Max Verstappen holds off challenge of Charles Leclerc to win Miami Grand Prix
Max Verstappen won the inaugural Miami Grand Prix for Red Bull, putting in a flawless run to edge the Ferrari of Charles Leclerc into second place. In control at the Miami International Autodrome, the reigning champion delivered an ice-cool performance on an afternoon baking in the Florida sunshine amid huge expectations for this first race here, a key part of Formula One’s efforts to break America.
Carlos Sainz was in third for Ferrari, ahead of Sergio Pérez, with Mercedes enjoying an improved afternoon after recent travails with George Russell and Lewis Hamilton taking fifth and sixth.
The win has tightened up the fight for the championship after five rounds, with Leclerc’s lead over Verstappen cut from 27 to 19 points.
Starting from pole, Leclerc held his lead into turn one as Verstappen launched himself up the outside of Sainz in an excellent move to claim second place. It was a vital pass for Verstappen to split the two Ferraris.
Leclerc and Verstappen had opened up a gap out front but with the former’s tyres taking a pounding and his having made an error in turn 17, the Dutchman with dominant race pace made a decisive move up the inside of turn one on lap nine. Just as when he went ahead at the last round in Imola it was a lead he never looked like surrendering.
He enjoyed over a two-second advantage by lap 12 and held his lead through the only pit stops. Ferrari were simply not in the fight and Verstappen was proving he is rarely prone to error when he has a race by the scruff of the neck.
He held his place after a late safety car and, while Leclerc stuck with him and pressured to the flag, he duly closed it out with finality to take his third win of the season.
This was perhaps not quite the spectacle Miami – David Beckham was among the celebrity attendees – had been hoping for but on this form Ferrari and Leclerc need to find more to take the fight to Verstappen. F1 will nonetheless consider its first outing in Miami a success; certainly the sold-out event with 82,500 fans was embraced by them with huge enthusiasm. The grandstands roaring to every move being made on track.
Verstappen has ensured he was central to that success story and F1’s racing history in the sunshine state. This was the first time a GP had been held in Florida since 1959, when Sebring played host to the final race of the season and Jack Brabham clinched the title by pushing his fuel-less car over the line to take fourth place.