Verstappen passes Leclerc to win Miami GP
By Mat Coch
Monday 9th May, 2022 - 7:18am
Max Verstappen has won the Formula 1 Miami Grand Prix over Charles Leclerc to take his third victory of the season.
Carlos Sainz was third over Sergio Perez, who nursed an ill Red Bull to the flag after mid-race power unit problems.
George Russell made an alternate strategy work well in a race that looked to have petered out before a late Safety Car spiced up the run to the flag.
Leclerc got away well from pole, Sainz holding the apex of the opening corner only to lose out as the track bent let to give Verstappen the racing line and fall to third.
It was clean through the field while the two Aston Martins, which started from pit lane because of a fuel temperature issue, joined from the fray behind the pack.
With much of the field on medium rubber, the hard-shod George Russell found himself dropping down the order, fending off the advances of Alex Albon for 16th.
Meanwhile, team-mate Lewis Hamilton was making up ground lost at the start, passing Fernando Alonso for seventh midway around Lap 3.
The pair had made contract on the opening lap, Alonso’s front-right wheel tapping Hamilton’s left-rear in an otherwise harmless incident.
Five laps in, Leclerc and Verstappen were beginning to walk away from third-placed Sainz, the Spaniard falling four seconds back from his team-mate.
The front two had little more than a second between them, the Ferrari remaining just out of DRS range.
Hamilton continued his forward progress, the Brit moving beyond Pierre Gasly into Turn 1 as they began Lap 6.
Zhou Guanyu was the race’s first retirement, the Chinese driver called into the garage by the team.
Verstappen found himself in DRS range on Lap 8 but couldn’t get close enough to the race leader down the back straight, but he was able to stay in contact to make the move stick as they began Lap 9.
The Red Bull driver was tucked up underneath the Ferrari’s rear wing, diving up the inside at the first corner to steal the place.
Leclerc wasn’t giving up and remained in touch through the first half of the lap, but without the straight-line speed, even with the assistance of DRS, he couldn’t mount a counterattack.
Down the order, Ricciardo made a late move to pass Yuki Tsunoda to claim 12th place at Turn 1 on Lap 10.
The Japanese driver was the first to pit, swapping onto the hard compound rubber on Lap 12.
A mistake at Turn 17 for Leclerc on Lap 12 saw the Ferrari driver pinch a brake and skate long, losing a second in the process as he dropped more than two seconds behind Verstappen in the race lead.
That extended to 3.5 seconds after 18 laps while the battle for third began to heat up as Perez moved to within DRS range of Sainz.
McLaren pitted Norris on Lap 19, emerging in the middle of a squabble that included the two Aston Martins and Kevin Magnussen after a slow stop.
Trouble befell Perez, the Mexican reporting a loss of power despite his team insisting there was no issue with the power unit.
He carried on but lost some six seconds as the team worked to resolve the issue.
While that was happening, Norris made a mistake at Turn 17 and lost 15th spot to Schumacher.
Leclerc pitted from second on Lap 25, swapping onto the hard compound tyres.
Strategically it was the only option Ferrari had in terms of challenging Red Bull, with Verstappen appearing to have an answer to the championship leader under normal circumstances.
The hope was, by swapping to the hard compound tyres, Red Bull might opt not immediately respond, creating a window of opportunity should there be a Safety Car.
Red Bull predictably did react, stopping the Dutchman next time around to safeguard the lead.
Though Verstappen had two sets of mediums and a set of hards available, it was the latter which were bolted on, mirroring the selection made by Leclerc.
That left Sainz in the lead until he pulled in for a new set of tyres on Lap 28, a 5.4s stationary time. Perez pitted on the same lap, the Red Bull turned around in 3.1s.
With the pit sequence complete for the leaders, the race at the front settled down, with large gaps between for four front runners.
Yet to stop on Lap 30, Russell ran fifth from Valtteri Bottas, Hamilton, Esteban Ocon, who was also yet to stop, Gasly and Ricciardo.
The McLaren driver pitted on Lap 31, rejoinining in 17th, two places down on Norris as McLaren endured a difficult afternoon.
It became quite a processional affair with Verstappen 7.5 seconds clear of Leclerc who was 15s clear of Sainz, with Perez six seconds further back.
