MIAMI: Formula One world champion Max Verstappen won the first Miami Grand Prix for Red Bull last night to slash Ferrari rival Charles 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 team mate 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, then held off a late attack from Leclerc after a safety car period triggered by McLaren’s Lando Norris crashing on lap 41.
“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 NFL quarterback great Dan Marino.
“(It was) very physical but I think we kept it exciting until the end.”
Leclerc was right on Verstappen’s tail with five laps remaining, with the safety car bunching up the pack, after struggling with the medium tyres on his opening stint.
“On the hard (tyres) 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,” said the Monegasque.
Verstappen’s Mexican team mate Sergio Perez finished fourth, with Ferrari retaining the lead in the constructors’ standings on 157 points to Red Bull’s 151.
Perez tried to pass Sainz on lap 52 but overcooked his move, with the Spaniard forcing his way back in front and staying there.
George Russell continued his record of finishing every race so far in the top five, with Mercedes team mate and seven-times world champion Lewis Hamilton sixth.
Valtteri Bottas was seventh for Alfa Romeo with Alpine’s Esteban Ocon eighth in a stirring fightback 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.
Double world champion team mate Fernando Alonso was ninth and Alex Albon 10th for Williams.