Leclerc thought he would catch Verstappen in tense Miami finale

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Charles Leclerc thought he was going to catch Max Verstappen towards the end of the Miami Grand Prix before settling for second place.

Ferrari driver Leclerc qualified on pole but was overtaken by Verstappen – who started third – on lap nine and was almost eight seconds behind when a safety car was deployed with 16 laps remaining.

Leclerc was initially able to keep pace with the reigning Formula One champion after the restart but was unable to find a way past the Red Bull even with DRS enabled.

The Dutchman pulled out the fastest lap to get away from the championship leader, whose lead was consequently cut to 19 points.

"It was a very difficult race physically. We struggled quite a bit on the medium tyres in the first stint and got overtaken. It made our race a bit more difficult from that moment onwards," said Leclerc.

"On the hard we were very competitive and towards the end I thought I could get Max at one point, but they had the advantage in terms of pace.

"We need to keep pushing. Upgrades will be important, and I hope now we can do a step up from the next race onwards. It has been an exciting beginning to the season and that's what we like to see."

Verstappen acknowledged he had to dig deep in order to follow up his success at Imola with another victory.

"It was an incredible grand prix. Very physical as well, but I think we kept it exciting until the end," said Verstappen.

"I am really happy with winning here in Miami, it was an incredible Sunday for us."

Carlos Sainz kept Sergio Perez at bay after the restart following the safety car to get back on the podium after retiring early in the previous two races.

He had to battle through the pain barrier to achieve it, because he was still feeling the effects of a crash in practice.

"I have been better. Obviously after the crash on Friday, I had a little bit of neck pain going into the race, but I had to manage it and I fought through it," said Sainz.

"Especially with Checo [Perez] at the end on the medium tyres he was very difficult to keep behind, but we managed to keep the volume, which is a decent result.

"It wasn't easy at all. It has been a tough race with the tyres and the heat, the car was sliding a lot, and we got what we deserved, I think, which is a decent P3, and we can build it up from here."

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