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Blast from the past: 2022 Miami Grand Prix

Written by Jacob Awcock, Edited by Vyas Ponnuri

Formula One took to the streets of Miami, the magic city, for the first time in F1 history. 57 laps of the 5.412 kilometre circuit awaited the drivers featuring three DRS zones (drag reduction system) and 19 corners, seven classed as heavy braking. 

Having started third on the grid, it was Max Verstappen who re-took the lead of the world championship, claiming his third win of the season, with Charles Leclerc finishing in hot pursuit, followed by his Spanish teammate Carlos Sainz. 

But it was Ferrari’s who locked out the front row to start, Leclerc stealing pole by just under two tenths from the other Scuderia. Verstappen followed behind, having made a mistake going through four on his final run, with teammate Sergio Perez behind. 

Rounding out the top five was the Alfa Romeo of Valtteri Bottas who put in an astounding lap to beat the sole remaining Mercedes and McLaren (Lewis Hamilton and Lando Norris) who finished sixth and eighth respectively. 

The drama began before the race even started, though, as both Aston Martins were forced to remove fuel from their car during the grid process, relegating Sebastian Vettel and Lance Stroll to pit lane starts. Having qualified tenth and twelfth, expectations were high for the pair, but they would have a lot more to do now if they wanted to score points. 

As the lights blinked out, Leclerc got away as did his teammate, not as good as Verstappen though who shot round the outside and, with more momentum, cleared the Ferrari effortlessly. Further back, Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton were battling away from the start, the pair making contact into the first corner with Alonso hitting the rear of Hamilton; it wouldn't be the last incident involving Alonso this weekend as well. 

As the pair squabbled over position, Hamilton’s teammate Russell, who had failed to get out of Q2 for the second race in a row, was battling away with the Haas of Mick Schumacher down in 13th place, the pair nearly making contact as they shot into the fast left hander of turn six. 

By lap 3, Leclerc was out of DRS range of Verstappen, with a 1.3 second gap but all was calm on the Red Bull pitwall. Christian Horner knew that the race was a marathon not a sprint and it wouldn't be long before the number 1 Red Bull was up the Ferrari’s gearbox. 

Elsewhere though, after a three-lap battle, Hamilton had had enough of being stuck behind the Alpine of Alonso, and heading into turn 11, pulled off a simple move down the inside of the Spaniard, to promote himself to seventh place, and begin his pursuit of the Alpha Tauri of Pierre Gasly. 

Horner was right to not be concerned: Six laps later, as Verstappen and Leclerc exited the final heavy braking zone (turn 17) the Dutchman was within two tenths of the Ferrari driver, and with the crowd roaring them down the main straight, Verstappen pulled to the inside and relegated the Ferrari driver down to a second. 

A swift move that amplified Red Bull’s straight line speed advantages even at such an early stage of the season, the RB18 seemed superior to the rest of the field.

For a debut race, the action was fairly limited: Pit stops went by without any untoward action, and the same order was maintained. Up until lap 39. Fernando Alonso, who had already been in the wars on lap 1, was looking to promote himself further up the order, having slipped down to the bottom end of the points during the race. His next target: Pierre Gasly. 

As the pair shot down the main straight, Alonso opportunistically lunged to the inside of turn one, but Gasly didn't see him and turned in. The pair made contact, with Alonso hitting the rear right tyre of the Frenchman’s AlphaTauri. At first glance, neither car seemed to have suffered any substantial damage, and both continued in the race, albeit with a five-second penalty hanging over Alonso. 

However, just two laps later chaos ensued. Gasly, who had dropped back to just in front of Lando Norris and the Haas duo, ran wide heading into turn seven. It would later be discovered that the Frenchman’s AT03 had steering damage, and therefore could not avoid the inevitable. 

As the Haas pair passed on the inside, Norris pulled up alongside onto the straight. With a broken steering rod, Gasly tapped Norris as the pair accelerated, sending the Brit spinning down the straight and out of the race. With the Mclaren driver’s tyre bouncing across the track the race was neutralised with a safety car and the field bunched up again.

What had been a serene drive, a seven-second lead for Verstappen, was now quickly erased. But with fresher tyres, Verstappen would be favourite come the restart.

A dominant display from the Dutchman. Image Credits: Motor Trend

The stricken Mclaren was quickly removed by the marshals, and racing resumed with 11 laps remaining. George Russell, who had been hanging it out hoping for a safety car before he made his pit stop, got his wish and pitted from fifth place during the safety car period. 

The Brit dropped down to seventh, but was on much fresher and faster tyres, eyeing up at least a top five finish. Verstappen shot away as the field resumed racing with Leclerc hot on his heels. 

Sainz, however, was under pressure from Perez behind, who had got a stellar launch off the final corner. The Mexican looked for a move, but couldn't get past the outside, and would have to wait a few more laps before the opportunity arose. 

The next lap it was the Mercedes duo that was at it, battling for position. No team orders were in play as the two silver arrows justled for position going into turn 17. Up ahead was Bottas, having a phenomenal race up in fifth, and all he needed to do was take advantage of the two squabbling Mercedes and pull away. 

But a slight mistake into the last heavy braking zone was all that was needed, as the Finn ran deep, allowing both Hamilton and Russell through, and relegating the Alfa Romeo from fifth to seventh.

It only took a few more laps for Perez to get his chance at a podium and he took it. An opening appeared in the first turn and he went for it, shooting down the inside. But he misjudged his breaking point and steamed on, he couldn't hold position and Sainz shot back into third place. 

With a flat spotted tyre, any other attempts would be futile for the Mexican, and he would have to settle for fourth in the end.

But the drama was not finished: Mick Schumacher had been looking at bagging his first Formula One points, running in ninth place; he seemed destined to do so. An attack from Ocon behind seemed risky though, and he defended with all he had, holding the inside line and forcing Ocon wide. 

Yet, this allowed the Aston Martin of Sebastian Vettel through, who, after an impressive recovery drive, looked set to score points, had it not been for an opportunistic move by Mick in an attempt to regain ninth place. 

The German tried to go down the inside of his fellow country man but ended up slamming into the Aston Martin, destroying his floor, and causing the Aston Martin to retire, while he too dropped down the order.

In the magic city, Verstappen delivered a magical and dominant race, casting a spell over the field as he drove away from everyone. He crossed the line with a comfortable three-second gap to second-placed man Charles Leclerc, who gained fastest lap honours as well. 

It was a Ferrari 2-3, as Sainz held off Perez for third, boosting Ferrari’s points tally in the constructors’ championship ahead of Red Bull. After a strategic masterclass, the two Mercedes claimed fifth and sixth, with Russell passing his teammate in the latter stages. 

Bottas finished seventh after an impressive drive, faltered only by the mistake at turn 17. Both the Alpines claimed points while Albon benefited from the incident involving Schumacher and Vettel to claim the final points-paying position.


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