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Red Bull driver Max Verstappen raises his fist in the air at the award ceremony. © Hasan Bratic/dpa

Max Verstappen’s victory in the glamorous Formula 1 debut in Miami brings him a little closer to his World Cup opponent Charles Leclerc. But the world champion does not trust his luck.

Miami – With a noisy police escort, Miami’s premiere winner Max Verstappen appeared at the podium celebration, raising his fist in the sky with a football helmet on his head.

When the exhausted Formula 1 world champion had freed himself from a net of streamers, he immediately dictated the next work order to his team. “We still have some problems. We have to make sure that we’re more reliable,” warned the 24-year-old after the sweaty success in Florida.

Verstappen with third win in fifth race

The Dutchman took his third victory in the fifth race of the season in a more businesslike manner. “It’s really nice here, but you can only get 25 or 26 points here,” said Verstappen when asked whether victory in the glamorous debut of the racing series in Miami meant a lot to him. The two failures in Bahrain and Australia are still gnawing at the champion, who is therefore still 19 points behind World Cup opponent Charles Leclerc.

“It’s going to be a tough catch-up. We won’t win every race and it will be close,” said Red Bull motorsport consultant Helmut Marko of the TV channel Sky with a view to the title race. Thanks to his control skills, Verstappen fended off Leclerc’s attacks on the final laps in Miami after a safety car robbed him of the previously comfortable lead. More and more this year comes to a head in this duel, in which the defending champion has the momentum on his side.

award ceremony
The winner Max Verstappen (Red Bull, M), second-placed Charles Leclerc (l) and third-placed Carlos Sainz (both Ferrari, r) are on the podium. © Hasan Bratic/dpa

But Verstappen doesn’t quite trust his luck. The technical breakdowns on Friday practice and the sensor defect in his teammate Sergio Perez’s engine in the race fueled the champion’s concerns about further costly setbacks. “The car is fast, but we have to stop these problems,” Verstappen demanded.

Ferrari wants to increase pressure on Red Bull

Leclerc’s Ferrari team wants to increase the pressure on Red Bull again at the next Grand Prix in Barcelona. Team boss Mattia Binotto announced a new expansion stage for the F1-75. “I hope they work so we can grab them again,” said the Italian.

In the arms race for the title, Red Bull has gained a small advantage through a feat of strength in the development of the car in recent weeks. “But the budget cap sets a limit on spending. So I hope they stop developing at some point,” said Binotto.

Despite the next setback, his chief driver Leclerc was still deliberately relaxed with a view to the overall standings. “I like the position of the hunted because it means you’re doing something right,” said the Monegasque. “We just have to keep pushing. It’s close and everyone wants to see it that way,” Leclerc added.

Stable duel at Red Bull

In the action thriller between him and Verstappen, the competition threatens to play a supporting role for the rest of the season. Series world champion Mercedes is only third force and just can’t get any closer, George Russell in fifth and Lewis Hamilton in sixth had no chance. “We’re in no man’s land,” complained team manager Toto Wolff.

Even the ambitious challengers McLaren, Alpine and Sebastian Vettel’s employer Aston Martin have not been able to use the radical rule reform for the big hit. The rest lack the means.

Sebastian Vettel drives in the Aston Martin car in front of the two Haas drivers Kevin Magnussen and Mick Schumacher. © Wilfredo Lee/AP/dpa

This is one of the reasons why Verstappen can count on the fact that in the fight for victories it will initially only be up to him and Leclerc. So the World Champion draws his confidence from the fact that he’s won every time he’s gone the full distance this season. “I just have to always finish,” said Verstappen. dpa

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