told to retire the car.
At the front, Verstappen and Leclerc had pulled a bit of a gap over Sainz and Perez, that had stabilised at round about 3 seconds but it was Red Bull, on the radio and saying they were seeing some damage to Leclercs front right tyre and sure enough, down the straight at the start of lap 9 Verstappen rocked by the Ferrari driver. The battle was far from over, though as Leclerc stayed in DRS as Verstappen tried desperately to shake Leclerc but was unable to do so as the first round of pitstops loomed.
Lap 11 and Ricciardo nicked P12 from Tsunoda with a sweet move up the inside, and no one was really clearing their pitwindows at the front. Magnussen put a move on his teammate and took the last points paying position away and Tsunoda was in with the first stop of the race.
Turn 17 and Leclerc got it ALL wrong losing more than a second to Verstappen as his tyres were rapidly fleeing the scene of the crime. Magnussen was next in next but at the back, Ocon, on the Hard tyre, was starting to go faster and faster as the tyre advantage began to work in his favour.
Lap 15 and Schumacher was in promoting Russell to P10, who was rocking a set of Hards that according to the team were now in their prime. Ferrari were keeping Leclerc out to try and get Gasly out of his pit window and a 5 second stop for Alonso ruined his early efforts. Out in P13 and pain at Alpine.
Lap 17 and Gasly and Albon both were in, leaving the room that Leclerc was waiting for as Vettel and Latifi had a lovely multi corner battle that wound up with the Aston getting the better of it. The cascading pitstops saw Ocon now up to P10 and running on pace with Ricciardo on the Mediums ahead.
Two laps on and Norris pulled the plug as Perez had finally wound Sainz in and was dangling on the edge of DRS. The McLaren was out in P12 but both Astons were able to get round him and then, Magnussen put it by next but the big drama was Perez saying he had a power loss even as the team swore it was just the tow, laptimes showed a 4 second time loss in a single gap.
Sure enough, a fail five zero solved the problem (I mean, who wouldn’t have thought of that first) and he was back on pace albeit now 7.5 seconds back and well out of any undercut on Sainz. HAAS was on Magnussen in P14 to get round Vettel and Stroll ahead as he was told he was fighting Russell ahead in P7. Lap 23 and Hamilton was in and out ahead of Ricciardo, with clear air to sail into .
Lap 25 and Leclerc was IN!!!! Out just in front of Bottas with a fresh set of Hards and a tantalizing look at a one stop in the distance. End of lap 26 and Verstappen was in and the next question up for the Red Bull strategists was what exactly to do with Perez. Leave him out and slow Leclerc or pit him in and defend the undercut from Sainz.
Bottas was next in and out in front of Hamilton and at the end of lap 28 both Sainz and Perez were in, answering that question. AND DISASTER!!! Sainz had a massively long pitstop as the right front refused to play ball. He still managed to rock out in front of Perez but lost easily 3 seconds in the kerfuffle.
Hamilton complained of overheating as the fresh tread was holding the heat in and the team told him as much, to wait for the wear and the tyre would improve based on what they saw with Russell. Lap 31 and at last Ricciardo was in, freeing Ocon as Vettel started off his lap with promise, slipping by Magnussen as they headed through the final turn.
The next lap, it was Magnussen rocking back by Vettel into Turn 11 with Schumacher sneakily following through, both HAAS now in front of the no doubt slightly perplexed Aston. That left Magnussen now driving the train, and presenting a puzzle for his teammate, who seemed to be willing to test the stout defenses of the Dane. It took Schumacher nearly 5 laps to get round but at last he did and into Turn 9 of lap 36 Vettel went wide letting Norris easily by.
By that point it was clear that the Hards would absolutely be good for a one stop, meaning it was calculation time for those who started on the Hards. It was clear waiting for weather or a Safety Car was the only choice and grimly they plowed on.
Lap 39 and there was contact between Alonso making a late lunge up the inside and Gasly, who turned in and clipped his front wing. Race Control was delighted to have something to do besides checking undergarments and the incident was immediately noted as Gasly had a cut tyre and was slowly dropping back. Until Norris plowed into him and oh my that was looking very much like a full Safety Car if not a Red Flag.
