Max Verstappen used an aggressive early pass on Formula 1 championship leader Charles Leclerc and then controlled the opening Miami Grand Prix for his third win of the season.
The reigning world champion started third, but Red Bull quickly got the better of Ferrari for a second consecutive race. Leclerc and Carlos Sainz Jr. had locked down the front row in qualifying for Ferrari, but Verstappen surged at the start to edge Sainz.
He then set his sights on Leclerc and used a strong outside pass on lap nine to take the lead. Verstappen went unchallenged until a late crash between Lando Norris and Pierre Gasly brought out the safety car and set up a 10-lap sprint to the finish at the 19-turn, 3.36-mile circuit ( 5.41 kilometers) built around the Hard Rock Stadium.
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Leclerc had a few looks inside but Verstappen didn’t back down and the Dutchman won by 3.7 seconds. It also won two weeks ago at Imola as Red Bull capitalized on a poor Ferrari weekend on Italian soil with a 1-2 finish for Verstappen and Sergio Perez.
In Miami, Ferrari settled for second and third places for Leclerc and Sainz.
Perez finished fourth for Red Bull and Mercedes showed much improvement with fifth and sixth for George Russell and Lewis Hamilton. It’s the fourth time in five races that first-year Mercedes driver Russell has beaten the seven-time champion.
The race itself was not the thriller the breathless 85,000 people in attendance expected on Sunday when they snagged one of the most popular tickets in the sport. The promoters never had a general ticket sale due to overwhelming demand early on and the campus surrounding Hard Rock Stadium was the perfect place to party for the past three days.
Whether it’s at the man-made beach club where musical acts have entertained since Friday or at the “marina” which has moored 10 boats on plywood covered with a decal to look like rippling water, F1 has gotten the sun, sand and the Miami backdrop she wanted when she agreed to that 10-year contract.
On race day, the celebrities were out in force. Dwyane Wade took selfies on the starting grid and Paris Hilton danced outside the McLaren garage; Tom Brady, David Beckham and Michael Jordan posed for a pre-race photo with Lewis Hamilton, who hosted former first lady Michelle Obama on the track on Saturday. Serena Williams took advantage of Mercedes’ hospitality and Puerto Rican rapper Bad Bunny arrived on the scene with Perez and spent most of the pre-race at Red Bull with the Mexican driver.
The Miami event gives the US two F1 races in one season for the first time since 1984. F1 will add Las Vegas as a third US race in 2023.
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