Red Bull ace Max Verstappen took 2nd from Carlos Sainz Jr. at the start of the Miami GP and then passed pole sitter Charles Leclerc’s Ferrari on the pit straight to take the lead he would never relinquish despite a late crash by Lando Norris that brought out the only Safety Car with 15 laps to go.
Defending World Champion Verstappen never put a wheel wrong all day for his third win of 2022.
When the green flew again with 10 laps to go Verstappen squirted out to a lead and held it to the finish, Leclerc not quite the match for the Dutchman on this day. The gap at the flag was 3.786s
Verstappen was imperious, biding his time, making the most of his opportunity. Had it not been for the late Safety Car he’d have disappeared into the sunset, and even with that late drama, he had enough to fend off Leclerc despite his rival having DRS.
Carlos Sainz Jr. brought the 2nd Ferrari home third to complete the podium.
Sergio Perez was 4th in the 2nd Red Bull and v George Russell rounded out the top-5 for Mercedes, beating his teammate Hamilton once again despite starting near the back. His better tire strategy plus a timely Safety Car allowed Russell to come out behind his teammate. With fresher and softer tires, Russell was able to dust Hamilton quickly.
”It was an incredible Grand Prix, very physical. Incredibly happy with winning here in Miami, it was an incredible Sunday for us,” said an elated Verstappen.
“It was a very difficult race physically. We struggled with the medium tires and got overtaken but with the hard we were very competitive,” said a defeated Leclerc. “I hope now we can do a step up from the next race onwards, but it’s been tight from the beginning of the season and that’s what we like to see.”
“After the crash from Friday, I still had neck pain going into the race. I had to fight through it, especially with Checo at the end there. It wasn’t easy at all, with the tires, with the heat, the car was moving and sliding a lot. We got what we deserved, a decent P3 and we can build from here,” said 3rd place Sainz.
“In the early laps Max was hanging with him and looking after his tires, that right front was crucial,” said Horner. “With the straight line speed advantage we had, he was able to get past. Really tactical race. If you look at the wings on the car, we ran a lower downforce set up that we thought would be kinder on the tires, and it paid off today.”
How the race unfolded
Verstappen’s third win of the season was set-up at the race start. Polesitter Leclerc made a good getaway to take the lead but Verstappen, on the clean side of the grid in P3, also got away well. As the field raced towards Turn 1, the Dutchman drew alongside second-placed Sainz, and taking a wide line into the first corner he held his line and his nerve to pass the Spaniard.
Pérez held fourth place behind Sainz while Valtteri Bottas claimed P5 for Alfa Romeo and AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly took sixth. Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton dropped back after locking up into Turn 1 behind Pérez and after he banged wheels with Alpine’s Fernando Alonso who made a good start to briefly rise to seventh. Hamilton recovered quickly and when DRS was enabled he passed Alonso and then on lap six moved past Gasly to rise to sixth.
At the front, Verstappen shadowed Leclerc through the opening phase of the race and on lap eight he closed right up to the Ferrari down the long back straight. He couldn’t make the move stick into Turn 17 but as they crossed the line to begin the next tour, Verstappen got DRS again and swept past the championship leader into Turn 1 to take the lead.
The Dutch driver quickly began to build a gap to the Ferrari driver and when Leclerc locked his front right midway through lap 12, the Dutchman’s advantage extended to 2.5s.
Behind the leaders on lap 15, Sainz still led Pérez with the Ferrari driver 1.8s ahead of the Red Bull. On lap 18 Pérez began to close in on Sainz and at the start of lap 20 he edged toward DRS range of the Spaniard but suddenly the Mexican’s pace flagged and at the end of lap 20 he had dropped four seconds to the Ferrari.
He radioed his pit wall to report a loss of power and after being told to switch a sensor he was told to carry on. He continued to lose time, however, and on lap 23 he was eight seconds behind Sainz.
Behind the top four, Bottas held fifth but as cars behind him made their first pit stops, Mercedes’ George Russell, who had started on hard tires, rose to sixth ahead of team-mate Hamilton who had made his first tire change.
