Formula 1 2023: Baku and Miami
This story is part 5 of a series. You can find the other stories here.
F1 is back! After the Chinese Grand Prix was canceled due to China’s Covid restrictions, round four of the season was in Baku, Azerbaijan. It was a sprint weekend, which involves a different and more complex structure than that of a usual race weekend. Check out the side bar to see the schedule.
Charles Leclerc of Ferrari qualified first after a few disappointing races. He was followed by Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez of Red Bull. There were a few surprises, with George Russell of Mercedes not making it into Q3 and Pierre Gasly of Alpine getting eliminated in Q1. Results are here.
Charles Leclerc was again in first, but this time the Red Bulls were swapped, with Perez beating Verstappen. Alex Albon of Williams qualified in 7th, an impressive result for the team. Williams is slowly climbing up the field after being at the bottom for the last couple of years. Pierre Gasly again had a bad session and finished in 19th, which is disappointing for an Alpine team that was having a good season. Full results are here.
Sergio Perez, who has always been the king of street races, won the sprint race after overtaking Leclerc of Ferrari on lap eight of 17. Max Verstappen of Red Bull and Mercedes’ George Russell clashed for third, bumping into each other and sustaining damage. In the end, Verstappen won out, taking third place in the race with Russell behind him. Yuki Tsunoda crashed out on lap 1, leading to a safety car coming out on the track that eventually helped Verstappen pass Russell. The safety car let Verstappen get closer to Russell when all of the cars slowed down, bringing the pack closer together and giving Verstappen an advantage. Results are here.
Perez had another victory at Baku after his win in the sprint on Saturday. It wasn’t really a question which team would win – Perez and his teammate Verstappen were clearly much faster than the rest of the field. It was more about which Red Bull would end up at the top. Both easily passed Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc, but Perez gained an advantage by pitting under a safety car caused by Nyck DeVries stopping on the track. This gave him a lead at the end of the race. Lando Norris of McLaren was a surprise on the leaderboard, being in the top ten after not having a great season, and the Mercedes team did not do well, with their cars in 6th and 8th. Mercedes seems to be struggling after being very strong in previous years. This could impact the team’s confidence in their car for the rest of the season. Full results here.
As usual, the weekend seemed to be dominated by Red Bull. This might be a regular occurrence for the rest of the season as well. There were a few other cars in the mix, but it doesn’t seem like any other team will be on top soon.
F1 arrived in the U.S. with a race at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami, Florida. This race is relatively new, with last year’s race being the first ever. This event followed a normal race format for the weekend. See here for an explanation of a weekend race structure.
Q1 and Q2 in Miami were relatively straightforward. However, a surprise came in Q1 with both McLarens being disqualified, and another in Q2 was seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton qualifying in 13th and not reaching Q3.
In Q3 there was a completely different grid than expected.
Charles Leclerc crashed into the wall on a fast lap, bringing out a red flag. There wasn’t enough time to restart the session, so many drivers were unable to complete their laps. This led to a mixed up grid, with Fernando Alonso in 2nd and Max Verstappen in 9th. Sergio Perez took pole (first place). Here are the full results.
It was yet another Red Bull-dominated race, with the two cars almost 20 seconds ahead of the rest of the grid at the end of the race, and no one was surprised. Verstappen came back from ninth, strategically moving up the grid and eventually passing his teammate to win. Fernando Alonso led the rest of the pack, finishing in third for a very impressive fourth podium out of five races so far. Carlos Sainz of Ferrari had a five-second time penalty for speeding in the pit lane, but he still ended up in 5th, after George Russell of Mercedes. Russell’s teammate Lewis Hamilton came back from 13th to finish sixth. Both Alpines finished in the points as well. Unfortunately, Logan Sargeant, a driver who is from Florida, finished last in his home grand prix.
It was not a very exciting weekend for fans hoping for a race with some unexpected results. The race ended, as all the races have, with two Red Bulls at the top. Already, people are debating about the end of season championship – not about which team will win, but about which Red Bull will end up on top. I believe that while Verstappen has looked strong, Perez has a chance of winning if he continues what he’s been doing this season. After this race, there is a one week break, followed by three races in a row in Imola, in Italy; Monaco; and Barcelona, Spain. The audience in Imola is dominated by Ferrari fans because Ferrari is an Italian team. Ferrari driver Charles Leclerc is from Monaco, and his teammate Carlos Sainz is from Spain. Perhaps their relations to the next races could give them some better luck, but most likely we’ll see the Red Bulls on top yet again.