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Miami Grand Prix 2023

Stoddie Straight: Verstappen surpasses F1 elite, Red Bull dominate 'disastrous' rivals

RacingNews365's expert columnist, former Formula 1 team principal Paul Stoddart, puts only one other Formula 1 legend as equal to Verstappen, and questions why Red Bull's rivals were nowhere to be seen.

In his post-race column for RacingNews365.com, former Formula 1 team principal Paul Stoddart believes Max Verstappen is the firm favourite for the Drivers' Championship after his crushing performance for 'dream team' Red Bull, and questions why Fernando Alonso is the only driver who has a chance of hanging onto the Constructors' Championship leaders.

Verstappen puts one hand on the championship

It was an interesting race from a Red Bull perspective, and I think there's no doubt now that they're going to be champions in both the Constructors’ and Drivers’ Championships. Max Verstappen showed that he's got the pace to come back in a race, irrespective of where he starts. The qualifying red flags was bad luck for a few drivers, but it certainly was for Max having lost his first qualifying lap and not having the time to get a second one, but he proved that he can come back from ninth position on the grid. Within ten laps, he was up into the podium positions, and he worked his tyres beautifully.

Sergio drove a good race and couldn't really have done any more. He didn't really make any mistakes, but he was just simply outclassed by the strategy and by Max making those tyres last over 40 laps.

I think if anyone wants to bet that he's not going to be a three-time World Champion this year, then they're braver than me, because I think he’s got it in the bag.

I put Verstappen ahead of many of the F1 legends that I’ve seen race, such as Ayrton Senna, Nigel Mansell, Alain Prost, Michael Schumacher and Lewis Hamilton. I think he's up there, if not number one, then certainly equal number one with Schumacher.

In the case of Senna, we sadly didn't get to see how he would have finished his career because of the tragedy 29 years ago, but out of all the other top drivers I’m sorry to say that they are probably not quite in that number one group, except for Michael.

Obviously, the records will show that Lewis is in that number one group as well, but I'd have Max ahead of Lewis.

Red Bull on course for domination

I think the Constructors' Championship is over, and it's only a matter of how many points Red Bull is going to win the title by.

Going back to 2014-2015, if you compared to those glory years at Mercedes, this is as good as, if not better, than that. Of course, Adrian Newey re-signing another contract this week shows that the dream team is staying together. So, with that stability, I don't see anything changing in the pecking order anytime soon.

No team is built on one guy but, with his talent, I think Adrian is closest we’re ever going to get to a team being built on one guy. It's certainly good from the Red Bull point of view, but I think you're going to find that they will be the dominant team, at least until 2025 when we see some engine regulation changes. This year, I think we're going to get a demonstration of absolute domination.

Formula 1's big guns floundering behind Red Bull and Alonso

Little old Fernando Alonso has been the only one that can even hang onto the coattails of the Red Bulls. He's doing it race after race, he’s proving that it can be done, and the big teams have really got to ask themselves the question, ‘how is Fernando doing that?’ Why are they consistently not able to do the same?

Yes, we see signs of brilliance from Mercedes' George Russell and Lewis Hamilton once or twice, but they don’t really seem to be connecting this year. But the two Ferraris are, sadly, disastrous at the moment.

Ferrari have just got to no race pace at all, not to mention the mistakes. In the race, poor Carlos Sainz was coming into the pits, and it was pretty obvious that he was coming in so hard that a speeding penalty was inevitable, and Charles Leclerc was nowhere to be seen.

I really would not like to be the Team Principal at Ferrari right now. Fred Vasseur is a sharp operator, but it normally takes more than one person. You have times when it’s not just what you're doing technically, you also need a bit of luck, and Ferrari just don't have any luck. Leclerc and Sainz are probably the two unluckiest drivers on the grid, but you can say that you make your own luck, and it’s fair to say that they should do better. There were mistakes with strategies last year, and this year it seems to be more driver problems but, whatever way you look at it, Ferrari keep having problems.

For Mercedes, Hamilton was nowhere to be seen really. I thought Russell drove a good race, given the situation, and put in some good overtakes, and he was there or there abouts with where he should be. But still, they’re off the pace. If you want to be really kind, you'll say that they are half-a-second off the pace of Red Bull, and you just can't make that up over a race distance.

It's going to be tough. Imola’s going to be an interesting one, and it’s the first European race of the season, but it’s the first of three on the trot, because they go straight to Monaco then go to Spain. It will be interesting to see who’s going to pull themselves out of the mess that they're in.

			© XPBimages
	© XPBimages

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