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Miami GP Sprint: Verstappen wins, Leclerc keeps him honest

Miami GP Sprint: Verstappen wins, Leclerc keeps him honest

Miami GP Sprint: Verstappen wins, Leclerc keeps him honest

Max Verstappen won the second Formula 1 Sprint race of the 2024 season in Miami, but Charles Leclerc kept him honest.

This time, it was not a straight forward cruise for the Dutchman, who was just over three second clear of the Leclerc on second at the chequered flag.

The race started in dramatic fashion as a four-car contact between Lewis Hamilton, Fernando Alonso, Lance Stroll and Lando Norris that saw the latter two retiring with damage.

Hamilton was over-ambitious but couldn’t stop the car on time, but the stewards took no further action.

Leclerc had the better start but Verstappen managed to keep him at bay and while Sergio Perez lost third to Daniel Ricciardo, he soon took it back to finish on the podium.

Ricciardo did a superb job to keep fourth ahead of Carlos Sainz who failed to pass the VCARB and managed to keep Piastri behind in sixth.

Nico Hulkenberg enjoyed a smooth Sprint to seventh as his teammate Kevin Magnussen was at his naughty best defending from Hamilton all race long bagging a couple of ten-second penalties for his tactics.

Yuki Tsunoda bagged the final point despite being passed by Hamilton on the final lap, the Mercedes driver slapped with a driver through penalty for speeding in the pitlane which became a 20s time penalty post race.

What the top three said

Verstappen yet again complained about grip saying it was as bad as it was in qualifying on Friday, and while he did not manage to win this Sprint by 13s like he did in China, the jury is out whether he is sandbagging, and in all cases, Red Bull are now free to change the setup for Qualifying for the Grand Prix.

Speaking in parc ferme, he said of his start: “My engagement wasn’t good at the start so I had to squeeze him [Leclerc] a bit.

“Luckily everything worked out in turn 1. Then we had the Safety Car to calm things down a little bit, but after that, steadily we could increase the gap a little bit, but it wasn’t entirely perfect. So we still have a bit of work to do.

“At least now with the new format we can still finetune the car a little bit, so we hopefully we can improve it a little bit for later in qualifying and especially for tomorrow in the race,” he added.

“But a win is good. I’m happy with that and it gives us a good few points to look at to improve on,” the Triple F1 Champion concluded.

Leclerc admitted he had qualifying in mind when fighting Verstappen at the start and decided not to give his team a headache.

He said: “I had quite a good start and then I was in the inside of Turn One and obviously I didn’t want to take too many risks because we’ve also got qualifying later on. If you crash in Sprint you probably don’t participate later on!

“So I tried there, we both braked very, very late with Max, but eventually he got to keep the position,” he added. “I was pushing very hard but in the first few laps they had a bit more pace. But then we had a similar degradation and so tomorrow, it’s a long race so qualifying will be important to be starting as much in front as possible.

“Then hopefully we can put them under pressure with strategy,” the Ferrari driver concluded.

Third placed Perez added: “It was really hard to get through Daniel at the beginning. Once I got through I was three seconds from Charles and given the short duration of the race it was pretty tricky.

“I was getting within two seconds but then it was quite hard to get a little bit closer. Anyway, let’s look forward for the rest of the weekend.

“The fans are amazing. It’s really nice to be here with all of them and I really hope I can give them a great race this weekend,” the Mexican concluded.

How the Sprint unraveled

The clear conditions from Friday continued into Saturday and the Sprint started with track temperatures around 45-46 degrees Celsius with ambient temperature at 28 degrees.

The action started even before the green light was out as Leclerc and Ocon had a moment in the pitlane on their way to the grid, Alpine sending their driver out and ended up tapping the rear right wheel of the Ferrari.

No damage on Leclerc’s SF-24 but Ocon needed a new front wing and was given a ten-second time penalty, not how you want to start the Sprint.

Leclerc was not happy with his rival. he said: “The guy [Ocon] was completely sleeping, I don’t know who that was but even the mechanics were telling him to stop I think.

