Max Verstappen won the first ever Miami Grand Prix, being prized by Ferrari’s pole-sitter Charles Leclerc early in the race, and defended it in an enthralling late-race battle.
Red Bull’s reigning champion took P2 off Carlos Sainz into Turn 1 at the start, and soon began to close in Leclerc. The Ferrari driver lost his lead to his rival on the main straight start of Lap 9 of 57 and pitted from medium to hards on Lap 24, causing Verstappen to react with his stop two laps later. It seemed that Verstappen would cruise to victory in front of Miami Gardens’ marina…
That was until the Lap 41 caution triggered a VSC-turned-safety car between a clash between Pierre Gasly and Lando Norris, which sent the McLaren driver into a spin as his right-rear tire ripped off. Perez took the opportunity to pitch for new mediums from P4, emerging there, with hard-shod Verstappen, Leclerc and Sainz ahead.
The Lap 47 restart saw Verstappen lead away but struggle to build a gap to Leclerc. It was equally difficult for Sainz, who was being hounded by medium-shod Sergio Perez for the final podium place.
Perez attempted to pass Sainz on Lap 52 but was locked up, avoiding contact with both drivers, while Leclerc was under half a second behind Verstappen in the lead for the chase. But neither Perez nor Leclerc could make the headway, and the win – narrow as it was over the Ferraris – would have been Verstappen’s.
Red Bull Racing
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Red Bull Racing
Rounding out the top five was George Russell, who started 11th and pitted during the VSC, using the advantage of freshman tiers to pass team mate Lewis Hamilton on Lap 54. Hamilton lamented the fact that he was beaten during the VSC but was promoted. to P6 when Valtteri Bottas went wide at Turn 17 on Lap 49.
The Alfa Romeo driver seemed destined for P5 starting there, but his late mistake left him seventeen. The Alpines were next, Esteban Ocon finishing eighth from Fernando Alonso in ninth – the latter being penalized for five seconds with Gasly.
Alex Albon completed the top 10 despite running as low as last, the Williams driver beating Daniel Ricciardo to the final point.
2022 Miami Grand Prix: Huge contact with Vettel costs Schumacher his first F1 points
Kevin Magnussen retired late after contact with Lance Stroll (P12 started in the pits), as did Sebastian Vettel – who started in the pits and was tapped out of the race by Mick Schumacher (P15).
Gasly didn’t finish his race with Norris (DNF) after the race, while Zhou Guanyu was the first retiree, being pulled into the pits on Lap 7.
Starting on the front row, Ferrari has converted them to a Miami Grand Prix win – while Max Verstappen has now made it two wins in a row.
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AS IT HAPPENED
Swaying palm trees, A-list celebrities, the biggest marina this side of Dade County – the Miami Grand Prix weekend was always destined to be a showstopper. Now it was just time for the lights out in the Sunshine State.
Ferrari painted the front row red thanks to pole-sitter Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz, with row two belonging to the Red Bulls – Max Verstappen ahead of Sergio Perez – while Alfa Romeo’s Valtteri Bottas would share row three with former Mercedes team mate Lewis Hamilton.
Aston Martin favors pre-race fuel temperature problems, with both Lance Stroll and Sebastian Vettel starting the pit lane to avoid a penalty from the FIA - while Esteban Ocon will start from the back for Alpine having crashed in FP2.
Busyls of ominous clouds looming, concrete walls closed, 18 drivers lined up on the grid. Amid the stifling heat, four drivers (Stroll, Vettel, George Russell and Ocon) started on hard compounds, while the other 16 started on mediums.
At the start, Leclerc had a terrific launch while Sainz lost out to Verstappen going into Turn 1, Hamilton fell to eighth after a Turn 1 lock-up and Fernando Alonso jumping from 11th to seventh – making slight contact with Hamilton in the process.
While Leclerc held the lead in the station, Verstappen was just over a second behind, with Hamilton now complaining of damage from the Lap 1 tap from Alonso – breezing past the Alpine driver for P7 on the run up to Turn 11 on Lap 3. On Lap 6, he took P6 off Gasly and the seven-time champion was back where he started.
Lap 8 saw Verstappen get well into the DRS range, right on the tail of the Leclerc, and the Dutchman made the pass for the lead on the main straight start at Lap 9. Leclerc prepared his rebuttal, tailing the Red Bull across the front lap. – But the reigning champion was now in a commanding position.
Ferrari began to struggle. Lap 13 saw Leclerc suffer a lock-up at Turn 17, his deficit now at 2.5s to Verstappen, while Perez was closing in on Sainz for P3.
Mercedes, meanwhile, were on a march, with Hamilton opening up a gap to Pierre Gasly behind (the Frenchman holding off Alonso for P7) while Russell’s hard tyres came into play and he passed Ricciardo on Lap 14. In an attempt to undercut Gasly, Alonso pitted one lap later but his stop lasted over five seconds, and he emerged 13th.