At the end of lap 24 Leclerc made his first visit to the pit lane and after taking on hard tires he rejoined in fourth place, eight seconds behind Pérez. Verstappen pitted at the end of lap 26 and in a 2.4s stop he took on hard tires and emerged in P2, seven seconds behind new leader Sainz.
At the end of lap 27 Sainz made his way into the pit lane with Pérez also turning towards the pit lane behind him. Sainz’s crew had a problem with their driver’s front right in a slow 5.4s stop and Pérez closed to within five seconds of Sainz. The Mexican was still nursing a drop in power, however, and he once again began to drop back from the Ferrari man.
Verstappen, meanwhile, now led Leclerc by almost eight seconds with Sainz a further 10s back in third. Behind fourth-placed Pérez, Russell, still in need of a first pit stop, now held fifth ahead of Bottas and Hamilton.
On lap 41, the shape of the race changed. Pierre Gasly went wide through two corners and after drifting off track slowly rejoined. However, he failed to see Lando Norris behind and the two made contact. The McLaren driver’s right rear tire punctured and after spinning luridly he came to a halt in the middle of track. After a brief VSC the physical Safety Car was deployed.
Verstappen and Leclerc stayed on track behind the SC but Red Bull pitted Pérez and he was able to take on fresh medium tires and rejoin ahead of Bottas to hold fourth ahead of Hamilton and Russell who benefited from a free stop to bolt on a set of medium tires.
The Safety Car left the track at the end of lap 46 Verstappen controlled the restart well to hold the lead. Pérez, on new mediums, attacked Sainz. He couldn’t make the move stick, however, and he had to settle back into fourth to plot another assault.
When DRS enabled Pérez shadowed the Spaniards again and on lap 52 he attacked again into Turn 1. But he went too deep into the corner and Sainz eased his way past the locked up Mexican to stay in third.
The battle for the lead was just as intense. Leclerc closed in on the Dutchman and with the aid of DRS made repeated attacks. But, with better straight-line speed, Verstappen was able to keep the Ferrari at bay and on lap 53 he began to pull away slightly from his title rival. On lap 54 Verstappen broke DRS and his eventual victory was sealed.
The Dutch driver took his third win of the season, and the point for fastest lap, almost four seconds ahead of Leclerc, while Sainz managed to hold off Pérez to take his ninth career podium with third place.
Behind Pérez, Russell passed Hamilton in the closing stages to take fifth place ahead of Hamilton and Bottas who made a mistake late on that allowed the Mercedes cars to pass. Alpine’s Esteban Ocon benefited from a free stop under the Safety Car to rise from the back of the grid to eighth at the flag ahead of team-mate Fernando Alonso and the final point went to Williams’ Alex Albon.
|1||1||Max Verstappen||RED BULL RACING RBPT||57||+0.000s|
|4||11||Sergio Perez||RED BULL RACING RBPT||57||+10.638s|
|7||77||Valtteri Bottas||ALFA ROMEO FERRARI||57||+25.073s|
|8||31||Esteban Ocon||ALPINE RENAULT||57||+28.386s|
|9||14||Fernando Alonso||ALPINE RENAULT||57||+32.128s|
|10||23||Alexander Albon||WILLIAMS MERCEDES||57||+32.365s|
|11||3||Daniel Ricciardo||MCLAREN MERCEDES||57||+35.902s|
|12||18||Lance Stroll||ASTON MARTIN ARAMCO MERCEDES||57||+37.026s|
|13||22||Yuki Tsunoda||ALPHATAURI RBPT||57||+40.146s|
|14||6||Nicholas Latifi||WILLIAMS MERCEDES||57||+49.936s|
|15||47||Mick Schumacher||HAAS FERRARI||57||+73.305s|
|16||20||Kevin Magnussen||HAAS FERRARI||56||DNF|
|17||5||Sebastian Vettel||ASTON MARTIN ARAMCO MERCEDES||54||DNF|
|NC||10||Pierre Gasly||ALPHATAURI RBPT||45||DNF|
|NC||4||Lando Norris||MCLAREN MERCEDES||39||DNF|
|NC||24||Zhou Guanyu||ALFA ROMEO FERRARI||6||DNF|
* Provisional results. Note – Verstappen scored an additional point for setting the fastest lap of the race.