Max Verstappen WINs inaugural Miami GP after passing Charles Leclerc early

Somewhere inside a flashy show was a half-decent race, and when the checkered flag was waved on a hot Florida afternoon, Max Verstappen proved to be a worthy winner.

While the writers may have preferred Lewis Hamilton crowning this spectacular inaugural Miami GP with victory, the British star started and finished sixth – further proof that his Mercedes is out of contention even with a longtime superman at the controls. .

So Verstappen was celebrating his third triumph in five races at the start of his title defence, and the sport itself was toasting an occasion they had long dreamed of – breaking America.

Max Verstappen won the inaugural Miami GP after passing Charles Leclerc and staying ahead despite a safety car

Verstappen crossed the line to Red Bull after Leclerc pushed to close Ferrari's gap in both championships

Verstappen crossed the line to Red Bull after Leclerc pushed to close Ferrari’s gap in both championships

If there was any doubt about it, you should have seen the craziest, tallest, brightest and most diverse grid parade that Formula 1 has ever known. This was the day when the old game broke away from its European heritage and set foot in the land of the brave.

Men with eight F1 world titles between them, under the names Emerson, Jackie, Mario and Mika, were lost in the forest of sports giants and celebrities.

Only one contemporary driver has attracted the American public, and his official title is Sir Lewis Hamilton. The cameras turned on him like a rare tiger on safari as he walked through the paddock. The rest of the F1 squad were bit players in a new world.

On duty were David Beckham, the tennis Williams sisters, joined by Hamilton’s father Anthony, rapper Pharrell Williams, MBA legend Michael Jordan, NFL great Tom Brady and socialite Paris Hilton. The list goes on, and almost all were stars made west of the Lake.

The race winner was visibly exhausted in the parc fermé after getting out of his car amid scorching Florida conditions

The race winner was visibly exhausted in the parc fermé after getting out of his car amid scorching Florida conditions

Lewis Hamilton finished sixth for Mercedes as their struggles continued, and the superstar also had a rough start.

Lewis Hamilton finished sixth for Mercedes as their struggles continued, and the superstar also had a rough start.

Europe will remain the heart and soul of Formula 1, Monaco in its faded glory its most totemic emblem, but space has been found in its heart for that kind of extravagance. Miami 2022 was a glimpse of a freer, fresher future.

Hamilton, wearing giant pink hues that Dame Edna would have been proud of, said: “The vibe here is amazing. The crowd is the best.

He already knew that his chances of triumph could be estimated between small and zero. Home of it did not help. Came out of his box fast, yeah, he crashed into the first turn, lost momentum and slipped two positions.

He soon passed Fernando Alonso of Alpine and Pierre Gasly of AlphaTauri. The fact that he was half a minute behind after 22 of the 57 laps spoke of his struggles. He was a far cry from his six career wins in the United States, one in Indianapolis and the rest in Austin, where he also won two of his seven world titles.

Verstappen stayed to celebrate his third triumph in five races at the start of his title defense after overcoming Leclerc again.

Verstappen stayed to celebrate his third triumph in five races at the start of his title defense after overcoming Leclerc again.

Meanwhile, his teammate Sergio Perez was fourth, despite charging Carlos Sainz after the safety car

Meanwhile, his teammate Sergio Perez was fourth, despite charging Carlos Sainz after the safety car

At least the Americans were treated to a little drama on the runway to excuse the hype. McLaren’s Lando Norris hit Gasly and his tire blew out. The Brit apologized for his mistake. Too bad – he’s doing really well this year.

The safety car interruption allowed Hamilton’s teammate George Russell a free pit stop, putting him in seventh and just behind his senior partner.

In fresher rubber, Russell’s threat would always be too much to resist and so it was. He found a way on lap 50 to finish fifth.

Russell has now finished ahead of him in every race but one this campaign. Luck conspired against the handsome champion, but this setback could hardly have helped his mood. Barcelona is coming in a fortnight.

With the lights out, Verstappen squeezed past Sainz, while Perez was unable to regain ground despite Miami's initial chaos.

With the lights out, Verstappen squeezed past Sainz, while Perez was unable to regain ground despite Miami’s initial chaos.

Sainz looked to have been passed by Perez at one point, but the latter's mistake in braking made them hold their positions.

Sainz looked to have been passed by Perez at one point, but the latter’s mistake in braking made them hold their positions.

It was up to Verstappen to be the star of the day, confirming the form he showed in a dominantly mature weekend at Imola last time around.

Here, he put himself well in front of Ferrari’s pole position Charles Leclerc on the starting straight to maintain the inside line at the first turn and take the lead at the start of the ninth lap. He had taken the other red car, owned by Carlos Sainz, at the start.

So it ended: Verstappen, Leclerc, Sainz – but only after Verstappen resisted Leclerc’s hot breath following Norris’ crash. It was a good front-running display.

The circus returns to the United States for the Austin race on October 23, when there will be a more intimate atmosphere both on the track and in the compact downtown Texan city, with its bars and restaurants nearby.

George Russell was fifth in the other Mercedes car with fresher rubber after finding a path on lap 50 to beat Hamilton

George Russell was fifth in the other Mercedes car with fresher rubber after finding a path on lap 50 to beat Hamilton

Lando Norris prepares to trigger the safety car, having hit Pierre Gasly and suffered a flat tire before retiring.

Lando Norris prepares to trigger the safety car, having hit Pierre Gasly and suffered a flat tire before retiring.

It will also attract a more petrolhead crowd than the one partying here.

Then, next year comes Las Vegas, the third of the American trio that will host Formula 1 in the near future. The Strip will try to dazzle Miami. They will have to go a bit if they want to succeed.

Not that Florida’s Formula 1 pioneers are worried about the competition. As Tom Garfinkel, chief executive of Sunday’s race, said: “Vegas joining the calendar is fantastic because all ships go up at high tide.”

Relive all the twists and turns of the Grand Prix with Sportsmail’s live coverage of MAX MATHEWS…

Leave a Comment