Verstappen beats Leclerc to win first Miami Grand Prix

Miami, May 9 (BUS): Formula 1 world champion Max Verstappen won the inaugural Miami Grand Prix to drop Ferrari’s overall lead from 27 points to 19 points after Ferrari rival Charles Leclerc after five races.

Leclerc finished second in the fight by 3.786 seconds after starting from pole position, as fellow Spaniard Carlos Sainz completed the podium at the Miami Dolphin’s Hard Rock Stadium, Reuters reported.

The win was the Dutch driver’s third of the season, and second in a row, and he achieved it with a decisive all-around overrun over Sainz at the start to finish second before overtaking Leclerc on ninth of 57 laps.

Verstappen, who also confirmed a bonus point on the fastest lap, looked on his way to victory until McLaren’s Lando Norris collided with Alpha Torri’s Pierre Gasly and crashed on lap 41, triggering the safety car.

This allowed Leclerc to close the gap and get back into the competition for the last 10 laps.

“It’s been an incredible grand prix,” said Verstappen, who has won every race to have finished so far this season, being named winner by Dolphins NFL quarterback Dan Marino. “(It was) very physical but I think we kept it exciting until the end.”

The race drew a host of A-list celebrities, sports greats and a crowded crowd as Formula One enjoyed a wave of popularity fueled by the Netflix docu series “Drive to Survive”.

“It was crazy,” said Red Bull boss Christian Horner. “I’ve never known such interest, such passion and such a huge, huge event.” “I think it was great for the American public to turn to Formula One… It was a great event and an exciting race at the end as well.”

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What was a slow burner in the energy-consuming moisture provided some fireworks at the end with the safety car gathering in the field, putting Leclerc right on Verstappen’s tail with five laps left.

“On the hard tyres, we were very competitive and in the end I thought I could get the Max at some point, but today they have an edge in terms of speed,” Leclerc said.

Verstappen’s Mexican teammate Sergio Perez finished fourth, with Ferrari retaining the lead in the constructors’ standings with 157 points, compared to 151 for Red Bull.

Perez, who lost his pace due to a delicate problem that the team fixed, tried to pass Sainz on lap 52 but overdid his movement, as the Spaniard made his way to the front and stayed there despite the Mexican’s fresh tyres.

George Russell continued his record of finishing in every race so far in the top five, with fellow Mercedes teammate and seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton sixth after a brief battle between the two.

Russell, who started in 12th but helped him by pitting through the virtual safety car stage and making use of the more modern tyres, passed Hamilton twice on the track.

He re-positioned after the first pass because he benefited from the wide move but he re-dipped it right after that.

Valtteri Bottas finished seventh for Alfa Romeo with Alpine’s Esteban Ocon eighth in a tough encounter after he was unable to participate in Saturday’s qualifying due to a training accident that forced the team to change its chassis.

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His colleague, two-time world champion Fernando Alonso, fell to 11th after receiving a five-second penalty for colliding with Gasly.

Alex Albon moved to ninth and Aston Martin in Stroll 10 as a result of Alonso’s penalty kick.

There was grief for Mick Schumacher, who was running his best race yet and looked like taking his first point in Formula 1 until colliding with Aston Martin’s Sebastian Vettel.

Vettel and teammate Stroll both started from the pit lane after a fuel temperature problem prevented them from going into the grid.

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