Miami Grand Prix: Verstappen takes hard-fought win over Leclerc
Red Bull’s Max Verstappen survived a late-race assault from title rival Charles Leclerc’s Ferrari to win the inaugural Miami Grand Prix.
Verstappen was cruising to an easy win after passing Leclerc early in the race but a late safety car brought them back together for a restart with 10 laps to go.
Leclerc strained everything for five laps to get close enough for a passing move but Verstappen eventually broke his challenge.
Verstappen’s win cut Leclerc’s championship lead to 19 points.
It was an unexpectedly dramatic finish to a race that had appeared to be petering out after Verstappen’s early climb from third on the grid to the lead.
The world champion passed the second Ferrari of Carlos Sainz around the outside of Turn One and into Turn Two and then chased down Leclerc before taking the lead at the start of the ninth lap.
From there, Verstappen edged out his advantage, through the pit stops to be cruising to victory with an eight-second lead before a safety car was thrown for a bizarre crash between McLaren’s Lando Norris and Alpha Tauri’s Pierre Gasly.
Closing up the field gave Leclerc another chance when it appeared his hopes were gone, and he gave it everything to try to reclaim the lead.
He was within a second of Verstappen for five laps after the restart but was always agonisingly just too far away to make a proper lunge for the lead.
Eventually, Verstappen put his superior pace to good effect to ease out his lead to just over a second, preventing Leclerc from benefiting from the one-second advantage provided by the DRS overtaking aid, and the race was done.
It was Verstappen’s second consecutive win – the first time a driver has achieved that last year – and it continues his run of either winning or retiring this year, albeit that both retirements came when he was in second place having lost a fight with Leclerc.
And it was an impressive recovery after losing a lot of track time on Friday from a series of reliability problems that he felt had prevented him from fighting for pole position.
The two title rivals were in a league of their own, leaving their team-mates well behind.
Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz hung on to third for the final podium position, despite Perez having the advantage of fresh tyres after Red Bull pitted him for new medium tyres at the safety car period. (BBC)