For the moment though, it was a Virtual Safety Car and Russell was the first to benefit from that, in and out in P7 as Ocon stayed out. Perez chose to bail for some fresh Mediums on the next lap just ahead of Bottas. Ocon eventually bailed onto the Softs and was out in P11 behind a trio running on 25+ lap old Hard tyres. Neither Ferrari chose to come in as there were no Mediums for them to run and at last, there it was, Safety Car lap 43.
On the radio Hamilton chose not losing a position to pitting under the VSC and Magnussen did come in for some Mediums, promoting Ocon to P10 as the debris continued to be cleared. On replay, Norris tried to sneak round Gasly and didn’t quite get it done, not perhaps realizing that Gasly was having some issues.
Alonso was dinged 5 seconds for the contact with Gasly that started this particular set of dominoes falling and it was the end of lap 46 that the Safety Car was in, with 3 sets of Mediums, Perez, Russell and Magnussen and 1 set of Softs on Ocon to watch carefully when the track went green.
Gasly bailed claiming a broken rear end as the restart beckoned and it was Verstappen getting a decent launch on restart as Sainz had a huge wiggle and defended vigorously into Turn 1. The Ferrari managed to quickly staunch the bleeding and to the surprise of no one, there was contact between Stroll and Magnussen being looked at. Lap 49 and DRS was enabled and both Leclerc and Perez began to close in. Further back Russell was all over Hamilton as Bottas ran wide in turn 17 and let both of the Mercedes by.
Lap 50 and Leclerc was hanging all over the back of Verstappen as behind, Russell cashed in his fresh tyres and banged it by Hamilton, although it did appear on replay he might have been fully off the circuit when he made the pass.
Lap 52 and Perez sent it from way back and there was contact into Turn 1 with Perez going wide and Sainz hanging onto the spot. By lap 53 Leclerc was just beginning to drop out of DRS as was Perez on Sainz. Further back, Schumacher had lost DRS on Alonso but Vettel rocked by Ocon and then turned directly into Schumacher taking the both of them out, and letting Ocon, with a most certainly bemused expression on his face, by.
That also promoted Albon up to P10 as ahead, Russell gave Hamilton the place back and then took it straight away from him again. Verstappen at the front was now serenely clear of Leclerc and the drama was all back at the French team as Ocon was not in the mood to back off and block for Alonso, feeling under pressure from Albon behind.
As Verstappen rocked across the line for the 57th time, the checquers fell and it was another convincing victory for the Red Bull driver. Leclerc and Sainz were the next two across the line as Ferrari continued to not be quite as on point with their tyre game as Red Bull but did manage to complete the podium, with Perez’ magnificent effort not quite paying off.
Pretty good day for Red Bull, as again they had the better balance on the day, and were it not for an ERS problem for Perez, perhaps they would’ve had the lion’s share of the podium as well. Ferrari won’t be complaining as they have yet to significantly update their car and still remain competitive, but at some point they will need to jump in order to maintain their lead and today’s result will be a painful needle as the development game unfolds.
Happy Days at Mercedes, finishing clearly best of the rest, though Russell winning the Safety Car lottery won’t help Hamilton’s mood much. Bottas hanging onto P6 after driving into a wall was a small miracle and Alpine, along with Mercedes, were the only other team with both drivers in the points so full kudos to them, even though it sounded as if there was some drama to be sorted. Oh but wait, what’s this? Alonso apparently took one too many joker laps at the end of the race and got dinged an additional 5 seconds!!!! Well that is the kinda thing that will ruin Alpine’s day, even though they had Ocon’s most excellent drive from P20 to P8 to hang their hat on. On the other hand both Williams, who now had an Albon drive from P18 to P9 and moar points (now just 3 back of Aston) as well as Aston with a Stroll drive from a pitlane start to P10 were more than delighted with Alonso’s naughtiness and no doubt some fine Miami celebrations were going to occur later in the evening, leaving just HAAS and McLaren in the sad and lonely no points club.
Barcelona looms next in the calendar and for many a team it will be a benchmark, as they have their testing data to look back on. Ferrari plan their first big update and Mercedes has said it will be an important race for them as they try to decide what exactly to do with their potentially fast but possibly fatally flawed concept. Even more interesting, Ferrari is beginning to drop the first hints that they are watching Red Bull’s spending with an eagle eye, suggesting that the team from Milton Keynes might be on an unsustainable trajectory should they continue to bring updates at the frenetic pace demonstrated thus far…
And remember to play nice in the comments!!