Can Perez stay ahead of Verstappen?
Five of Perez’s six grand prix wins (and all of his Red Bull victories) have come at street circuits, and we now head to a second street-track spectacular in as many weekends at the Miami International Autodrome.
Perez has a new-found confidence with his double Baku success confirming – in his mind at least – that he can genuinely take the fight to Red Bull teammate Max Verstappen this year.
The Mexican enjoyed a nine-point swing over Verstappen during a near-perfect weekend in Azerbaijan to head to Miami just six points behind in the championship.
Perez has never won two races on the trot before but knows that if he manages to pull it off, he could leapfrog Verstappen at the top of the standings heading into the European leg of the season.
Will F1’s ‘king of the streets’ strike again on coronation weekend, or can Verstappen do the double in Miami to return to winning ways?
The start of Ferrari’s upgrade push
Despite bringing no upgrades to Baku, Ferrari enjoyed their strongest weekend of the season so far as Charles Leclerc beat the Red Bulls to pole position for the sprint and main grand prix.
However, Ferrari proved no match for Red Bull’s superior race-pace as Leclerc slipped behind Perez in the sprint, and was subjected to a lonely run to a distant third place on Sunday after being passed by both Red Bulls early on.
Baku marked Ferrari’s most competitive showing of the season but also underlined the Italian outfit’s issues when it comes to managing tyres over a race stint – the SF23’s major weakness against the dominant RB19.
There is good news on the horizon for Ferrari, however, with team principal Fred Vasseur confirming that his side will start bringing updates to their car this weekend in Miami in a bid to reduce their deficit to championship leaders Red Bull.
“We will start to bring updates on the car from Miami and for the next couple of events and we will see how the car will react to the updates,” Vasseur said.
“The update is one thing but the fact that you are able to extract all of the potential out of the update is another one.”
12 months ago in Miami, Leclerc demonstrated the one-lap pace of the Ferrari but lost out in the race to Verstappen. Will we see a similar story this time around?
More damage limitation for Mercedes?
After their uptick in form in Melbourne translated into a podium, Mercedes ended up being the fourth-fastest team in Baku as they slipped back behind both Ferrari and Aston Martin.
Lewis Hamilton turned in a strong recovery drive to take sixth after dropping to 10th following an unfortunately-timed Safety Car, while teammate George Russell finished eighth behind Lance Stroll’s Aston Martin.
Following Sunday’s race, the seven-time world champion admitted he is “counting down the days” until Mercedes’ first major upgrade arrives.
Mercedes have been working on significant developments to their troubled W14 car that are planned to be introduced at the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix towards the end of this month.
Until the new parts – which Hamilton hopes will bring Mercedes “more in the fight” – arrive, it is set to be a case of the Silver Arrows making the most out of what they have in Miami.
“Miami should hopefully be better pace wise than here,” Hamilton said. “Last year we were bouncing there a lot so I think we’re in a much better place with our car this year.
“I hope we’re a little bit closer to the guys there, we might not be as close to the Red Bulls because they’re rapid but if we can fight the Astons that would be amazing.”
Can F1’s erratic rookies get off the mark?
Sargeant was making genuine improvement in Baku as he reached Q2 for the first time, before a crash in sprint qualifying ruled him out of the sprint race. The American slipped to 16th in Sunday’s grand prix while Williams teammate Alex Albon finished just outside of the points in 12th.
Williams’ 2023 car has shown flashes of top-10 promise and Florida-born Sargeant will be hoping he can hook up his best weekend yet at his first of three home grands prix.
F1’s other ‘rookie’ de Vries finds himself under pressure after his torrid start to his first full-season continued with another poor weekend in Azerbaijan.
The Dutchman crashed out of Sunday’s grand prix while AlphaTauri teammate Yuki Tsunoda maximised the performance of his AT04 to claim the final point on offer in 10th.
After shouldering the blame for his Baku shunt, de Vries, who has been no match for Tsunoda, will be grateful of the immediate chance to reset as he eyes a much-needed clean weekend in Miami.