Max Verstappen beats Charles Leclerc in thrilling fight to win first-ever Formula 1® Miami Grand Prix

MIAMI GARDENS, FL. Red Bull Racing’s Max Verstappen held off a late-race charge from Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc to take victory in the first-ever Formula 1® Miami Grand Prix. At the chequered flag, the Dutchman’s winning margin over his Ferrari rival was just 3.7 seconds after 57-laps around the brand-new Miami International Autodrome. A further 4.4 seconds back was the second Ferrari of Carlos Sainz who finished just ahead of Sergio Perez’s Red Bull.

Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing, 1st position, sprays the victory Champagne

A capacity crowd packed into the sport’s newest venue to enjoy a terrific duel between the top two drivers in this year’s points chase. The inaugural running of the event in Miami Gardens featured a host of overtaking and on-track battles — including a late-race Safety Car — that kept the huge crowd enthralled in the beautiful South Florida sunshine.

The Formula 1® Miami Grand Prix was the hottest ticket in town as a host of celebrities from the realms of showbiz, music and film in addition to sporting superstars enjoyed the world-class VIP guest experience. Stars at the track included David Beckham, Michael Jordan, Serena Williams, LeBron James, Winnie Harlow, Paris Hilton and Pharrell who joined a host of Miami Dolphins players and Head Coach Mike McDaniel on the grid before the race.

The top three drivers were full of praise for the track and organization of the first-ever Formula 1® Miami Grand Prix too: “It was an incredible atmosphere, it was really well-organized. It’s not easy to put on an event like this and they did an amazing job and I had a lot of fun driving around,” said race winner Verstappen. “The atmosphere was incredible — it’s great to see how much interest the sport has got in the last few years,” said Leclerc. “The organization was great with loads of people and good weather. It was amazing to be here.”

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Following the pre-race ceremonies, the Grand Prix got underway at 3.30pm E.T. local time. From third on the grid, Verstappen made a strong start and managed to out-brake Sainz for second place at the first corner. He then set off in pursuit of pole sitter Leclerc and managed to pass the Ferrari for the lead as the pair crossed the start/finish line at the beginning of lap 9.

Thereafter the Red Bull driver pulled out a margin of nearly six seconds as he approached his mandatory tyre stop on lap 26. Leclerc had switched from the medium to hard compound Pirellis a lap earlier and after they had both completed their stops, the gap between the leaders increased to 7.5 seconds.

But Verstappen’s path to victory was suddenly under threat when the race was neutralized on lap 41. A Virtual Safety Car had been deployed following contact between McLaren’s Lando Norris and the AlphaTauri of Pierre Gasly. The Frenchman had run wide at Turn 7 and as he accelerated out of Turn 8 to regain his position, he touched Norris’s right-rear wheel which caused the McLaren to spin wildly down the straight. As Norris climbed out of his stricken machine the Safety Car was deployed to enable the marshals to retrieve his McLaren and clear the track of debris.

Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc on Pole Position for the first-ever Formula 1® Miami Grand Prix

The biggest beneficiary of the Safety Car was Mercedes driver George Russell. After starting 12th on the grid, he chose to begin the race on the hard tyre and hadn’t pitted by the time of the VSC, by which point he had risen to fifth place. Despite emerging from the pit lane behind Lewis Hamilton, he was able to pass his Mercedes team-mate and also benefitted from Alfa Romeo’s Valtteri Bottas running wide at the final corner to claim fifth overall.

After a number of laps behind the Safety Car the race resumed with just ten laps remaining. Leclerc came close to regaining the lead in an exciting battle in the closing stages, but Verstappen held on to claim a famous win. After being given a police escort motorcade underneath the Hard Rock Stadium, the top three drivers then appeared on the huge podium wearing NFL-style helmets complete with face guard. The football theme continued when Verstappen was presented with his winners’ trophy by Miami Dolphins legend and former quarterback Dan Marino.

Away from the Formula 1® action, Sunday morning also included a wealth of other on-track activities overseen by the race’s three Ambassadors Mario Andretti, Emerson Fittipaldi and Juan Pablo Montoya. Events included the F1® Drivers Parade that featured a collection of the worlds finest convertible super and hypercars and the all-female support race category. Defending champion Jamie Chadwick completed a perfect weekend at W Series Miami presented by Hard Rock by backing up her win in Saturday’s first race with a dominant lights-to-flag victory in race two of the 2022 season-opening double-header.

The spectators also enjoyed the amazing party atmosphere at the Hard Rock Beach Club. At lunchtime the Grammy Award-winning and international icon DJ Tiësto performed to the entire Campus and that was followed up by a performance by Maluma on the podium, while the world famous EDM-pop duo The Chainsmokers brought the Formula 1® Miami Grand Prix party and festival atmosphere to an end on Sunday evening.


Credit: Formula 1® Miami Grand Prix

Author: West Lamy

My passport requires no photograph. Experienced play-by-play broadcaster and multimedia sports journalist with years of producing and covering sports. WORLDWIDEWEST is a journey; in this journey my feet don't get blisters, but my shoes do.

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