Survival in the Sun
2022 Miami Grand Prix
text | Richard Kelley
edit | Henry Lau

Red Bull’s Max Verstappen survived crumbling tarmac and the massive heat of coastal South Florida to win the inaugural crypto.com Miami Grand Prix. It was his second successive 2022 victory and third in the first five races this season.



Despite Verstappen’s RB18 having continuing mechanical weaknesses and his fumbles in practice and qualifying, the Dutchman dominated the crypto.com Miami when it counted.

He seized second place from Carlos Sainz’s Ferrari at the start with stunning ease, then patiently waited until the precise moment on Lap 9 to pass polesitter Charles Leclerc and establish a substantial lead before a late Safety Car. Verstappen tallied 26 points with the fastest lap point too. Leclerc finished second, with Sainz claiming the final podium position.

Very Physical

“It was an incredible grand prix, very physical, but we kept it exciting until the end,” said the Dutchman. “I’m incredibly happy winning in Miami. It was an incredible Sunday for us.”

Verstappen stuck to Leclerc’s tail for the first eight laps, determining when to make his move. When the Dutchman’s engineer radioed that they had noticed damage to the Monegasque’s front right tyre, Verstappen attacked. Side-by-side with Leclerc’s Ferrari on the pit straight, Verstappen outbraved him entering the first right-hander and was gone.

So Difficult to Drive

Leclerc tailed the Dutchman for a single lap before Verstappen, carrying superior straight-line speed, broke the tow and motored away. Leclerc chose to be satisfied with second place this time, complaining that his car felt “so difficult to drive” due to the rapid deterioration of Miami’s virgin track surface.

Ten laps from the flag, a late Safety Car tightened the field. At the restart on Lap 47, it was as if a switch had been thrown.

Attacks were being waged everywhere, especially from Charles Leclerc. The Ferrari ace had DRS behind Verstappen, and the Dutchman couldn’t lose him. With his first real challenge of the Grand Prix, Verstappen needed five or six laps before breaking the DRS. Once out of range, he quickly resumed his lead to the flag.

Just 19 Points

Verstappen’ took his second straight victory in the US, too, having won in Austin last year. Surprisingly, the Dutchman is the first driver in 17 years to win a Grand Prix in the United States from outside the front row. In doing so, he slashed Leclerc’s championship lead to just 19 points.

Red Bull’s Sergio Perez took fourth place, with Mercedes’ duo of George Russell and Lewis Hamilton claiming fifth and sixth. Valterri Bottas finished seventh for Alfa Romeo, with Esteban Ocon recovering from an FP2 accident to finish eighth for Alpine. Alexander Albon took ninth for Williams, as Lance Stroll captured 10th place for Aston Martin.

The Spectacle

On the one hand, the Miami Grand Prix was never a race for the purists and their preference for proper racing at historic European venues rather than a American football parking lot. Nor was Hard Rock Stadium’s boiling virgin tarmac ever going to stand up to both the beating from severe heat and F1 ground effects.

On the other hand, F1’sfirst-ever Miami Grand Prix wowed the world audience as they remotely partied in the paddock and on the grid with every A-list celebrity on the planet.


Basketball legend Michael Jordan joined David Beckham, with Serena and Venus Williams, LeBron James and Pharrell Williams at their side. Even former first lady Michelle Obama was trackside on Saturday. It was the biggest show in town – and delivered a fantastic spectacle.

Fortunately, the actual Grand Prix waited until the final ten laps to reveal the sport’s true ferocity to the fans.

The bottom line: If Liberty Media and F1’s true goal was proof that the sport has finally captured the hearts and souls of the United States fans, it came through loud and clear.

The Tender Tarmac

Miami’s 19-turn track’s unique surface had started crumbling mid- event due, in part, to Florida’s local pavement material rules that didn’t take into consideration F1 needs.

Pirelli’s F1 chief Mario Isola said,” At an F1 track you have a much wider range of aggregates and asphalt materials, whereas here, by law, we were stuck with the FDOT material, and with the local aggregate.”

“So the level of grip was good since the beginning with, obviously, a lot of track evolution. However, what appears to have taken place is that as the surface got steadily chipped away by the F1 cars, the small stone fragments that come away have to go somewhere.”

Risky Overtaking

Those fragments were “marbles”, and most drivers felt that the racing suffered because it was so dirty offline that they couldn’t risk overtaking.

Fernando Alonso said drivers complained to governing body FIA that “the tarmac is not F1 standard”, and promoters twice had to repave portions of the track before Monday’s (AEST) race.

The asphalt “almost feels like gravel,” said Max Verstappen. He also said the chicane was suited for a kart race, not an F1 car.

The 2022 Miami Grand Prix

As 18 F1 cars hurtled into Turn 1, Max Verstappen leapt from his third starting spot around the outside and forced his way past Carlos Sainz to second with an impressive move, taking advantage of some slight hesitancy from the Spaniard.

Verstappen was now in a solid position to follow Charles Leclerc early on and sense the Monegasque’s tyres condition.

“I tried to see the pace of Charles in front of me and from the start it was very close,” said the Dutchman.

“I couldn’t get into the DRS initially but then at one point Charles started to struggle a bit more with the front tyres and it seemed like our car was very good on the medium compound.”

Protecting Tyres

Leclerc had pulled out of DRS range initially but slowly slipped back towards Verstappen, who focused on protecting his tyres. The instant the Red Bull team told him that Ferrari had cautioned Leclerc to ease his pace on Lap 8, Verstappen was through down the inside into Turn 1 on Lap 9. He never looked back.

Lewis Hamilton, starting sixth, had a more challenging time, rear- ended by the Alpine of Fernando Alonso at the first corner, dropping two places and reporting damage to his left rear. He was able to make it back past Alonso and Pierre Gasly in the AlphaTauri before the race was ten laps old.

Such was the Miami Grand Prix, as the field fought for grip in some of the highest temperatures ever recorded in F1. It would be a race for survival rather than speed until Lap 40, as Lando Norris’ crashed after being hit by Pierre Gasly’s AlphaTauri.

An Actual Race

As the Safety Car closed up the pack nose-to-tail on Lap 47 of 57, the F1 pack smelled points for the taking. All of a sudden, the actual race was on.

Verstappen took command of the restart as teammate Perez shadowed Sainz before crossing the line. As Sainz countered to keep him behind, Perez now had Bottas’ on his tail.

At the beginning of Lap 48, Verstappen led Leclerc by 0.5s. The Monegasque was all business now and looking for any opportunity. Sainz felt the pressure from Perez and ran wide, but Checo couldn’t get through, slamming the brakes to avoid a collision.

Leclerc got DRS on Verstappen on Lap 49 and locked onto the Dutchman’s tail, as Russell harried Hamilton around the outside but couldn’t make it stick.

Leclerc Attacks

On Lap 51, Leclerc’s Ferrari was very close into the hairpin as he poked and prodded Verstappen’s Red Bull into every corner.

Then, on Lap 52, Leclerc closed on Verstappen into the chicane, but his Ferrari slammed the high kerb. It survives, but Leclerc’s momentum was spent. He lost DRS and never regained ground. Leclerc’s gap to the Dutchman grew to a second now as Verstappen set the fastest lap.

Verstappen took the checkers leading Leclerc by 1.4s, with Sainz 1.3s ahead of Perez.