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Verstappen passes Leclerc to win Miami GP

Max Verstappen and Charles Leclerc

Max Verstappen overtook pole position Charles Leclerc early in the race and went on to win the inaugural Miami GP.

At first it looked like Verstappen’s triumph would be smooth sailing, but a crash on lap 41 involving Lando Norris set the race ablaze, with the Red Bull driver enduring strong pressure from Leclerc to cross the finish line ahead.

In an equally fierce dispute close behind, Carlos Sainz held off Sergio Perez in the closing laps and secured the last step of the podium.

Mercedes again had to settle for being the best of the rest, with George Russell fifth after being 15th at one point and Lewis Hamilton sixth.

Verstappen made a perfect start and quickly got rid of Sainz at Turn 2 after being side-by-side with the Spaniard in the first turn.

It was a problematic first corner for Hamilton, who locked up his front right wheel on entry and allowed Pierre Gasly to take advantage.

Then the seven-time world champion was also overtaken by Fernando Alonso, who twice touched the rear left wheel of the Mercedes before completing the overtake.

When the DRS was released on lap three, Hamilton wasted no time and left Alonso behind. Three laps later, he also passed Gasly.

Verstappen managed to keep Leclerc constantly in his sights until he took his first opportunity to take the lead, putting it aside and completing the maneuver as the two opened the ninth lap.

From that moment on, the Dutchman gradually built a lead of more than four seconds when Leclerc pitted at the end of lap 24, switching from medium to hard tyres.

Verstappen also put in the toughs two laps later, briefly ceding the lead to Sainz, who came in at the end of the 27th lap. Ferrari took 5.4s to change the Spaniard’s right front tyre, which reduced their lead over Perez.

A little earlier, the Mexican had suffered a power unit problem that cost him over four seconds and led to a desperate radio message before a reset fixed things.

Faced with Sainz’s slow pit stop, that ended up costing Perez a podium spot alongside Verstappen and Leclerc, who traded faster laps in an attempt to score the bonus point that changed hands four times in eight laps.

The turning point came on lap 41, when Gasly escaped at Turn 8. On the return, Norris tried to pass, but the AlphaTauri’s front left wheel touched the McLaren’s rear right.

Norris lapped several times before finally stopping at the circuit, triggering the safety car.

The neutralization was perfect for Perez and Russell, who swapped their hard tires – the Brit had started with this compound – for the medium ones. They were fourth and seventh respectively.

Verstappen, Leclerc and Sainz stayed on track on their hard tyres. While the Dutch and the Monegasque took advantage in the battle for the lead, Sainz managed to hold Perez in the duel for third place.

The Mexican tried a bold move at one point, but braked too late, took Sainz’s immediate change and had to settle for fourth.

Behind them, fifth-placed Valtteri Bottas made a mistake on lap 50 that allowed the Mercedes duo to overtake. Soon after, Russell left his teammate behind.

Up front, Verstappen had Leclerc in his mirrors for several laps, threatening a maneuver on a couple of occasions, but that didn’t come to fruition and he was content with second place.

Bottas came in seventh ahead of Esteban Ocon and Alonso, with Alex Albon scoring another point for Williams in 10th thanks to the collision between Mick Schumacher and Sebastian Vettel at the end.

Test rating:

Pos. Pilot Team turns time/dif.
1 Max Verstappen Red Bull RBPT 57 1:34:24,258
two Charles Leclerc Ferrari 57 +3,786s
3 Carlos Sainz Ferrari 57 +8,229s
4 Sergio Perez Red Bull RBPT 57 +10,638s
5 George Russell mercedes 57 +18,582s
6 Lewis Hamilton mercedes 57 +21,368s
7 Valtteri Bottas Alfa Romeo Ferrari 57 +25,073s
8 Esteban Ocon Alpine Renault 57 +28,386s
9 Fernando Alonso Alpine Renault 57 +32,128s
10 Alexander Albon Williams Mercedes 57 +32,365s
11 Lance Stroll Aston Martin Mercedes 57 +37,026s
12 Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri RBPT 57 +40,146s
13 Daniel Ricciardo McLaren Mercedes 57 +40,902s
14 Nicholas Latifi Williams Mercedes 57 +49,936s
15 Mick Schumacher Haas Ferrari 57 +73,305s
16 Kevin Magnussen Haas Ferrari 56 abandonment
17 Sebastian Vettel Aston Martin Mercedes 54 abandonment
18 Pierre Gasly AlphaTauri RBPT 45 abandonment
19 Lando Norris McLaren Mercedes 39 abandonment
20 Zhou Guanyu Alfa Romeo Ferrari 6 abandonment

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