Max Verstappen served warning from Red Bull chief Helmut Marko after Miami victory

F1 preview: A lap of the Miami Grand Prix

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Red Bull chief Helmut Marko has warned Max Verstappen that he has to be able to “deliver under difficult circumstances” if he wants to win successive world championship titles. Verstappen won his third race of the Formula One season in Miami on Sunday, holding off a fightback from rival Charles Leclerc to close the gap to the Ferrari driver.

The defending champion is now within 19 points of Leclerc following an impressive performance in his Red Bull at the inaugural Miami Grand Prix. Verstappen started third on the grid but quickly assumed control by passing the Ferraris of Carlos Sainz early on and Leclerc by lap nine.

The Dutchman appeared to be cruising towards victory before a safety car threw a spanner in the works by forcing a re-start with 10 laps to go following a crash between McLaren’s Lando Norris and Alpha Tauri’s Pierre Gasly. But Verstappen held off Leclerc, who got to within a second of him but could not overtake, to claim a valuable win.

Marko was pleased with Verstappen’s work, which came after some hiccups in practice, but suggested there will be more testing times to come this season. “We had some problems on Friday, but Saturday was back to normal,” he told De Telegraaf. “This shows that we have a world champion in our house. We can count on him and he must also be able to deliver under difficult circumstances.”

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Verstappen has now won three of the five races this season – at Miami, Imola and Jeddah – but still trails 104 points to 85 in the overall standings. The 24-year-old has, in fact, won every race he has finished, showing that Red Bull have the capabilities to challenge Ferrari for the title

“After the race in Australia we were more than 40 points behind, then I said it could go either way,” Marko added. “And now there are 19. It’s so close, a matter of which track suits which car best. It will be a fight between Max and Leclerc.”

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There was a reminder of the sort of problems Red Bull have grappled with this year, however with Verstappen’s team-mate Sergio Perez only able to finish fourth. “That’s why it’s not a perfect day,” said Marko. “We had a problem with his car with a sensor. As a result, he lost four tenths on the straight. Otherwise we would have had two cars on the podium.”

Verstappen was pleased with his days’ work, especially the fast start which saw him blast past Sainz. “Yeah it was very good, I think especially in the start,” he told Sky F1. “I haven’t done a start at all this whole weekend because of all the troubles [in practice], so I didn’t know what to expect, I think we had a decent launch and I saw the opportunity to go around the outside [of Sainz] and it worked really well, we also gave each other space luckily.

“And then I was trying to hunt down Charles, I saw at one point he was struggling a bit with his right-front tyre and I went for it, so I could pass him and that actually really made the race because I could open up my gap, which then on the hard [tyre] stayed very similar, one lap he was a bit faster then I was faster again.”

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