The Miami Grand Prix had always looked like being a Red Bull one-two.
But hopes that inter-team battle could be a thriller right to the chequered flag were denied eight laps from the end as Max Verstappen comfortably took the lead and from there the win despite starting in ninth place.
In the process, he equalled the number of wins (38) achieved for the team by four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel.
It proved the fourth Red Bull one-two in five races this Formula One season and only highlighted the advantage the championship leaders have over the rest of the grid.
That superior pace was perhaps best exemplified by the ease with which Verstappen soared past Fernando Alonso, who took a fourth podium of the season, early in the race.
Alonso, having started on the front row of the grid, had predicted the Dutchman would get by him by lap 25. It ended up being 10 laps earlier and then became a race between the Red Bulls.
For much of the grand prix, Sergio Perez looked to have the advantage but could not take the win for what would have meant Verstappen not leading the championship for the first time in nearly a year.
It was clear that polesitter Perez was the people’s choice with the South American local and travelling support. The Mexican was cheered when announced in a new-look presentation ceremony by LL Cool J while Verstappen was booed.
The prospect of a dull race looked to have been shaken up by Charles Leclerc’s qualifying crash, which confined Verstappen to ninth on the grid.
But all it did was delayed the increasingly inevitable, the key being Verstappen’s relentless pace in the middle section of the race when on worn, hard tyres.
It remains to be seen if Perez can put up a championship fight but the eventual ease of Verstappen’s victory – by five seconds – must surely be a succour punch in that battle.
There were no shortage of specators in Miami – 90,000 through the turnstiles on race day and Miami clearly in rapture to F1’s Drive to Survive effect. But the potential procession that looms for the rest of this season will worry F1 bosses about the United States audiences switching off.
For Lewis Hamilton, it had been a weekend to forget, spending much of the race either scrapping outside the points. But in the end he had made his way up to sixth at the chequered flag with George Russell an impresive fourth in a car which Toto Wolff had nigh-on declared undriveable after qualifying.
Hamilton struggled to make a mark at the start and later complained early on down the race radio that he might not be able to make it to the end of the race.
Watching him unable to pass Alex Albon’s Williams, the team at the back of the grid, must have been galling early in the race. So too, having to wave Russell past later on. But sixth will surely have been a filip of sorts with upgrades looming for the next race in Imola in two weeks.
Charles Leclerc had a similarly tough time, a knock-on effect from his qualifying crash. Ferrari had promised to be the closest runners to Red Bull but Carlos Sainz ended fifth to Leclerc’s seventh.
For McLaren, it was a torrid weekend, the team never in contention and Lando Norris and Oscar Piastri ending up 17th and 19th respectively.