May 8 (UPI) — Max Verstappen won the inaugural Miami Grand Prix on Sunday fending off Charles Leclerc after a late crash.
Verstappen, the 24-year-old Belgian Red Bull driver, led much of the race at the Miami International Autodrome in Miami Gardens, Fla., finishing with a time of 1:34:24.258, 3.786 ahead of Leclerc.
“It was an incredible Grand Prix,” Verstappen said of the event held in Miami for the first time. “Very physical but I think we kept it exciting until the end. I am incredibly happy with winning here in Miami, it was an incredible Sunday for us.”
Verstappen also earned a bonus point in the standings for notching the fastest lap in the race in 1:31.458.
He established a lead early on passing Carlos Sainz Jr. on the first turn of the race and then overtaking Leclerc, Sainz’s Ferrari teammate, on the same turn of the ninth lap.
By the 27th lap, Verstappen had grown his lead to 12 seconds before taking a pit stop that allowed Sainz to pass him before Verstappen took the lead once again a lap later.
A crash that saw McClaren’s Lando Norris back left tier clip the front of Scuderia AlphaTauri driver Pierre Gasly, allowed Leclerc to have a shot at the lead.
“Towards the end I thought I could get Max at one point but today they had the advantage in terms of pace,” Leclerc said.
Despite being bested by Verstappen on Sunday, Leclerc still sits atop the 2022 F1 World Championship standings.
“We need to keep pushing. Upgrades will be important and I hope now we can do a step up from the next race onwards. It has been an exciting beginning to the season and that’s what we like to see,” he said.