Alex Albon will start the Sprint from the pitlane after Williams broke parc ferme on his car while Valtteri Bottas will start from last after getting a penalty for impeding Piastri during qualifying, not that it will make any difference…

Lap 1/19: Verstappen had to be aggressive as he defended from a fast-starting Leclerc who had to settle for second while Ricciardo mugged Perez for third.

But soon the Yellow flag was waved as Norris was stranded on the side of the track, but that was soon changed to a Safety Car.

Replay showed a four-car contact as Hamilton went for a gap but locked up hitting Alonso who in turn hit Stroll the latter sending Norris – who was trying to overtake on the outside – into a spin and then out of the race.

Norris was out and soon Stroll was retired as well while Alonso radioed his team reporting that he had a puncture. No further action needed the stewards judged.

Racing resumed at the end of Lap 3/19 and Verstappen backed the pack up taking his time to choose the timing for him to put his foot down.

Lap4/19: Verstappen leads from Leclerc and Ricciardo, Perez in fourth with Sainz in fifth ahead of Piastri, Hulkenberg, Magnussen with Hamilton in ninth and out of the points for now. Alonso dropped to 18th.

Lap 5/19: Verstappen does the business and is already out of Leclerc’s DRS reach while Perez re-takes his third place from Ricciardo at Turn 11 and set out chasing Leclerc who was over two seconds ahead.

Lap 6/19: Ricciardo now has Sainz breathing down his neck with Piastri also within DRS form the Spaniard, while the Haas duo were having a fight of their own further back.

Lap 7/19: Ricciardo is still doing a good job and was within DRS to Perez which helped him defend from Sainz and Piastri.

Lap 8/19: The fight for fourth was still on with Ricciardo holding station, while Hamilton complained about his speed on the straights as he tried to attack Magnussen who wasn’t backing down against the seven-time F1 Champion.

Lap 9/19: Nothing much changed as Ricciardo continued holding on to fourth while Hamilton still could not pass Magnussen who cut the chicane, the Mercedes driver reporting him to his team.

Lap 11/19: Verstappen was asked to give a balance and tyre degradation upgrade and he reports: “Terrible, Zero rear grip like in quali.” He was over two second ahead of Leclerc.

Lap 11/19: Further back, Ricciardo kept his position while Hamilton was yet to find a way around Magnussen who was given a ten-second penalty for cutting the chicane.

Lap 12/19: Ricciardo falls out of DRS range from Perez but still manages to keep Sainz behind. Leclerc is 1.8s behind Verstappen who doesn’t seem to be able to pull away.

Lap 13/19: Hamilton has another look behind Magnussen but nothing comes of it as Tsunoda joins the battle in tenth.

Lap 14/19: Sainz continues the attack on Ricciardo’s VCARB while Hamilton gives it another try but Magnussen holds firm, goes off track at Turn 11, as Tsunoda overtakes Hamilton who reports that he was pushed off track.

Report in progress…

Lap 15/19: Magnussen drops to tenth and Tsunoda gets up to eighth but Hamilton is chasing him for that final point.

Lap 16/19: Sainz keeps the attack on Ricciardo while further down Russell who dropped back is defending from Albon for 14th while Magnussen was slapped with another ten-second penalty.

A strategic drive from Magnussen as his teammate Hulkenberg now has some breathing space in seventh over six seconds clear of Tsunoda in eighth.

Lap 17/19: Ricciardo is still defending valiantly from Sainz, but it is clear that has taken a toll on his tyres. Can he keep it together for two more laps.

Lap 18/19: No changes in the points-scoring positions, Ricciardo still ahead of Sainz, Hamilton yet to pass Tsunoda.

Lap 19/19: Hamilton passes Tsunoda but Ricciardo keeps fourth while Verstappen took the win ahead of Leclerc and Perez in second and third respectively.

Sainz was fifth ahead of Piastri in sixth with Hulkenberg seventh ahead of Tsunoda who was classified eighth after Hamilton was given a drive through penalty for speeding in the pitlane which meant 2o seconds added to his race time.

Miami GP Sprint Classification