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Formula 1: The Chequered Flag race review - Miami

After a back and forth start to the 2022 season, Red Bull's Max Verstappen is threatening to pull away from the pack following a dominant win in Miami.

The Dutchman became the first driver to record back-to-back race wins this year in Florida and is now 5/6 to retain his Drivers Championship, despite still trailing Ferrari's Charles Leclerc by 19 points in the individual standings.

Having cruised to victory in Imola in round four and then following that up by keeping Leclerc at arms' length at the inaugural Miami Grand Prix, Verstappen and Red Bull are beginning to hit their stride and the signs for the rest of the grid are ominous.

Ferrari can't compete

It wasn't all plain sailing for the world champion in Miami though, Verstappen having been plagued by technical issues on Friday before he could only qualify in third for the race.

Sitting behind both Ferraris on the grid, Verstappen appeared to have his work cut out in securing a third win of the season but quickly passed Carlos Sainz before overtaking Leclerc at the start of lap nine.

Verstappen never looked back from that point on, taking full advantage of the long straights at the Miami International Autodrome in a Red Bull with superior straight line speed to the Ferrari.

When the field was forced to bunch up under a safety car following a race-ending collision involving Lando Norris and Pierre Gasly with 10 laps to go, Leclerc looked to have been gifted a shot at victory.

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Despite pushing hard for five laps, the Ferrari driver couldn't find a way past his title rival as he was forced to settle for second, with Sainz holding off Red Bull's Sergio Perez to complete the podium.

While Leclerc retains the lead in the championship and is 6/5 to win his first world title this year, he was downbeat following the race, bemoaning Ferrari's inability to compete with Red Bull for longer than a handful of laps.

Slow progress from Mercedes

It's now two races in a row where Red Bull have been superior to Ferrari, although they remain far from flawless due to their ongoing reliability issues which affected Verstappen in practice in Miami and have resulted in two DNFs for the Dutch driver already this season.

Verstappen once again bemoaned the technical problems that have hampered him after his win, claiming they could derail his title ambitions if they aren't resolved.

If Red Bull can get on top of their issues then they will be tough to catch with Verstappen 11/10 to bring up a hat-trick of wins in the next race in Spain on 22nd May.

Ferrari will hope to have closed the gap by then but need to be wary of what's behind them too with Mercedes having taken a step forward in Miami.

Fifth and sixth-place finishes for the Silver Arrows might not seem that impressive given the heights Mercedes have previously hit but they represent progression after a difficult start to the season.

George Russell was quick in practice on Friday but then struggled in qualifying. Starting from 12th, he worked his way through the field, passing team mate Lewis Hamilton late on to lead the two Mercedes cars home, much to the seven-time world champion's chagrin.

Hamilton was unhappy with the team's race strategy for him and feels the car hasn't progressed much from the first race of the season, despite the signs of improvement.

Boss Toto Wolff remains adamant they have a potential title-challenging car but finding out how to fully unlock its potential is proving a headache for the team.

Bottas the 2022 unsung hero

Hamilton and Mercedes were among the star attractions in Miami, which tried and succeeded to put on a show on its Formula 1 debut.

From a fake marina to paddocks full of celebrities, the first F1 race in Florida was certainly a spectacle, and while the action on the track didn't always live up to its surroundings in terms of excitement, the late drama helped to leave a positive impression.

Amongst those involved in the battle for points in the closing stages was Alfa Romeo's Valtteri Bottas, who continues to help his new team punch well above their weight.

The Finn, who left Mercedes at the end of last season to join a team that was expected to be amongst the back markers, has finished in the top eight in four of the opening five races, coming home seventh in Miami.

It could have been an even higher finish for Bottas had he not made a mistake which allowed both Mercedes' to pass him in the closing stages but it was still an excellent drive from a man who continues to fly under the radar despite his strong campaign to date.

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