Lando Norris chose to pit soon after, with David Beckham watching the 3.6-second stop unfold, with the McLaren driver emerging 12th but falling both on Aston Martins on lap 19. Two laps later, he went wide in Sector 3 to bring out a short yellow. flag. Russell was now up to seventeen, behind Hamilton.
Back in the fight for the podium places, Perez relayed to the radio that his “engine had gone”, his pit wall attempting to reassure the Mexican as he complained of a loss of power over the lengthy straights. A sensor issue was to blame and Perez was back – but he had lost some time (and some engine power to boot) to Sainz ahead.
Hamilton was brought to the pits on lap 23, emerging seventh with a smooth stop – just ahead of McLaren’s still-to-pit Ricciardo – and giving the rest of the top 10 something to respond to.
Leclerc was next to pit, taking a swap to hards 3.2 seconds, as he emerged in P4 on Lap 25. That caused Verstappen to react at the end of the next lap and emerged second ahead of team mate Perez, leaving Sainz in the lead until The Spaniard stopped for hard compounds – along with Perez – at the start of Lap 27.
Sainz’s stop however lasted 5.4 seconds, Perez making ground with a 3.1-second stop, to re-ignite the fight for P3.
Then, on Lap 41, Gasly – who had been tapped at the final corner by Alonso – went wide at Turn 8, rejoined, and clashed with Norris, ripping the McLaren’s rear-right tire off and sending him into a spin. A Virtual Safety Car was called, soon morphing into a Safety Car.
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Russell took that moment to pit for the first time, dropping from fifth to seventh, with Perez swapping a second time with a number of others hoping to snatch positions. Hamilton was asked if he wanted to follow suit – but decided to stay out and try to protect his P6 position.
The Lap 47 restart would see this as Verstappen led Leclerc and Sainz (the top three on hards). Then we had the medium-tyred Perez, Bottas, then Hamilton and Russell in the top seven. Alonso – now holding a five-second penalty for contact with Gasly – led Schumacher and Ocon at the back of the top 10.
Up and down the grid, the chase was back on.
Perez was right on Sainz’s tail, the Spaniard having run wide on Lap 48, giving the Mexican a run for the final podium place. However, the Red Bull driver made his move on Lap 52, locked up, and caused Sainz to dodge in avoidance. Sainz swept past for P3 and completed the podium.
Meanwhile, right at the front, Leclerc had closed the gap to within a second but Verstappen held firm – going on to take his second consecutive victory of the season by an eventual 3.786s.
Russell and Hamilton had their own duel on the restart. Medium tyres helped Russell close in on Hamilton on Lap 49, and with Bottas going wide at Turn 17, both Mercedes swept past. Russell passed Hamilton at Turn 11 but was forced to give the position back off the track. He retook P5 a few laps later, leaving Hamilton to lament another unfortunate tire call on the radio.
Bottas’ late mistake put him seventeen, ahead of the soft-tyred Ocon. The Frenchman started at the back but had made up 12 places by Lap 37, classified in P8 and ahead of Alonso, as the Spanish driver was given a five-second penalty for making contact with Gasly earlier on.
Alonso not finished ninth, with Alex Albon rounding out the top 10. The Thai driver ran low as last but made it back up to 12th hard tyres, and took the final point on the Safety Car restart.
Ricciardo pitted for hards on lap 30 and again for softs for the late safety car restart, but couldn’t make it count, finishing 11th ahead of the stroll – the pit lane starter being demoted to P13 thanks to a late collision with Magnussen.
AlphaTauri’s Yuki Tsunoda fell out of the top 10 past the halfway point and finished 13th, also finishing off the race – a gamble that didn’t pay off for him. That left Williams driver Latifi in P14.
Despite battling with Tsunoda to get into the top 10 and then again with team mate Magnussen, Schumacher was classified P15 thanks to a late baffled Vettel, whose race started and ended in the pits.
Gasly didn’t finish contact with Norris after the race, and Zhou Guanyu was the first of the five drivers not to see the flag, as Alfa Romeo pulled him into a mechanical issue with Lap 7.
The podium saw the top three celebrate in the front of the Miami Dolphins legend Dan Marino – and his statue. On this given Sunday, it was Verstappen who ran his second consecutive victory over the entire nine yards, and the first Miami Grand Prix win in history.
“It was an incredible Grand Prix – very physical as well, but I think we kept it exciting until the end,” said winner Max Verstappen.
“I think I’ll stick to racing,” he said when asked by Willy T Ribbs if he was fit enough to step into the boxing ring, “but I appreciate a lot of boxing. It felt a bit like it out there … but Yes, incredibly happy with winning here in Miami, it was an incredible Sunday for us. “
The championship continues in Catalunya with the Spanish Grand Prix on May 20-22, with Red Bull now only six points behind Ferrari – and Verstappen 19 points behind Leclerc …
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