Grand prix

Verstappen beats F1 title rival Leclerc to win 1st Miami GP

The reigning world champion appeared to be on course for a straightforward victory after overtaking Leclerc early on and building up a comfortable lead, only for a late Safety Car to wipe out his advantage. 

Verstappen survived 10 laps of constant pressure from Leclerc, who spent most of the final stages of the first-ever race to be held in Miami within DRS range, to take his third victory of the season. 

Back-to-back wins for Verstappen has seen the Red Bull driver cut Leclerc’s championship lead down to 19 points after two DNFS in three races had left him well adrift. 

Prior to the late Safety Car – which was deployed when McLaren’s Lando Norris spun off into the barriers following contact with Pierre Gasly’s AlphaTauri – Miami had looked set to make a fairly uneventful debut having been one of the most hyped up F1 races in years. 

The fast-starting Verstappen brilliantly swept around the outside of Sainz’s Ferrari at Turn 1 and took just nine laps to charge past Leclerc and snatch the lead. 

Using the advantage of his Red Bull’s greater top speed, Verstappen dived down the inside of his rival at the first corner before cruising clear into a seven-and-a-half second lead over Leclerc before the late drama. 

Sainz held off Sergio Perez to claim the final spot on the podium, despite the Red Bull driver having the advantage of fresh medium tyres after pitting under the Safety Car, while Sainz stayed out on worn hards. 

Nearly eight seconds behind the scrapping Sainz and Perez, George Russell once again capitalised on a Safety Car to finish ahead of Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton

Hamilton had been ahead of Russell following the pit stops but the Safety Car allowed his younger teammate to pit for fresh mediums. 

Russell eventually breezed past Hamilton to take fifth after the pair had swapped places several times in a frantic final few laps. 

Alfa Romeo’s Valtteri Bottas, who had been running as high as fifth, dropped behind the Mercedes pair in the closing stages when he almost crashed coming out of the penultimate corner. 

The Finn eventually finished seventh, ahead of the Alpine pair of Esteban Ocon and Fernando Alonso, and Alex Albon, who scored his second point of the season for Williams as he completed the top 10. 

Albon was promoted into the top 10 after Mick Schumacher blew his chance of scoring his first points in F1 when the Haas driver clashed with Aston Martin’s Sebastian Vettel at Turn 1, marking a bitter end to what had been a brilliant race from the German. 

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