Verstappen wins penalty-laden Miami GP Sprint

Max Verstappen took victory from pole position ahead of front-row starter Charles Leclerc, in an incident- and penalty-filled Sprint race at the Miami Grand Prix.

Verstappen was super aggressive off the line, squeezing Leclerc to the inside of the track to compromise his rival at the first corner and guarantee himself the lead. The Ferrari driver gamely clung to Verstappen’s gearbox through the first two sectors, but a safety car was called before the end of the first lap, neutralizing the race to collect Lando Norris’s stopped McLaren at the first turn.

Norris was the innocent party in a multicar collision at the first apex. Lewis Hamilton steamed into a gap on the inside of Fernando Alonso, who was already in the process of crashing into the side of teammate Lance Stroll. Hamilton’s added momentum sent all three cars into the side of Norris, who was spun off the road and to a race-ending stop.


Both Aston Martin drivers had to pit for repairs. Alonso was able to rejoin the race, but Stroll was forced to retire with damage. Hamilton continued behind the safety car.

The stewards opted against investigating the crash.

The race resumed on lap 4, but Verstappen was unable to clear away from Leclerc.

“Zero rear grip, like quali,” he complained to his race engineer.

But though his problems kept Leclerc within range, they weren’t severe enough to bring him within range of victory, and the Dutchman took the flag first with a 3.3s margin.

“We could increase the gap a little bit, but it wasn’t entirely perfect, so we still have a little bit of work to do,” he said. “Hopefully we can improve it a little bit later on for qualifying.”

Leclerc was fortunate to be in the contest at all after Alpine’s Esteban Ocon crashed into him in the pit lane on the way to the grid. The Frenchman bizarrely plowed into the side of the Monegasque, his front wing breaking underneath the Ferrari’s right-rear tire despite his mechanics appearing to be telling him to stop.

“The guy was completely sleeping,” Leclerc said, though fortunately he escaped with only minor right-rear wheel rim damage that left him uninhibited on his way to a second place he said boded well for his grand prix prospects.

“I didn’t want to take too many risks because we have qualifying later on,” he said. “I was pushing very hard but in the first few laps they had a bit more pace, but then we had similar degradation. Hopefully we can put them under pressure on strategy [tomorrow].”

Sergio Perez finished third but without the pace to catch Leclerc after falling behind Daniel Ricciardo at the start. It took the Mexican just one lap after the safety car to take the position back, but his early pace was unimpressive. He chose instead to gift Ricciardo DRS until lap 9 to help keep a buffer to Carlos Sainz behind, after which he cleared off to secure third, though it left him too far behind the leaders to move forward.

“It was really hard to get through Daniel at the beginning, and once I go through … I was 3s from Charles, and given the short duration of the race, it was pretty tricky. Anyway, let’s look forward to the rest of the weekend.”

Ricciardo’s RB led Red Bull’s A-team car of Perez early before taking fourth. Sam Bloxham/Motorsport Images

Ricciardo was an excellent fourth for RB to score his first points of the year. The Australian seemed unlikely to hold position without Perez’s DRS, but he was inch perfect with his defensive lines and clever with his battery deployment to keep Sainz’s much faster Ferrari — and Oscar Piastri behind in sixth — at bay to score his first points of the season.

Nico Hulkenberg finished a strong seventh for Haas after teammate Kevin Magnussen did a sterling but controversial job of defending against Lewis Hamilton throughout the race.

The Dane picked up a ludicrous three penalties worth 25s in total — variously for cutting the chicane, crowding Hamilton off the track and driving off the road — to hold up the Mercedes driver so long that he never stood a chance of catching Hulkenberg.

“All the penalties were well deserved, no doubt about it, but I had to play the game,” Magnussen admitted to British TV, though he was disappointed Hulkenberg didn’t drop back to help him out with DRS.

His off-track duel with Hamilton even allowed Yuki Tsunoda to slot ahead of the Briton late in the race, but in the end the battle was in vain. Magnussen’s heavy penalties dropped him last, and Hamilton was slugged 20s for speeding in pit lane that dumped him to 16th. Tsunoda therefore inherited the final point of the race in eighth.

Pierre Gasly led home Logan Sargeant, Zhou Guanyu, the surprisingly slow Mercedes of George Russell and the pit-lane starting Alex Albon and Valtteri Bottas home.

Ocon finished 15th after serving his 10s penalty during the safety car period but finished ahead of only Hamilton, the damaged Alonso and Magnussen.

Story originally appeared on Racer