Max Verstappen used an aggressive opening pass on Formula One Championship leader Charles Leclerc and then controlled the inaugural Miami Grand Prix for his third win of the season.
The reigning world champions started for a third Sunday, but Red Bull got the best of Ferrari for the second consecutive race. Leclerc and Carlos Sainz Jr closed the front line in qualifying for Ferrari, but Verstappen pounced early to overtake Sainz.
He then set his eyes on Leclerc and used a strong outside pass on the ninth lap to claim the lead. Verstappen was not challenged until a late crash between Lando Norris and Pierre Gasly and set up a 10-lap sprint to finish on the 19-turn, 3.36-mile circuit (5.41 km) built around Hard Rock Stadium. .
Leclerc saw something from inside, but Verstappen didn’t believe it, and the Dutchman won by 3.7 seconds. He had won as Red Bull at Imola two weeks earlier, with a 1-2 for Verstappen and Sergio Pérez in a poor Ferrari weekend on Italian home soil.
In Miami, Ferrari finished second and third for Leclerc and Sainz.
Perez was fourth for Red Bull and Mercedes showed considerable improvement with fifth and sixth places for George Russell and Lewis Hamilton. This is the fourth time in five races that first-year Mercedes driver Russell has defeated the seven-time champion.
The race itself wasn’t exciting, with 85,000 people in attendance breathlessly expected on Sunday when they snagged one of the hottest tickets in the game. Promoters never sold normal tickets due to crushing initial demand, and the campus around Hard Rock Stadium was a party venue for the past three days.
Whether it was at the man-made beach club where musical acts have been entertained since Friday or the “marina” that covered 10 boats on plywood in a deckle that resembled rippling water, F1 has been exposed to sun, sand and water. Got a Miami background when he wanted to. Agreed on the 10-year deal.
Come race day, the celebrities were out in full force. Dwayne Wade selfies on the starting grid and Paris Hilton dances in front of the McLaren garage; Tom Brady, David Beckham and Michael Jordan pose for a pre-race photo with Lewis Hamilton, who hosted former First Lady Michelle Obama, at the track on Saturday. Serena Williams was immersed in Mercedes’ hospitality and accompanied Puerto Rican rapper Bad Bunny Perez to the venue and spent most of the pre-race with the Mexican driver at Red Bull.
The Miami event gives the US two F1 races in a season for the first time since 1984. F1 will add Las Vegas as the third US race in 2023.