Pre-race expectations had been for a medium–hard tyre strategy to win the day, and pole-getter Pérez set off from the line expecting to control the pace and grid out victory.
But Verstappen opted for the alternative hard–medium route, and on a day defined by tyre management on the rubber-shredding Miami track, it turned out to be the faster route.
It took the Dutchman just 15 laps to scythe through the field up to second place behind his teammate, who was already finding the medium tyres were past their best.
Five laps later he was into the pits, handing Verstappen the lead.
The Mexican made early gains on the favoured hards, reducing what had been a 19-second deficit down to 14s in around 10 laps, keeping him on course for a likely win.
But with his own pit stop now in sight, Verstappen put the hammer down from lap 30. He blew the margin back out to more than 18 seconds before diving into the pits for his mandatory stop on lap 45 and rejoined just 1.6s seconds off the lead.
On much older tyres, Pérez was effectively defenceless. He rebuffed a passing attempt once down the back straight, but Verstappen negotiated himself onto the racing line for the first turn and swept around the outside of his teammate to take the lead with 10 laps to go.
His winning margin was 5.3 seconds, and with the fastest lap he extended his championship advantage to 14 points over Pérez.
“I stayed out of trouble at the beginning, then just had a really clean race,” he said. “I could stay out really long on the hard tyres - that’s where I made the difference today.”
Pérez was disappointed to miss an opportunity to take the title lead, pinning his loss down to the unexpectedly poor performance of the medium tyre in the opening stint.
“That compromised quite a lot our race,” he said. “In all honestly I think Max also had tremendous pace on the hard tyre.
“I think I’ve got to analyse what went wrong today, because we simply didn’t have the pace.”
Fernando Alonso returned to what has fast become his customary third place, down from second on the grid, after his Aston Martin proved unexpectedly more competitive than both Ferrari and Mercedes.
George Russell rose from sixth to fourth for Mercedes, comfortably beating fifth-placed Carlos Sainz with an earlier stop.
Lewis Hamilton used Verstappen’s alternative strategy to recover from 13th to sixth, passing six cars in the final stint of the race on the medium tyre.
The Briton pipped Charles Leclerc, putting the Monegasque down to seventh, with three laps remaining, leaving the Ferrari driver to finish where he started.
Pierre Gasly and Esteban Ocon were a strong eighth and ninth for Alpine after failing to score last weekend, while Haas driver Kevin Magnussen scored the final point from 10th.
Japanese driver Yuki Tsunoda held off Lance Stroll by just 0.445 seconds after a late duel, both on the alternative strategy.
Valtteri Bottas beat Thai driver Alex Albon to 13th. Nico Hülkenberg finished 15th ahead of Zhou Guanyu, Lando Norris and Nyck de Vries.
Australian Oscar Piastri dealt with brake problems throughout the race to finish 19th ahead of local favourite Logan Sargeant, whose race was undone by early damage to his front wing.
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