Happy Verstappen triumphs in sweltering Miami

Published May 10, 2022
MIAMI: Red Bull’s Max Verstappen (L) and Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc in action during the Miami F1 Grand Prix at the Miami International Autodrome.—Reuters
MIAMI: Red Bull’s Max Verstappen (L) and Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc in action during the Miami F1 Grand Prix at the Miami International Autodrome.—Reuters

MIAMI: World champion Max Verstappen resisted a late attack from series leader Charles Leclerc of Ferrari to claim an accomplished victory for Red Bull in sweltering conditions at the inaugural Miami Grand Prix on Sunday.

In a physically exhausting race for the drivers and teams at the Miami International Autodrome, the 24-year-old Dutchman produced a mature performance to make the most of superior straight line speed in a largely processional race until a late Safety Car intervention.

His second win in succession and third of the season enabled him to trim Leclerc’s advantage to 19 points in the drivers’ championship. Leclerc has 104 and Verstappen 85. It was the 23rd win of the Dutchman’s career.

“It was an incredible Grand Prix, very physical as well, but I think we kept it exciting until the end,” said Verstappen, interviewed by retired American driver Willy T. Ribbs after the race.

When Ribbs suggested he looked ready to “get into a boxing ring”, Verstappen retorted: “I think I’ll stick to racing, but I appreciate boxing a lot. It felt a bit like that out there in terms of how we feel now.

“I’m incredibly happy with winning here in Miami and it was an incredible Sunday for us.”

Leclerc finished a fighting second, 3.786 seconds behind after starting on pole position, with Spanish team mate Carlos Sainz completing the podium at the Miami Dolphins’ Hard Rock Stadium.

Verstappen made it happen with a crucial overtake around the outside on Sainz at the start to seize second place before blasting past Leclerc on the ninth of the 57 laps.

The Dutchman, who also made sure of the bonus point for fastest lap, had looked to be cruising to victory until McLaren’s Lando Norris collided with AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly and crashed on lap 41, triggering the safety car.

That allowed Leclerc to close the gap and get back into contention over the final 10 laps, which produced more action than the previous 47 including another accident when Mick Schumacher of Haas collided with fellow-German four-time champion Sebastian Vettel’s Aston Martin.

What was a slow burner in the energy-sapping humidity provided some fireworks at the end with the safety car bunching up the field, putting Leclerc right on Verstappen’s tail with five laps remaining.

“On the hard (tyres) we were very competitive and towards the end I thought I could get Max at one point but today they had the advantage in terms of pace,” Leclerc said.

“It was such a difficult race, physically.

“We struggled quite a bit with the medium tyres, especially in the first stint, and was overtaken there. That made our race a bit more difficult from that moment onwards.”

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

Perez, who lost speed with a sensor issue that the team fixed, tried to pass Sainz on lap 52 but overcooked his move, with the Spaniard forcing his way back in front and staying there despite the Mexican’s fresher tyres.

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

Russell, starting 12th but helped by pitting during the virtual safety car phase and having the advantage of fresher tyres, passed Hamilton twice on track.

He handed back position after the first overtake because he had benefited from going wide but re-passed him immediately afterwards.

Valtteri Bottas was seventh for Alfa Romeo with Alpine’s Esteban Ocon eighth in a stirring fight back after being unable to take part in Saturday’s qualifying due to a practice crash that forced the team to change his car’s chassis.

Double world champion team mate Fernando Alonso was demoted to 11th place after receiving a five-second penalty for causing a collision with Gasly.

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

Published in Dawn,May 10th, 2022

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