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Verstappen beats Leclerc to cut points lead again

Verstappen beats Leclerc to cut points lead again

FORMULA ONE: Max Verstappen has cut his championship lead for the second race in a row with victory at the first-ever Miami Grand Prix yesterday (May 8).

By Michael Lamonato

Monday 9 May 2022, 09:37AM

Verstappen celebrates his Miami victory. Photo: Brendan Smialowski / AFP

Verstappen celebrates his Miami victory. Photo: Brendan Smialowski / AFP

The Dutchman jumped from third to second off the line to pressure poleman Leclerc, and by lap nine he used his car’s superior straight-line speed to breeze past and establish his lead.

The opening stint of the race on the medium-compound tyre wasn’t kind to Ferrari, and by lap 12 Leclerc had dropped well off the lead thanks to a mistake at the turn 16 hairpin.

On lap 24 he was in for the hard tyre, and Verstappen followed two laps later. It halted the Dutchman’s getaway, but Leclerc wasn’t fast enough to reel him in.

It took the late intervention of a safety car to bring them back in touch. Pierre Gasly, struggling with apparent damage from contact with Fernando Alonso, ran off the track in the first sector and upon rejoining the track crashed with Lando Norris, the pair seemingly unaware of each other’s place on the track.

Gasly retired in pit lane, but Norris was out on the spot, the track strew with McLaren debris.

Leclerc was able to fire up his hard tyres more easily when the race resumed with 10 laps to go and pushed Verstappen hard flag, but despite having several looks down his inside, he couldn’t find a way through.

The challenge blunted after five laps, and Verstappen was able to break to a 3.7-second victory, his third of the season, to reduce his championship deficit to 19 points.

“It was an incredible grand prix,” Verstappen said. “But I think we kept it exciting until the end.

“I’m incredibly happy with winning here in Miami. It was an incredible Sunday for us.”

Leclerc was disappointed to have lost so much time to Verstappen in the opening stint of the race.

“We struggled quite a bit with the medium tyres, especially in the first stint, and we got overtaken there,” he said. “That made our race a bit more difficult.

“Today they had the advantage in terms of pace.

C and C Marine

“We need to keep pushing. Upgrades will be very important throughout the year.”

The battle for third was muted for much of the race thanks to a sensor problem with Sergio Perez’s power unit, but the safety car gave the Mexican an opportunity to switch tyres late and pursue Carlos Sainz for the final podium place.

It came to a head with five laps to go, Perez getting late on the brakes on the inside of the first turn, but he was too deep and locked up. He couldn’t rebuild his momentum from there, and Sainz took an important podium after two successive crashed-out races.

“Checo at the end on the medium tyre was very difficult to keep behind, but we managed to get the podium, which is a decent result,” he said.

“It wasn’t easy at all. It’s been a tough race with tyres, with the heat - the car was moving and sliding a lot - but in the end we got what we deserve, which is a decent P3.”

George Russell was a late gainer from the safety car, having held off making his first pit stop until the caution. He dropped to seventh with the stop behind Valtteri Bottas in fifth and his teammate, Lewis Hamilton, in sixth, but with new tyres he was able to push past both to claim fifth, continuing his run of top-five finishes this year.

Hamilton followed him home sixth ahead of Bottas, for whom a late mistake dropped him to seventh.

Esteban Ocon ran a similar late-stop strategy to Russell to lock in eighth behind the safety car after teammate Alonso had five seconds added to his time for his race-changing crash with Gasly, dropping him to ninth.

Thai driver Alex Albon scored another sensational point for 10th. Albon capitalised on some late-race crashes between the Aston Martin and Haas drivers to move forward after the safety car in a great recovery from 16th on the grid.

Daniel Ricciardo finished 11th on a difficult afternoon for McLaren, staying just ahead of Lance Stroll, who came off best in a crash with Kevin Magnussen that put the Dane out of the race. Yuki Tsunoda finished 13th ahead of Nicholas Latifi.

Mick Schumacher dropped from ninth to 15th late in the race after crashing with Sebastian Vettel in the battle for minor points, the young German still yet to score for the first time in his F1 career. The smash forced Vettel into retirement.

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