At the Formula 1 spectacle in Miami, Max Verstappen put things right again at Red Bull with another splendid race to catch up. Starting only from ninth place, the two-time world champion and last year's winner raced to victory in the first of three US races, relegating his rebellious team-mate Sergio Pérez to second place.
The Mexican, who started from pole position, missed the lead in the World Championship and is now 14 points behind the defending champion, who is a world champion.
Third was Fernando Alonso. The 41-year-old world champion from 2005 and 2006 confirmed his third place in the world championship. Fourth came in the second race of the motorsport premier class at the Miami International Autodrome George Russell in the Mercedes. Nico Hülkenberg, the only German regular driver this year, clearly missed out on the points in the Haas in 15th place.
PS celebrities around the track
270,000 spectators on the three Grand Prix days and a density of celebrities like never before made Miami a spectacle again. Even before the race started, Formula 1 proved why it now fascinates the masses in the USA.
LL Cool J introduced the drivers to the new anthem of the motorsport premier class - an entry of the horsepower gladiators. Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, Tesla boss and Elon Musk followed the event from the pit lane on Saturday. Actor stars like Michelle Rodríguez or Vin Diesel, sports giants like tennis legend Roger Feder, ex-ski racer Lindsey Vonn and football idol Patrick Mahomes - the number of superstars would have been enough for two races.
And for the new Formula 1 love of the Americans with the crowning return to Las Vegas in mid-November, the starting line-up with the top favorite in the fifth row was already exciting enough. Verstappen was only ninth after a mistake and a prematurely canceled qualification due to an accident by Charles Leclerc.
Pérez von der Poleposition
The increasingly self-confident stable rival Pérez, who was only six points short of Verstappen before the race, had secured pole. Both had divided the victories among themselves until Miami. "I want to drive my own race and have as much fun as possible," Pérez announced immediately before the start. And he couldn't have started better.
The Mexican, celebrated by the many Latinos in Miami, got off to a great start. He defended his third career pole position against two-time champion Alonso. Ferrari's Carlos Sainz also stayed in third on the grid.
Verstappen, who had opted for the most durable but initially not so fast tyres, quickly began his race to catch up. In a spectacular maneuver on the start and finish straight, he took out two rivals at once. "I made it a bit more difficult for myself," he said before the start, before racing ahead with one fastest lap after the other.
Verstappen cleans up from behind
By lap ten, Verstappen was already fourth, less than five seconds behind his team-mate at the top. And all three in front of him were on medium rubber, so they would have to come in for the pit stop before Verstappen.
In Saudi Arabia, Verstappen had made it from 15th on the grid to second behind Pérez this season. In Miami, the 25-year-old Dutchman provided further proof of his exceptional ability and the superiority of Red Bull's RB19. Lap 14, Verstappen on three. Lap 15, Verstappen on two.
Only the teammate in front of him, who radioed wear problems with one of the front tires to the command post and steadily lost his lead. After lap 20, Pérez came into the pits and Verstappen took the lead.
Pérez now had to put pressure on, minimize the gap so that Verstappen would come out behind him during his pit stop. And Pérez, who was the big winner last weekend by winning the sprint and the Grand Prix in Azerbaijan, initially did it with flying colours. But the closer Verstappen got to the tire change, the bigger his lead grew again. And it was also clear: With the fresh and slightly softer tires, Verstappen would be even faster.
And so it happened. Verstappen came out just behind Pérez. The Mexican fended off the first attempt. A thrilling duel. If only briefly. Because then Verstappen passed outside and away.