JOLYON PALMER’S ANALYSIS: Did Ferrari release Red Bull in Miami?

The second win in the jump for Max Verstappen in Miami, and while still trailing Charles Leclerc in the championship by 19 points, looks like he’s just starting to take the mark.

The way Verstappen’s recent victories are what catches the eye. In both Imola and Miami, it wasn’t just lights to mark victory – he had to come from behind to remodel Leclerc and do it quite comfortably.

READ MORE: Horner says Red Bull have thrown ‘all’ at the Miami GP – as he expects a title fight that lasts all season with Ferrari

In Imola, that fight was in Sprintwhere Red Bull showed he was significantly better on the tires in the race for the first time this season, while in Miami the story was about the same, especially on the middle tire where both he and Leclerc started.

In both Imola and Miami, small details meant the weekends were not cruises for Verstappen. In Italy, the start of Sprint let him down, leaving him a job. On Saturday, however, he fully redeemed himself, and his Grand Prix was a measured victory from light to flag and Miami could also have been, had there been no redevelopment in Q3.

Jolyon Palmer’s analysis: How Verstappen won in Miami

Verstappen slipped off a temporary pole that went into the final Q3 races to third on the net as he toasted it over the edge of the top of Turn 5, amid a very high evolution of the track in Miami. He should have been close with Leclerc at the very least, but he was eventually moved to the second row.

Concerns about Ferrari at the moment must be the way Verstappen can beat them, even when they go behind both cars, and on the track in Miami where most other drivers found it hard to overtake without a significant offset tire.

READ MORE: Verstappen delighted with ‘returnee’ victory in Miami – but urges Red Bull to smooth over ‘hit and miss’ weekends

Nor did Verstappen rely on team tactics or strategy to win outwitted Sainz in the first corner to share Ferrari immediately. Sainza was a bit hampered by the inside line and Leclerc in boxing at the top, but could he have been a little more aggressive in squeezing Verstappen before the braking zone?

This move was essential to Verstappen’s victory. Locking the front row is such a dangerous advantage for the team as it gives them strategic opportunities to cover the nearest threat in the stopping phase.

Verstappen’s intervention around Sainz was key to his victory at the Miami GP

It could also make it harder for Sainz to get on the track, as he would largely have a slight shift from his teammate, who didn’t disappear along the road throughout the first period – the gap between the two Ferraris was only about four seconds maximum before Leclerc broke out.

But with Sainz resolved, Verstappen could only focus on Leclerc, and he did an even easier job of passing the race leader.

Leclerc seemed to have the same fast pace as Verstappen in the race, but he was a little more fickle, complaining over the radio that his Ferrari was difficult to drive.

READ MORE: ‘We have to answer’ – Binotto calls on Ferrari to fight back after Verstappen’s second consecutive victory

This not only affected the timing of his lap, but allowed Verstappen to jump early. At the end of the 8th lap Verstappen was in the range of DRC Leclerc, in Red Bull which is fast on the levels, the pressure started to grow on Leclerc who was just showing signs of fighting the front tires.

Leclerc immediately cracked, running into turn 17 as soon as Verstappen appeared in Ferrari’s mirrors. This gave the Dutchman a brilliant opportunity to pass, which became a dunk when Leclerc gave Verstappen the inside line in turn 1. Sales for the lead in the race don’t come much easier than that, especially against a driver who is almost certainly Leclerc’s main rival for the title.

Miami Grand Prix 2022: Verstappen overtook Leclerc and took the lead in the race

After all the drama of his fight for the Hamilton 2021 title, Verstappen must appreciate this fight so far, with both drivers having great respect for each other, but Leclerc in Miami was certainly too generous. He might have hoped to get a long-distance DRS in the next round, but unlike Bahrain or Jeddah where that tactic worked, the next DRS wasn’t on the corner – but seven turns later, Verstappen could break through and succeed.

The drivers may have been a little soft with Verstappen in Miami, but I also thought Ferrari’s race strategy was good towards Red Bull.

READ MORE: 6 winners and 5 losers from the Miami GP – Who got the cheering crowd in Sunshine State?

The Red Bull strategists did not give a single headache in the whole race, despite the fact that two cars were behind the leader of the race and Perez returns with some motor gremlins.

Maybe Leclerc could have stopped sooner, with the intention of undermining Verstappen again for the lead. Instead, Ferrari was cautious, extended for one easier stop and intervened only when Leclerc was 4.5 seconds behind Verstappen and out of undercut territory.


Was Ferrari aggressive enough with Leclerc’s strategy?

Even more surprising, they didn’t put a single car during the Safety Car near the end, in another reserved strategy choice. Admittedly, they didn’t have new soft or medium tires left, but new hard or even used soft could be a racing choice to try to win the race, for probably no real loss with only 11 laps left.

As it was, Verstappen simply had to keep Leclerc on the same tires. Leclerc was also great this season and returned the pressure on Max, but he was adamant and kept his nerves to take his second consecutive, commanding victory.

With all the momentum of Red Bull and Verstappen, there are still reliability concerns as Verstappen experienced on Friday and Perez on Sunday. If that were to reappear, then Ferrari’s cautious approach would suddenly seem more justified.

F1 NATION: Max’s Miami Masterclass – plus Colton Hertha stars in this week’s episode

Also, the tracks this year were potentially more suited to Red Bull this year, and most of them are tracks that fit Red Bull’s package of low pressure force and higher top speed. Next are Barcelona and Monaco very different.

Ferrari has also refrained from upgrades so far, but next time it will unveil some new updates to its car in Spain to try to fight back. He promises that next weekend will be exciting and important for both teams, but especially for Ferrari who will have to stop Verstappen’s momentum and get back on their winning tracks.

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