MIAMI — Max Verstappen took an aggressive approach right out of the starting gate at the inaugural Miami Grand Prix on Sunday and it paid off.
The Red Bull Racing driver is the first ever champion at the Miami International Autodrome, edging out Charles Leclerc by more than three seconds after a late crash let the Scuderia Ferrari driver try to make a late charge.
Leclerc, however, remains atop the 2022 Formula One World Championship standings after five races. Leclerc was won two and Verstappen, who started third Sunday behind Leclerc and Ferrari teammate Carlos Sainz Jr., has won three.
Verstappen also scored a bonus point for recording the race’s fastest lap in 1:31.458. He finished the race in 1:34:24.258, 3.786 seconds ahead of Leclerc and 8.229 ahead of Sainz.
The 24-year-old Belgian passed Sainz on the very first turn of the race, then overtook Leclerc on the same turn of the ninth lap, using Red Bull’s straight-line speed to get inside position on Leclerc to take the lead.
On the 27th lap, Verstappen’s lead had swelled to about 12 seconds and he went in for his first pit stop, briefly letting Sainz pass him. Sainz’s lead, however, only lasted a lap, as he went in for a pit and Verstappen jumped back ahead for good. The race became, ostensibly, a four-driver battle between Verstappen, Leclerc, Sainz and Red Bull’s Sergio Perez — this is the order they finished — and Verstappen held a roughly 7.5-second lead by the time all were done with their first pit stops.
Verstappen’s early charge made for a mostly drama-free race in Miami Gardens, until a crash on the 41st lap — out of 57 — knocked McLaren’s Lando Norris out of the race. The crash — Norris’ back left tire clipped the front of Scuderia AlphaTauri driver Pierre Gasly’s car — tightened the race and let Leclerc back within striking distance, although he could never quite overtake Verstappen.
Norris’ crash also wound up beneficial for Mercedes-Benz’s George Russell. The 24-year-old Englishman was able to sneak in a pit stop as the safety car came out, giving him fresh tires to move up into fifth. He has now finished in the top five of every race this season.
To get there, Russell passed teammate Lewis Hamilton, who has now failed to reach the podium in 4 of 5 races this year. The seven-time world champion, who’s also from England, finished sixth.
Alfa Romeo’s Valtteri Bottas, Apine F1 Team’s Esteban Ocon, Alpine’s Fernando Alonso — a two-time world champion — and McLaren’s Daniel Ricciardo rounded out the top 10, in order, to score points in the World Championship.
Aston Martin’s Sebastian Vettel, a four-time world champion and one of only four former champions in the field, did not finish, dropping out with three laps to go.©2022 Miami Herald. Visit at miamiherald.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.