The tedium was briefly interrupted when Alonso made contact with Gasly as they started Lap 39, the AlphaTauri losing a spot and then falling victim to Lance Stroll in an incident noted by officials before he was handed a five-second penalty.
Things changed dramatically when Norris crashed out, shedding his right-rear wheel after contact with Gasly on Lap 41.
Mercedes immediately pulled Russell in for a set of medium tyres, while Red Bull boxed Perez for a set of medium rubber – a zero risk strategy as the Safety Car paced the field while all three of those ahead remained out on worn hard tyres.
A number of other drivers had rolled the dice, Ocon, Ricciardo, and Tsunoda all on softs while others, like Perez and Russell, and swapped to mediums.
Gasly had also swapped to softs but pitted under the Safety Car complaining of damage on his AlphaTauri as he retired.
The race restarted on Lap 47, Perez immediately attacking Sainz, who defending into the first corner.
Verstappen had Leclerc for company out front, though the latter didn’t have enough top end without DRS to mount a challenge for the lead.
Further back, a mistake from Bottas at Turn 17 opened the door for both Hamilton and Russell to move through into fifth and sixth respectively, the two Mercedes squabbling with each other in the process.
With DRS enabled, Leclerc had a look at Verstappen at Turn 11 on Lap 50 though wasn’t quite close enough.
The pair remained in close contact, the Red Bull’s straightline advantage keeping Verstappen just safe where it mattered.
On Lap 52, Perez lunged at Sainz into Turn 1, but locked up and ran wide, the Ferrari walking back through into third place.
Schumacher and Vettel made contact at Turn 1 on Lap 54, launching the Aston Martin and damaging the Haas’ front wing.
They’d been running in the points, the impact dropping the pair to the rear of the field for Schumacher and retirement for Vettel.
It proved to be the last real action of the race, Verstappen winning from Leclerc with Sainz holding on to third from Perez.
The top 10 was completed by Russell, Hamilton, Bottas, Alonso, Ocon, and Alex Albon, while Ricciardo was 11th.
Verstappen also picked up the bonus point for fastest lap, reducing his deficit in the championship to Leclerc to 19 points.
The constructors’ championship has also closed, Ferrari now just six points clear of Red Bull after five races.
Results: Formula 1 Miami Grand Prix
|1||1||Max Verstappen||Red Bull Racing||57|
|2||16||Charles Leclerc||Scuderia Ferrari||+3.786s|
|3||55||Carlos Sainz||Scuderia Ferrari||+8.229s|
|4||11||Sergio Perez||Red Bull Racing||+10.638s|
|5||63||George Russell||Mercedes-AMG F1 Team||+18.582s|
|6||44||Lewis Hamilton||Mercedes-AMG F1 Team||+21.368s|
|7||77||Valtteri Bottas||Alfa Romeo F1 Team||+25.073s|
|8||31||Esteban Ocon||Alpine F1 Team||+28.386s|
|9||14||Fernando Alonso||Alpine F1 Team||+32.128s|
|10||23||Alex Albon||Williams Racing||+32.365s|
|11||3||Daniel Ricciardo||McLaren F1 Team||+35.902s|
|12||18||Lance Stroll||Aston Martin F1 Team||+37.026s|
|13||22||Yuki Tsunoda||Scuderia AlphaTauri||+40.146s|
|14||6||Nicholas Latifi||Williams Racing||+49.936s|
|15||47||Mick Schumacher||Haas F1 Team||+73.305s|
|16||20||Kevin Magnussen||Haas F1 Team||DNF|
|17||5||Sebastian Vettel||Aston Martin F1 Team||DNF|
|18||10||Pierre Gasly||Scuderia AlphaTauri||DNF|
|19||4||Lando Norris||McLaren F1 Team||DNF|
|20||24||Zhou Guanyu||Alfa Romeo F1 Team||DNF|
Formula 1 World Drivers’ Championship
Formula 1 Constructors’ Championship
|2||Red Bull Racing||151|
|3||Mercedes-AMG F1 Team||95|
|4||McLaren F1 Team||46|
|5||Alfa Romeo F1 Team||31|
|6||Alpine F1 Team||28|
|8||Haas F1 Team||15|
|9||Aston Martin F1 Team||5|