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Verstappen takes superb Miami GP victory despite late safety car

The Dutchman was imperious throughout the race as Ferrari had no answer to the raw pace of the Red Bull in F1's first trip to Miami

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Max Verstappen survived a late challenge from Charles Leclerc to secure his third victory of the 2022 Formula 1 season at the inaugural Miami Grand Prix.

Verstappen started from third on the grid after making a mistake on his final qualifying lap, leaving him behind the Ferrari pair of Leclerc and Carlos Sainz.

However, the reigning world champion remained undeterred, and he got a good start and managed to get past Sainz at the first corner and set about chasing down Leclerc, with the Red Bull benefitting from a significant straight-line speed advantage.

By Lap 9 the Dutchman had the Ferrari in his sights, and he managed an overtake up the inside of Leclerc to take the lead of the race, and he had pulled out a 4 second gap at the front by the time drivers began to come in for their first pit stops as the Red Bull speed advantage told.

Red Bull’s Max Verstappen, Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz Jr. and Red Bull’s Sergio Perez in action during the Miami Grand Prix REUTERS/Ricardo Arduengo

From there, Red Bull comfortably covered off the Ferrari pit stop, and it looked as if Verstappen would canter to victory before a late safety car period on Lap 40 added some spice to proceedings.

The safety car came out after Pierre Gasly, who had gone wide in the AlphaTauri, rejoined the track and failed to see the oncoming McLaren of Lando Norris, with the Frenchman clipping the other car’s wheel and sending the Brit into a tailspin.

Norris was forced to retire for his first DNF of the 2022 season, while Gasly later retired from damage to the car after this incident and an earlier collision with the Alpine of Fernando Alonso.

That incident reshuffled the pack, with George Russell one of the major beneficiaries for Mercedes after his decision to stay out on the hard tyres from the beginning of the race paid off, promoting him to 5th at the chequered flag after he passed teammate Lewis Hamilton.

Perez charge

On Lap 20, Sergio Perez began to complain of issues with power, once again raising the spectre of reliability problems at Red Bull after their drivers had suffered several retirements in the first batch of races in 2022.

The Mexican began to lose time to Sainz in 3rd just as he was closing the Ferrari down, and while the engineers managed to fix what Christian Horner said was a sensor issue that cost around 20kw of battery power, he slipped back from the chase for the final podium place.

But the late safety car offered Perez an opportunity to redeem the damage, and when the Red Bull pitted for medium tyres and Sainz stayed out it looked as if he could have another chance at 3rd.

After the restart Perez looked much more comfortable on the fresh rubber, and went chasing after the Ferrari, getting closer every lap.

His chance came on Lap 52 on the run into Turn 1, and the Mexican sent a lunge up the inside of the Ferrari, but Sainz held firm and Perez was forced to loosen off the steering and locked up, swinging past the corner and allowing the Spaniard enough breathing room to take home 3rd.

Red Bull’s Max Verstappen and Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc in action during the race REUTERS/Marco Bello

Verstappen quick off the mark

Ahead of the race there were predictions that the left hand side of the grid would offer a better launch for the drivers, and that proved prescient and Leclerc and Verstappen both got off the line well.

Heading into the first corner Verstappen had closed down on Sainz as Leclerc managed to get away cleanly, and the Dutchman managed to send his car around the outside of the Spaniard, with the Ferrari left with no option but to back out and cede the position.

Meanwhile further back Hamilton had a difficult start, as the former world champion lost 2 positions to the AlphaTauri of Gasly and Alonso in the Alpine.

Alonso actually made contact with Hamilton after the Mercedes suffered a small lock up into the first braking zone, with the pair clashing wheels, though neither suffered any serious damage.

Hamilton went on to retake the positions in subsequent laps, and was back up to 6th by Lap 6, sweeping past Gasly and Alonso on the straights without the need for the aid of DRS.

Despite seeming improvements in Mercedes’ persistent porpoising issues over the course of the weekend, Hamilton struggled to chase down his former teammate Valtteri Bottas in the Alfa Romeo, with the Finn holding on to 5th place after a strong qualifying performance on Saturday.

But the performance slipped back after the late safety car, when Bottas went wide on Lap 50 with both Mercedes close behind, the Alfa Romeo losing both places and eventually coming over the line in 7th.

Formula One F1 – Miami Grand Prix – Miami International Autodrome, Miami, Florida, U.S. – May 8, 2022 General view during the race REUTERS/Ricardo Arduengo

Long runs

Esteban Ocon and Alpine had come to Miami full of hope after new updates to the car which they believed would help them in the tight midfield battle, but his optimism was short lived after a heavy crash during practice meant he required a new car and missed qualifying.

As a result, Ocon started the race from the back of the grid and went for the long-run strategy on the hard tyres, with the Norris safety car allowing him the opportunity to pit for fresh soft tyres and eventually bring home some points in 8th.

He finished just behind teammate Alonso at the chequered flag, but the Spaniard was handed a 5 second penalty for an earlier collision with Gasly and was eventually demoted out of the points.

Alex Albon scored a second points finish of the season for Williams in 10th at the flag, just ahead of Daniel Ricciardo and the Aston Martin of Lance Stroll.

Sebastian Vettel had looked on for a strong finish after some impressive overtakes which showed a flash of the potential in his season, but ultimately crashed out following a collision with the Haas of Mick Schumacher, the young German also forced to retire due the coming together with only a few laps left to go.

Kevin Magnussen finished 16th, but was given a 5 second penalty for weaving. In his first F1 race in the US, Alfa Romeo’s Zhou Guanyu suffered a disappointing retirement, with the Chinese driver coming back into the pits early in the race with mechanical issues.

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