Belgian-Dutch Formula 1 driver Max Verstappen of Red Bull Racing takes a rest and a drink after winning the Miami Grand Prix on Sunday at the Miami International Autodrome in Miami Gardens, Fla. Photo by Shawn Thew/UPI | License Photo
MIAMI, May 9 (UPI) -- Reigning Formula 1 champion Max Verstappen was hunted by competitors throughout his 2021 campaign. Fresh off his 2022 victory at the Miami Grand Prix, he now says he favors his current role of hunting down fellow racers.
Verstappen's Honda edged Charles Leclerc's Ferrari by 3.786 seconds to win Sunday at the Miami International Autodrome in Miami Gardens, Fla. The Red Bull Racing star sits in second place in the standings, 19 points behind Leclerc.
Verstappen battled seven-time champion Lewis Hamilton for first place in the standings throughout the 2021 campaign. He finished the campaign eight points ahead of his rival due to a controversial finish in the season finale.
"I like the position I'm in at the moment, knowing that the car is quick," Verstappen told reporters Sunday in Miami Gardens.
"And for example, end of last year, of course, I was the one who was being hunted. And that was actually not a great position because I knew that we didn't have the pace anymore.
"I knew it was going to be very tricky to the end. So yeah, just depends a bit of how competitive you are as well."
Ferrari's Carlos Sainz finished third in the Miami Grand Prix. Sergio Perez, Verstappen's teammate, finished fourth. Sainz and Verstappen each logged three Top 3 finishes through five events, but Verstappen won three of the last four races.
Leclerc totaled two wins and two second-place finishes to start the season. He told reporters Sunday that he doesn't "really mind" if he is being hunted or hunting other drivers in the standings.
"I think we have been in only one position since the beginning of the season, which means we are hunted for now," Leclerc said. "I quite like this position to be honest, because it means that you are doing something right.
"But it is also true that, through two races, the gap is slowly closing down. I don't really mind, to be honest, whichever position I am in. I just want to be the most competitive out there. And at the moment, it seems that Red Bull has the upper hand in the races."
The Formula 1 season continues with the Spanish Grand Prix, which runs from May 20 to 22 at Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya in Barcelona. The first two days of the event included practices and qualifying, with the main event set for that Sunday.
Lewis Hamilton, who has yet to win this season, won the last five consecutive Spanish Grand Prix titles. Verstappen won the 2016 Spanish Grand Prix.
Hamilton and fellow Mercedes driver George Russell are sixth and fourth in the 2022 Formula 1 standings. Sainz sits in fifth place. Lando Norris, Valtteri Bottas, Esteban Ocon and Kevin Magnussen are among the other Top 10 drivers. Ferrari, Red Bull Racing, Mercedes, McLaren Mercedes and Alfa Romeo lead the constructor standings.
The Formula 1 season features 22 events. The United States Grand Prix will be Oct. 23 in Austin, Texas. The season ends with the Nov. 20 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
Dutch Formula One driver Max Verstappen of Red Bull Racing celebrates winning the Formula One Grand Prix of Miami at the Miami International Autodrome in Miami Gardens, Florida, on Sunday, May 8. Photo by Greg Nash/UPI | License Photo