Max Verstappen overcomes hostile reception to storm to Miami Grand Prix win

By Sports Desk May 07, 2023

Max Verstappen overcame the boo brigade and Sergio Perez to win the Miami Grand Prix and extend his world championship lead.

Verstappen was subjected to a chorus of jeers by the 90,000-strong crowd at the Hard Rock Stadium as the sport’s drivers were introduced by rapper LL Cool J for Sunday’s 57-lap race.

But the double world champion put his poor reception to one side by racing from ninth on the grid to pass Perez with nine laps remaining and take his third win from five rounds.

Verstappen increased his championship lead from six points to 14.

Fernando Alonso completed the podium places with George Russell fourth. Lewis Hamilton finished sixth after starting 13th.

Sunday’s race marked the first of three to be staged in the United States this season, with Austin’s grand prix at the Circuit of the Americas and a debut event on the Las Vegas strip to follow later in the year.

And the event here in the Sunshine State was sprinkled with stardust for a show-stopping pre-race grid.

Actor Vin Diesel, singer Shakira, influencer-boxer Jake Paul, Serena Williams, Venus Williams and Roger Federer – with 50 tennis Grand Slam titles between them – watched on as will.i.am conducted an orchestra and LL Cool J assumed his role as Master of Ceremonies. Only in America.

On came the 20 drivers and the biggest cheers were reserved for Hamilton, Alonso and Perez, backed by a large contingent of Mexican fans. But Verstappen, last on to the stage, was booed.

Verstappen, by now in the sanctuary of his flying Red Bull machine, had moved up to eighth at the end of lap one, as pole-sitter Perez held off Alonso on the charge to the opening corner.

Verstappen then blasted his way past Charles Leclerc and Kevin Magnussen in his DRS-assisted Red Bull to take sixth at the start of lap four.

Further behind, Hamilton appeared in trouble after making light contact with Nico Hulkenberg at the first corner.

“I don’t know if we are going to last in this race,” he said, fearing his front wing was broken.

Up front, Verstappen was still on the move.

On lap eight he passed Russell under braking at Turn 17 for fifth place, which became fourth the next time round following a carbon-copy move on Pierre Gasly.

Verstappen sped past Carlos Sainz on lap 14 at Turn 11 and then Alonso on lap 15 to take second place with team-mate Perez 3.7 sec up the road.

In came Perez on lap 20 for fresh rubber with a 1.2 sec lead over Verstappen. The Dutchman, who started on the harder, more durable rubber stayed out.

Despite his earlier worries, Hamilton was able to continue but he was failing to make headway and on lap 32 he was ushered aside for team-mate Russell.

Hamilton, on a different strategy after starting seven places behind his team-mate, resisted at first before allowing his team-mate through.

“Thank you very much,” said Russell over the radio. “Very much appreciated.” Hamilton made his sole tyre stop on lap 37, dropping back to 13th.

Russell did not appear fazed in a machine team principal Toto Wolff described as “a nasty piece of work”, and on lap 39 he was up to fourth after fighting his way past Sainz.

“That is how we roll,” said the celebrating Briton.

Verstappen finally stopped for new tyres on lap 45 and he emerged from the pits just 1.2 sec behind Perez.

Verstappen was soon all over Perez’s Red Bull gearbox and he made his first move at Turn 17 only for his team-mate to defend the left hander.

But Perez’s defence made him vulnerable on the main straight with Verstappen jinking to his team-mate’s left and making the move stick at the first corner on lap 48.

Verstappen crossed the line 5.3 sec clear of Perez.

Hamilton, like Verstappen, started on the more durable hard rubber and the strategy also worked for the seven-time world champion as he made up a number of positions in the closing stages – including the scalp of Leclerc with two laps to run – to salvage sixth.

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  • Russell will not 'sulk' about losing position to Hamilton as Mercedes struggle again Russell will not 'sulk' about losing position to Hamilton as Mercedes struggle again

    George Russell will not "sulk" after giving up sixth place to team-mate Lewis Hamilton at the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix, where Mercedes failed to arrest their slide.

    Hamilton and Russell finished sixth and seventh respectively as Max Verstappen held off a charging Lando Norris for his third successive victory at the Imola event.

    Russell was ahead of Hamilton as his tyres began to wear late in the race, leading Mercedes to call him in for a pit stop and bring him out ahead of eighth-placed Sergio Perez.

