Tequila flowed freely this weekend in Miami while Formula 1 invested everything in organizing the party she wanted to celebrate her inaugural race here. The moment the checkered flag fluttered, Max Verstappen was unequivocal that he and his Red Bull team deserved their own drink because they surpassed Ferrari Charles Leclerc to another place.
The Dutchman had to come back against looks after a hard weekend to bring out a victory with superb skill that once again proved beyond doubt at what level he operates when he has a car he wants under him and a race to the edge of his neck.
In control at the Miami International Autodrome, he provided an icy performance in an afternoon roast in the Florida sun and amid high expectations from this first race here, a key part of Formula One’s effort to smash America.
To that end, after a weekend of showbiz, eager to present an entertaining spectacle all the way to building a fake yacht marina within the circle, they ended up with Dan Marino handing out a trophy and traditional winning caps replaced by American Football Helmets. All of this seemed appropriate: 23 races are taking place this season and F1 certainly has room for one of these flavors if, as it seems, it satisfies fans in the US.
Verstappen certainly celebrated. “I think I need a drink, and I think you need a drink too,” he told the team as he crossed the border. He had to perform flawlessly to seal another ominously strong victory and further swing his attack on the title. With this, his third victory of the season, Leclerc’s lead over Verstappen was reduced from 27 to 19 points.
Carlos Sainz was third for Ferrari and Mercedes enjoyed a better afternoon after the recent ordeal with George Russell and Lewis Hamilton taking fifth and sixth place. But Hamilton was unhappy with his team as it offered him the opportunity to choose strategy options during the race.
“In that scenario, I have no idea where everyone is,” he said. “When the team says ‘it’s your choice’, I have no information to make a decision. It’s your job. They gave it to me today and I didn’t understand it. At some point, I’m excited to take a step forward, which we haven’t yet. “
Verstappen’s victory was far from the default over the weekend. He lost a huge amount of time learning a new track after mechanical problems in training, and after that he made a small mistake in the qualifications, which meant that he could not be better than the third on the net.
In the race, his job was interrupted, but from the very beginning he proved that he intends to be fierce and determined as always. Starting from the pole, Leclerc kept his lead in the first turn, but behind him Verstappen immediately gave his stamp, launching outside Sainz in an excellent move and winning second place. For Verstappen, it was a key passage to separate the two Ferraris.
The two protagonists of the title quickly re-entered their own race, but Ferrari and Leclerc were under control. With Leclerc’s tires hitting and making a mistake in the 17th turn, Verstappen, with his dominant race pace, once again made a decisive move inside the first corner in the ninth lap. As he had in the last round in Imola, he had the lead that he never gave up.
He enjoyed an advantage of more than two seconds to lap 12 and maintained the lead through the only stops. Ferrari was simply not in a fight, and Verstappen proved that he is rarely prone to mistakes when given freedom dictated in the fresh air.
However, it is crucial that the current champion has once again shown his courage in the dying stages. He stayed in place after the late safety car and while Leclerc stayed with him and pressed the flag hard, he closed it properly. This was the recognizable control and calmness of the champions. Hamilton, who was once again disappointed in the afternoon to be passed by Russell after his teammate was a user of fresh tires under a safety car, is too familiar with Verstappen’s smooth delivery.
Red Bull team director Christian Horner paid tribute to the achievement. “Bravo buddy, you really did it,” he said. “Well done for enduring, and we also got the fastest lap.”
It may not have been the spectacle Miami had hoped for, but in this form Ferrari and Leclerc must find more to fight Verstappen. Despite this, F1 will consider their first outing in Miami a hit, they certainly accepted the sold-out event with 82,500 fans with great enthusiasm. The stands roared at every turn on the track.
Verstappen played a leading role in that success story, and now in the history of F1 racing in the sun. This was the first time the GP had been held in Florida since 1959, when Sebring played as host and Jack Brabham won the title by pushing his fuel-free car across the line and finishing fourth.