Max Verstappen passed the Ferraris of Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz to win the inaugural Miami Grand Prix despite a late Safety Car that saw championship leader Leclerc put the defending champion under intense pressure in the closing stages of a thrilling race at the new Miami International Autodrome.
Verstappen’s third win of the season was set-up at the race start. Polesitter Leclerc made a good getaway to take the lead but Verstappen, on the clean side of the grid in P3, also got away well. As the field raced towards Turn 1, the Dutchman drew alongside second-placed Sainz, and taking a wide line into the first corner he held his line and his nerve to pass the Spaniard.
Pérez held fourth place behind Sainz while Valtteri Bottas claimed P5 for Alfa Romeo and AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly took sixth. Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton dropped back after locking up into Turn 1 behind Pérez and after he banged wheels with Alpine’s Fernando Alonso who made a good start to briefly rise to seventh. Hamilton recovered quickly and when DRS was enabled he passed Alonso and then on lap six moved past Gasly to rise to sixth.
At the front, Verstappen shadowed Leclerc through the opening phase of the race and on lap eight he closed right up to the Ferrari down the long back straight. He couldn’t make the move stick into Turn 17 but as they crossed the line to begin the next tour, Verstappen got DRS again and swept past the championship leader into Turn 1 to take the lead.
The Dutch driver quickly began to build a gap to the Ferrari driver and when Leclerc locked his front right midway through lap 12, the Dutchman’s advantage extended to 2.5s.
Behind the leaders on lap 15, Sainz still led Pérez with the Ferrari driver 1.8s ahead of the Red Bull. On lap 18 Pérez began to close in on Sainz and at the start of lap 20 he edged toward DRS range of the Spaniard but suddenly the Mexican’s pace flagged and at the end of lap 20 he had dropped four seconds to the Ferrari.
He radioed his pit wall to report a loss of power and after being told to switch a sensor he was told to carry on. He continued to lose time, however, and on lap 23 he was eight seconds behind Sainz.
Behind the top four, Bottas held fifth but as cars behind him made their first pit stops, Mercedes’ George Russell, who had started on hard tyres, rose to sixth ahead of team-mate Hamilton who had made his first tyre change.
At the end of lap 24 Leclerc made his first visit to the pit lane and after taking on hard tyres he rejoined in fourth place, eight seconds behind Pérez. Verstappen pitted at the end of lap 26 and in a 2.4s stop he took on hard tyres and emerged in P2, seven seconds behind new leader Sainz.
At the end of lap 27 Sainz made his way into the pit lane with Pérez also turning towards the pit lane behind him. Sainz’s crew had a problem with their driver’s front right in a slow 5.4s stop and Pérez closed to within five seconds of Sainz. The Mexican was still nursing a drop in power, however, and he once again began to drop back from the Ferrari man.
Verstappen, meanwhile, now led Leclerc by almost eight seconds with Sainz a further 10s back in third. Behind fourth-placed Pérez, Russell, still in need of a first pit stop, now held fifth ahead of Bottas and Hamilton.
On lap 41, the shape of the race changed. Pierre Gasly went wide through two corners and after drifting off track slowly rejoined. However, he failed to see Lando Norris behind and the two made contact. The McLaren driver’s right rear tyre punctured and after spinning luridly he came to a halt in the middle of track. After a brief VSC the physical Safety Car was deployed.
Verstappen and Leclerc stayed on track behind the SC but Red Bull pitted Pérez and he was able to take on fresh medium tyres and rejoin ahead of Bottas to hold fourth ahead of Hamilton and Russell who benefited from a free stop to bolt on a set of medium tyres.
The Safety Car left the track at the end of lap 46 Verstappen controlled the restart well to hold the lead. Pérez, on new mediums, attacked Sainz. He couldn’t make the move stick, however, and he had to settle back into fourth to plot another assault.
When DRS enabled Pérez shadowed the Spaniards again and on lap 52 he attacked again into Turn 1. But he went too deep into the corner and Sainz eased his way past the locked up Mexican to stay in third.
The battle for the lead was just as intense. Leclerc closed in on the Dutchman and with the aid of DRS made repeated attacks. But, with better straight-line speed, Verstappen was able to keep the Ferrari at bay and on lap 53 he began to pull away slightly from his title rival. On lap 54 Verstappen broke DRS and his eventual victory was sealed.
The Dutch driver took his third win of the season, and the point for fastest lap, almost four seconds ahead of Leclerc, while Sainz managed to hold off Pérez to take his ninth career podium with third place.
Behind Pérez, Russell passed Hamilton in the closing stages to take fifth place ahead of Hamilton and Bottas who made a mistake late on that allowed the Mercedes cars to pass. Alpine’s Esteban Ocon benefited from a free stop under the Safety Car to rise from the back of the grid to eighth at the flag ahead of team-mate Fernando Alonso and the final point went to Williams’ Alex Albon.
2022 FIA Formula 1 Miami Grand Prix – Race
1 Max Verstappen Red Bull Racing 57 1:34’24.258
2 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 57 1:34’28.044 3.786
3 Carlos Sainz Ferrari 57 1:34’32.487 8.229
4 Sergio Pérez Red Bull 57 1:34’34.896 10.638
5 George Russell Mercedes 57 1:34’42.840 18.582
6 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 57 1:34’45.626 21.368
7 Valtteri Bottas Alfa Romeo/Ferrari 57 1:34’49.331 25.073
8 Esteban Ocon Alpine/Renault 57 1:34’52.644 28.386
9 Fernando Alonso Alpine/Renault 57 1:34’56.386 32.128
10 Alexander Albon Williams/Mercedes 57 1:34’56.623 32.365
11 Daniel Ricciardo McLaren/Mercedes 57 1:35’00.160 35.902
12 Lance Stroll Aston Martin/Mercedes 57 1:35’01.284 37.026
13 Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri/Red Bull 57 1:35’04.404 40.146
14 Nicholas Latifi Williams/Mercedes 57 1:35’14.194 49.936
15 Mick Schumacher Haas/Ferrari 57 1:35’37.563 1’13.305
16 Kevin Magnussen Haas/Ferrari 56 – 1 lap
17 Sebastian Vettel Aston Martin/Mercedes 54 – Collision
Pierre Gasly AlphaTauri/Red Bull 45 – Accident damage
Lando Norris McLaren/Mercedes 39 – Collision
Zhou Guanyu Alfa Romeo/Ferrari 6 – Retirement