    That ensured Hamilton finished above his team-mate for a second straight race, having failed to top him in any of the first five races of 2024.

    Russell refused to criticise the team's strategy after the race, though he lamented their continued struggles with their W15 car.

    "You're never going to be happy with P6 and P7," Russell told Sky Sports.

    "At the end of the day, as a team we scored an extra point. I lost my position to Lewis but I'm not going to sulk over losing a P6."

    Asked to explain the decision, Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff said: "[Russell's] lap times were getting slower and slower, and our forecast saw he was not going to make it to the end and we didn't want to lose the position to Perez.

    "Lewis would have probably taken him anyway. The point being that we are racing for P6 and P7 and wanted to keep the Red Bull behind. It was a safety call."

    Russell is currently seventh in the drivers' championship standings with Hamilton in eighth, with neither driver managing a podium finish so far this year.

    McLaren have emerged as the foremost challengers to Red Bull and Ferrari in recent weeks, leaving Mercedes marooned in a disappointing fourth place in the team standings. 

    "This is where we are right now, a little bit in no man's land behind the Ferraris and McLarens but ahead of the midfield," Russell said of their struggles.

    "Everyone is still super motivated, the morale isn't dropping at all, which is quite inspiring to say. Everyone is trying to make this work and improve it."

  • Norris excited to see McLaren challenging Red Bull Norris excited to see McLaren challenging Red Bull

    Lando Norris is excited to see McLaren emerging as the foremost challengers to Red Bull, after he narrowly missed out on a second straight win at the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix.

    Norris started second at Imola on Sunday as a grid penalty dropped his McLaren team-mate Oscar Piastri to fifth. 

    It initially looked like Norris might face a battle for second as Charles Leclerc closed on him, but he found extraordinary pace late on as leader Max Verstappen started to struggle.

    Verstappen complained of grip problems over team radio as Norris drew within 0.7 seconds of the world champion by the final lap, but he was just unable to pass him in a tense finish.

    "It hurts me to say it, but one or two more laps and I think I would have had him," Norris told Sky Sports. 

    "It's tough. I just lost out too much to Max in the beginning. He was stronger in the first stint.

    "We are at a point now where we can say we are in a position with Ferrari and Red Bull. We have to get used to it. We are fighting for first and second now.

    "It is still a surprise to say we are disappointed not to win, but it is what we should start to expect."

    Norris has now managed four podium finishes in the last five races, and he sits fourth in the drivers' championship standings, six points behind Sergio Perez in third.

    He finished second at the Chinese Grand Prix last month, then beat Verstappen to claim his first race win in Miami in early May, benefitting from effective upgrades to McLaren's MCL38 car.

    "Hopefully, it continues like that because it's exciting, it's tough, and it gets you excited every weekend, so I'm looking forward to the next few," he said.

    "We also had a second in China, so we've had second, first, second, and I think that’s a good sign."

  • Verstappen holds off Norris for Emilia Romagna Grand Prix victory Verstappen holds off Norris for Emilia Romagna Grand Prix victory

    Max Verstappen held off a charging Lando Norris on the final lap to get back to winning ways at the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix on Sunday.

    Having equalled Ayrton Senna's record of eight successive pole positions on Saturday, the three-time world champion initially looked set for a comfortable victory.

    It looked like third might be the best Norris could manage, but the Briton found great pace late on and ultimately challenged for the win, as Verstappen expressed frustration over Red Bull team radio, saying he was struggling for grip when turning.

    Norris pulled within 0.7 seconds of Verstappen on the final lap, but he was ultimately unable to follow up his win at the Miami Grand Prix last time out as the drivers' championship leader clung on.

    Charles Leclerc captured third for Ferrari in front of an enthusiastic Italian crowd, with Oscar Piastri finishing fourth after his grid penalty meant he started the race fifth instead of second.

    Carlos Sainz was fifth ahead of Mercedes duo Lewis Hamilton and George Russell, with Verstappen's team-mate Sergio Perez only managing eighth, meaning he now trails Leclerc in the standings.

    Data debrief: Verstappen follows Schumacher 

    On Saturday, Verstappen became the first driver with back-to-back poles at Imola since Michael Schumacher in 2002 and 2003. One day later, he became just the second driver to win on three successive visits to the track, after the German achieved that feat between 2002 and 2004.

    Verstappen is also into the top six in the all-time F1 charts for podium finishes, his 104th here moving him ahead of Kimi Raikkonen outright in the rankings.

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