Max Verstappen set the pace as Formula 1 returned to Miami for a second Grand Prix – but are any of his rivals in a position to stop him stretching his championship lead come Sunday afternoon? Our data team have crunched the numbers...

    Red Bull remain the team to beat

    Verstappen was in fine spirits when we chatted after Friday practice, the Dutchman pleased with how quickly he found a good balance on the newly resurfaced (and much smoother) Miami street circuit.

    Had he put his best lap together – a combination of all his fastest mini sectors – he could have gone 0.197s quicker and extended his advantage over the rest of the field. Ominous, eh?

    READ MORE: Verstappen enjoys Friday practice after topping FP2 while team mate Perez laments tough start in Miami

    His team mate Sergio Perez, who won his second race of the season last time out in Baku, to move just six points shy of Verstappen, wasn’t as happy, saying he didn’t have “the greatest of Fridays”.

    In qualifying trim, Red Bull have a 0.07s advantage over the rest of the field, according to our data – which considers fuel loads and tyre compounds.

    Their race pace, like the rest of the field, is unclear, as there were not enough laps to generate accurate long-run data – but they have been the strongest in this metric in each of the opening four races of 2023.


    Ferrari lead the chase

    This was not the smoothest of days for Ferrari, as while Carlos Sainz said he “felt back to normal” after an unusually under-par performance in Baku, his team mate Charles Leclerc crashed in FP2.

    Overall, though, there was plenty of optimism among those dressed in red. They don’t expect to be anywhere near the Red Bulls, but they do feel like they are the second-best in terms of pure performance.

    MUST-SEE: Leclerc ends second practice for the Miami GP in the barriers with late crash

    And the data backs that up in terms of qualifying pace, at least with Ferrari 0.24s clear of next-best Mercedes – a useful performance advantage on a track where overtaking could prove tricky given how slippery it has been offline.

    Ferrari’s strength is the slow corners, the Scuderia holding a one tenth of a second advantage over Red Bull and nearly half a second quicker than the rest of the field – however they are less good on the straights.


    Mercedes could be in the mix

    Mercedes looked rosy in first practice, the Silver Arrows running a different run plan to their rivals by running fresh softs at the death to go quickest of all.

    The positive was that the car felt good in warmer conditions, however it fell out of the window when things cooled down in second practice.

    READ MORE: ‘It’s a kick in the gut’ – Hamilton left frustrated as Mercedes tumble down the Friday practice timesheets in Miami

    The team admit they are lacking pace over one lap, however they are more optimistic when they run high fuel, despite not doing many laps in this configuration.

    George Russell reckons that if they can do some good homework tonight, they can be quicker than Ferrari and Aston Martin on Saturday afternoon. Do that and it would be a mighty fine effort for a team that were lacklustre last time out in Baku.


    Midfield remains tightly packed

    Aston Martin lead the way in the best of the rest category, a position which is actually disappointing for a team that has been second-best for most of the season to date.

    That said, they haven’t always looked good on Fridays so far in 2023 – and yet when it comes to Sunday, they’ve been on the podium in three of the first four and fourth in the other.

    READ MORE: Hulkenberg says he ‘paid the price’ for ‘unnecessary’ risk after crashing out of FP1

    Fernando Alonso is looking very happy with where they are at this point in the weekend – which suggests the Spaniard will be a factor for the final podium spot.

    Behind them, it’s a closely run thing between Alpine and Haas – just 0.01s separating the duo in qualifying trim – and they are only a couple of tenths behind Aston Martin.

    McLaren are a second off the pace based on our data, but sources suggest they are much closer, as they continue to learn about their update. Expect them to be in the fight for Q3.

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