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Verstappen chases Miami Grand Prix hat-trick as Newey departure makes headlines

Verstappen on the Miami podium last year
Verstappen on the Miami podium last year Reuters
Red Bull's Max Verstappen (26) can complete a hat-trick of Miami Grand Prix victories on Sunday but the announced departure of his team's star designer Adrian Newey is the big talking point going into the weekend.

The sixth round of the season is, for the second weekend in a row, run to the sprint format with only one practice session and a 100km race on Saturday before qualifying for the main event.

Verstappen won the first sprint in China last month and arrives in Florida with four wins from five races and a 25-point lead over teammate Sergio Perez.

The Dutch driver won the first race around the Hard Rock Stadium in 2022 and then again from ninth last May, a big blow for Perez after the Mexican started on pole with a chance to take the overall lead and ended up second.

"It should normally be a good race for us," said Verstappen after winning in Shanghai.

"It's normally a little bit more straightforward with the strategy, but it's always quite a difficult track, you know, so I'm excited. It's always quite a crazy weekend there, so it's going to be quite a busy one."

Verstappen has started all five races this season from pole position, making him the only driver this century to achieve that feat. French great Alain Prost, with Williams in 1993, was the last driver to take the first six poles of a season.

Verstappen is also on a run of six successive wins in the United States.

In a blow to Red Bull away from the track, the team confirmed on Wednesday that Newey, the sport's highest-rated and multiple title-winning designer, would be leaving next year.

Red Bull said the 65-year-old would step back from Formula One design duties but would continue to attend specific races until the end of the current season.

McLaren, who had Lando Norris finish second in China, and Ferrari are likely to be battling for best of the rest in Miami but Mercedes are bringing a big upgrade for Lewis Hamilton and George Russell.

"Our challenge will be to make sure we don't try and replay China at a Miami that is a very, very different beast and wants different things from the car than China will," Mercedes technical director James Allison said last week.

"We definitely learnt during this weekend (in Shanghai) that if you're going to be ambitious, be ambitious in the sprint race and then tune it down for the main race rather than the opposite way around."

Seven-time world champion Hamilton was second in the sprint but then qualified only 18th for the main race and finished ninth.

Logan Sargeant, at Williams, is the only local driver in the race with his team still searching for their first point of the campaign.

Renault-owned Alpine and Swiss-based Sauber are also yet to open their accounts.

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