The Japan Times

Verstappen grabs victory in Miami


The inaugural Miami Grand Prix lived up to its billing as a heavyweigh­t battle between the series’ two points leaders — Charles Leclerc of Ferrari and Max Verstappen of Red Bull.

Verstappen, the reigning Formula One champion, won the race on Sunday, slashing Leclerc’s overall lead from 27 to 19 points after five races.

Leclerc finished a fighting second, 3.786 seconds behind after starting on pole position, with Spanish teammate Carlos Sainz completing the podium at the Miami Dolphins’ Hard Rock Stadium.

The victory was the Dutch driver’s third of the season — and second in a row — and he made it happen with a crucial overtake around the outside on Sainz at the start to seize second place before blasting past Leclerc on the ninth of the 57 laps.

Verstappen, who also made sure of the bonus point for fastest lap, was cruising to victory until McLaren’s Lando Norris collided with AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly and crashed on the 41st lap, triggering the safety car.

That allowed Leclerc to close the gap and get back into contention over the final 10 laps.

“It was an incredible Grand Prix,” said Verstappen, who has won every race he has finished so far this season and was handed his winner’s trophy by Dolphins legend Dan Marino. “(It was) very physical but I think we kept it exciting until the end.”

The race drew a cast of A-list celebritie­s, sporting greats and a sellout crowd as Formula One basked in a wave of popularity fueled by the Netflix documentar­y series “Drive to Survive.”

“It’s been insane. I’ve never known such interest, such passion and a huge, huge event,” said Red Bull boss Christian Horner. “I think it’s been great for the American public to tune into Formula One ... it’s been a great event and an exciting race in the end as well.”

A race that was a slow burner held in energy-sapping humidity provided some fireworks at the end with the safety car bunching up the field, putting Leclerc right on Verstappen’s tail with five laps remaining.

“On the hard (tires) we were very competitiv­e, and towards the end I thought I could get Max at one point but today they had the advantage in terms of pace,” Leclerc said.

Verstappen’s teammate, Sergio Perez, finished fourth, with Ferrari retaining the lead in the constructo­rs’ standings with 157 points to Red Bull’s 151.

George Russell continued his record of finishing every race so far in the top five, with Mercedes teammate and seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton sixth after a brief battle between the two.

Valtteri Bottas was seventh for Alfa Romeo with Alpine’s Esteban Ocon eighth in a stirring fight back after being unable to take part in Saturday’s qualifying due to a practice crash that forced the team to change his car’s chassis.

 ?? REUTERS ?? Red Bull’s Max Verstappen drives ahead of Charles Leclerc during the Miami Grand Prix on Sunday.
REUTERS Red Bull’s Max Verstappen drives ahead of Charles Leclerc during the Miami Grand Prix on Sunday.

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