Verstappen storms from ninth to Miami GP win
Max Verstappen beat polesitter Sergio Perez to victory in a late-race duel to maintain his championship lead.
Verstappen started the race ninth on the hard tire, alternating with Perez, who opened the race on mediums.
The Red Bull Racing’s pace advantage around the Miami International Autodrome was so significant that it took the Dutchman only 15 laps to rise to second place, at which point he was only 3.5s adrift of the lead. By this stage, the hard tire was the better compound and he made incremental gains on the leader to put Perez under pressure.
The Mexican’s medium tires cried “enough” on lap 20, directing him into pit lane for his sole change and handing the lead to his teammate. He rejoined the race around 19s off the lead, and with fresher rubber he set about closing the gap to lay down the gauntlet to his teammate.
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Verstappen was in fine form despite his aging rubber; his victory bid made late in his first stint.
The new Miami surface had been shredding the Pirelli rubber, and much of the grand prix was characterized by finessing the rubber to go the distance.
After lap 30 Verstappen had more than a pit stop worth of time over the field, bar his teammate, and was encouraged to push harder and extract the full life from the rubber.
Aided by a Perez mistake through the rapid Turn 7, the gap blew back open to 18.4s before Verstappen made his stop at the end of lap 45. He rejoined the race just 1.6s behind Perez, and with new medium tires he was able to make quick work of his teammate on laps 47 and 48.
Perez defended well in the braking zone of the long back straight to force Verstappen offline onto the front straight, but that only gave the Dutchman the racing line into the first turn, which he used to seize the lead with a move around the outside to gallop away to a 5.3.s victory
“I call that simply (expletive) lovely,” Verstappen said on his cool-down lap. “That was a good fight with Checo. That was really good.”
Perez was disappointed to have nothing for his teammate’s pace.
“In all honestly I think Max also had tremendous pace on the hard tire,” he said. “I think I’ve got to analyze what went wrong today, because we simply didn’t have the pace.”
Perez leads Alonso at the start. Alexander Trienitz/Motorsport Images
Fernando Alonso took his now customary third place for Aston Martin, returning to the podium after missing the rostrum in Azerbaijan.
The Spaniard started alongside Perez on the front row, and though he was undercut by Carlos Sainz at the pit stops, he made relatively easy work of the Ferrari with fresher rubber in the second stint to finish well ahead of fourth place.
Russell found great pace in his Mercedes despite early worries about vibrations under braking, using the car’s unexpected speed to overhaul Sainz as well to take an unexpected fourth.
Sainz was penalized 5s after the flag for speeding in the pit lane but had a sufficiently comfortable advantage over teammate Lewis Hamilton in sixth to cling to fifth place.
Hamilton recovered from 13th to score points after using a Verstappen-style alternative strategy to recover positions late and claim sixth, including a hard-fought move on Charles Leclerc at the end of the back straight in the final laps.
Leclerc had a shaky recovery from his qualifying crash to seventh, having complained in the race of the car was “all over the place,” but came good enough late to finish seventh, equaling his starting position.
Pierre Gasly dropped a pair of places to Leclerc and Hamilton late in the going, finishing eighth ahead of teammate Esteban Ocon in a strong turnaround from Alpine’s dismal non-score in Azerbaijan.
Kevin Magnussen scored the final point of the race for home team Haas with 10th, down from his unexpectedly-punchy fourth.
Yuki Tsunoda finished 11th after an admirable defense of Lance Stroll on the final lap, holding off the faster Aston Martin driver by 0.4s at the flag. Both drivers used the hard–medium strategy to gain six places apiece.
Valtteri Bottas finished 13th ahead of Alex Albon, Nico Hulkenberg and Zhou Guanyu.
Lando Norris was rear-ended by Nyck de Vries at the first corner but recovered to finish 17th ahead of the Dutchman.
Oscar Piastri finished 19th with a braking system failure, while home favorite Logan Sargeant finished last after a second-lap pit stop for a new front wing.