Verstappen, Red Bull are in class of their own with 2nd straight win at Miami Grand Prix

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The inaugural Miami Grand Prix last year ushered in a new era for Formula One. The second edition of the race Sunday proved it’s all here to stay.

It’s true of both the sport in its new Miami Gardens home -- the crowd around Hard Rock Stadium was again gigantic and loaded with star power -- and the grand prix’s only ever champion. Max Verstappen defended his crown at the Miami International Autodrome and turned a potentially dramatic race into an uneventful one by blitzing the competition to win by more than five seconds.

The 2022 Miami Grand Prix served as the first win for Verstappen on his way to a second straight world championship. The 2023 Miami Grand Prix erases any questions about whether the Dutch superstar still a class above everyone else in his sport.

“The key was just the general pace,” Verstappen said. “Today was a very good day.”

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Verstappen, who drives the No. 1 car for Red Bull Racing, started all the way down in ninth place after a snafu in qualifying kept him from putting in a fastest-lap time and still he was into the lead within 20 laps, and eventually overtook Mexico’s Sergio Perez with 10 laps to take the lead for good.

Verstappen, who has now won 3 of 5 races in the 2023 Formula One World Championship and 18 of the last 23 across the last two years, has long been dominant, driving the fastest car from the front of the pack and fending off all competition. In this race, he had to come from behind and he made it look just as easy.

“I had a clean race,” Verstappen said, “picked the cars off one by one.”

Verstappen, 25, moved up from ninth to sixth in the first four laps, then jumped to fifth on Lap 8, fourth on Lap 10, third on Lap 14 and second on Lap 15. He and Perez, his teammate, effectively held the top two spots for the rest of the race, with Verstappen passing him once on Lap 20, then again on Lap 48 after he pitted.

Verstappen was the fastest driver from start to finish and finished in 1:27:38.241 — more than five seconds clear of everyone else. Perez, who drives the No. 11 for Red Bull, finished second in 1:27:43.625 — 5.384 seconds behind Verstappen. No one else led a lap.

“Winning a race from P9 is always very satisfying,” said Verstappen, who became only the fifth driver to ever win when starting from ninth.

The gap between Red Bull and every other constructor is massive right now, as those two have combined to win each of the first five races in the 2023 Formula One World Championship. The gap between Verstappen and his teammate, though not as big as their team’s gap between all the others, is still significant, as this race proved.

Verstappen was the fastest driver in the second and third practice sessions last week, and only started ninth because Monaco’s Charles Leclerc, who drives the No. 16 for Scuderia Ferrari, crashed and cut short the final round of qualifying Saturday.

Perez took the top spot, which could have theoretically posed a major challenge for Verstappen.

It did not. Verstappen had the fastest lap, screaming around the 3.632-mile track in as fast as 1:30.273, and finished nearly 30 seconds ahead of everyone other than Perez. His lead on Perez grew from six points to 14 with the win.

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Spain’s Fernando Alonso, who drives the No. 14 for Aston Martin in Formula One, rounded out the podium with a third-place finish in 1:28:04.546 — 26.305 seconds off the lead. Fort Lauderdale’s Logan Sargeant, who drives the No. 2 for Williams Grand Prix Engineering, became the first American to race in the Miami Grand Prix, but the 22-year-old rookie finished in last place, a full lap behind Verstappen.

Even without many dramatics, the Miami Grand Prix (GP) was still a distinctly South Florida spectacle. More than 270,000 tickets were sold and celebrities from the likes of actor Tom Cruise to Chiefs superstar Patrick Mahomes wandered around the paddocks before the race. The event was a hit with locals and also again a major international destination, even with the inaugural Las Vegas Grand Prix coming up in November to provide some more American competition.

The first two Miami GPs have also helped anoint a new megastar. Verstappen was already well established before he own last year, but now he’s unassailable.

Miami loves a star and Verstappen is as big as it gets.