So now it’s a two-horse race. Or a two-Bull race. Whatever.
Sergio Pérez’s victory last weekend in Baku, Azerbaijan, was his second of the Formula 1 season, and it allowed him to match the victory total of his Red Bull teammate Max Verstappen. More important? The result allowed Pérez to close Verstappen’s lead in the drivers’ championship to a mere six points as the series arrived in the United States for Sunday’s Miami Grand Prix.
Since the one sure thing in Formula 1 at the moment seems to be that a Red Bull will finish first, each week now looms as a hinge moment. Pérez starts Sunday with the advantage: He is on pole position, and knows a win will give him the lead in the points race. Verstappen, surely seething after qualifying ninth, will be looking to reassert himself. Driving angry seems to suit the reigning world champion, but weaving through the field — which he did impressively in March in Saudi Arabia — is inherently dangerous.
How to Watch
Time: The Miami Grand Prix starts at 3:30 p.m. Eastern time. (Global start times are here.)
TV: The race will air on ABC in the United States, which is — DVR alert — a switch from its usual home on ESPN. Coverage starts at 2 p.m. Eastern. Not in America? A full list of Formula 1 broadcasters, wherever you are, can be found here.
Sunday’s Starting Grid
A Red Bull will start first, but maybe not the one you expected? Pérez was fastest in qualifying, and he will be joined on the front row by the relentless (and apparently ageless) Fernando Alonso of Aston Martin.
Verstappen will start ninth, but he’s already gone from starting 15th to finishing second in a race this year, so don’t count him out. Lewis Hamilton has fared even worse: He’s to start 13th.
Race Week in Miami in Photos
Sunday’s Story Lines
Red Bull vs. Red Bull. Red Bull’s team principal, Christian Horner, has done nothing to keep his two drivers, Pérez and Verstappen, from competing to see who can be the fastest each week. So far, that is producing wins and little friction. “They know as a team how we operate: They get the chance, they get the opportunity to race each other,” Horner said in an interview with ESPN this week. “But they have to respect the team at the same time.” Today could offer the first test of that hands-off management: a hot day, a tight track, a champion (Verstappen) on the hunt. For the moment, Horner is focused on collecting as many points as possible, on extending the advantage before other teams make improvements. Two drivers who are far ahead of the field? “It’s a luxury problem to have,” he said.
Predictability. Four races. Four Red Bull victories. Three 1-2 finishes. Is Formula 1 getting, um, boring? There was renewed discussion this week about whether the dominance of Red Bull’s cars was spoiling the fun for everyone else. George Russell of Mercedes, who declared at the season’s first race that Red Bull had “this championship sewn up,” suggested that the only actual competition these days was the battle for third place. Was he right? “I’ll do my best to not make it boring, but at the end it’s a sport,” Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc said. “It’s like in every sport. Sometimes a team is just better than others. And at the moment it’s the case with Red Bull.”
Rain? There are thunderstorms in the forecast for Sunday, and rain could play a huge role on a track that was repaved ahead of this year’s race. Verstappen lost a good qualifying lap after a slip sent him a tiny bit wide in a turn, prompting a bit of expletive-laden self-criticism. Leclerc went into the wall twice after pushing his Ferrari too hard, prompting expletives from a lot of people (including Verstappen, since the red flag that followed Leclerc’s crash on Saturday prevented Verstappen from a final challenge for pole position). Qualifying showed that drivers who kept to the racing line were rewarded for it. Grip was far less sure outside it. A wet track won’t make that any better.
What They’re Saying
“I want to win, so this is not great.” — Verstappen on qualifying ninth.
“This is not acceptable.” — Leclerc, after crashing on the same turn two days in a row.
“The car is not fast enough, and we haven’t got any comprehension why that is.” — Mercedes team principal, Toto Wolff, saying the quiet part out loud.
Last Time Out
Sergio Pérez won last week’s Azerbaijan Grand Prix, the fourth victory for Red Bull in four races and the third 1-2 finish for Formula 1’s dominant team this season.
Drivers’ Championship Standings
Red Bull’s only race at this point is against itself: