Red Bull driver Max Verstappen from the Netherlands holds his trophy after winning the Formula 1 Miami Grand Prix car race at the Miami International Autodrome on Sunday, May 8, 2022 in Miami Gardens, Fla.
Lynne Sweets AP photo
Max Verstappen spent an aggressive early pass on Formula 1 championship leader Charles Leclerc and then controlled the opening Miami Grand Prix for his third victory of the season.
The reigning world champion started third Sunday, but Red Bull quickly got the best of Ferrari for the second race in a row. Leclerc and Carlos Sainz Jr. had locked the front row out in the qualification for Ferrari, but Verstappen struck at the start to get ahead of Sainz.
He then aimed at Leclerc and used a strong outside pass on the ninth inning to take the lead. Verstappen went unchallenged until a late crash between Lando Norris and Pierre Gasly brought the safety car forward and set a 10-sprint finish line on the 19-turn, 3.36-mile circuit (5.41 kilometers) built around Hard Rock Stadium.
Leclerc got a couple of looks inside, but Verstappen did not give in and the Dutchman won by 3.7 seconds. He also won two weeks ago in Imola when Red Bull took advantage of a bad Ferrari weekend at Italian home ground with a 1-2 finish to Verstappen and Sergio Perez.
In Miami, Ferrari settled for second and third for Leclerc and Sainz. Perez was fourth for Red Bull, and Mercedes showed much improvement with a fifth and sixth place finish for George Russell and Lewis Hamilton. It is the fourth time in five races that first-year Mercedes driver Russell has beaten the seven-time champion.
Montreal’s Lance Stroll was number 12 and Toronto’s Nicholas Latifi was number 14.
The race itself was not the thriller that the 85,000 in attendance on Sunday breathlessly expected as they snatched one of the sport’s hottest tickets. The organizers never had a general ticket sale due to the early demand, and the campus around Hard Rock Stadium was the place to party for the past three days.
Whether it was at the man-made beach club, where musical acts have entertained since Friday, or the “marina” that docked 10 boats on plywood covered with a sticker resembling rippling water, F1 got the sun, sand and Miami background , it wanted when it accepted this 10-year agreement.
On race day, the celebrities were out in full force. Dwyane Wade took selfies on the starting grid, and Paris Hilton danced in front of the McLaren garage; Tom Brady, David Beckham and Michael Jordan posed for a picture before the race with Lewis Hamilton, who on Saturday hosted former first lady Michelle Obama on the track. Serena Williams dived into Mercedes’ hospitality, and Puerto Rican rapper Bad Bunny arrived at the venue with Perez and spent most of the pre-race at Red Bull with the Mexican driver.
The Miami event gives the United States two F1 races in one season for the first time since 1984. F1 adds Las Vegas as a third American race in 2023.