Verstappen, who started third, gained a second at the first corner when he drove around the outside of the second Ferrari of Carlos Sainz. He tracked down Leclerc and passed him on lap nine.
Despite a late-race safety car, that put Leclerc back into DRS range, Verstappen pulled away to win by 3.7s.
2022 Formula 1 Miami Grand Prix race results
What happened in the Miami Grand Prix?
On a dry track, but with a 40% of rain showers, Leclerc held his pole advantage on the run to Turn 1 ahead of Sainz but Verstappen went around the outside of the Spaniard on the exit of Turn 1 to grab second.
Perez ran fourth, ahead of Valtteri Bottas (Alfa Romeo), Pierre Gasly (AlphaTauri), Fernando Alonso (Alpine) and Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) – who lost two places after locking up at the first corner and getting boxed in behind Perez and then biffed by Alonso.
Hamilton got one place back when he passed Alonso at Turn 11 as DRS was enabled, after Alonso had run wide at Turn 5, and he later DRS-ed past Gasly into Turn 1 on lap six to regain sixth.
As soon as he got into DRS range of Leclerc, Verstappen grabbed the lead at Turn 1 on lap nine. Leclerc stayed in DRS reach of Verstappen for a couple of laps but then fell out of it and then lost 1.1s with a front-right lock up into Turn 17 on lap 12.
Perez caught Sainz but then suffered a loss of power that cost him 7s while he changed some settings on his steering wheel.
Leclerc was running 4.5s behind Verstappen when he pitted on lap 25, rejoining in fourth. Verstappen pitted two laps later, after Leclerc set a fastest sector time, and Sainz led for a lap before he too stopped – but his stop from him was a slow 5.4s due to a sticking right-front wheel.
Verstappen’s lead increased to 7.7s during the pitstop cycle. Sainz was now a distant third, 5s ahead of Perez.
Alonso suffered a slow pitstop, when the right-rear wouldn’t detach, but he then caught Gasly. Alonso hit Gasly at Turn 1 on lap 39, which earned him a five-second penalty.
Gasly, who ran wide at Turn 7 on the following lap, was clipped by Lando Norris, which fired the McLaren into a spin and out of the race, its right-rear tire flying off as he spun.
That brought out the safety car, with George Russell – who started on hard tires and hadn’t yet stopped – taking advantage by diving into the Mercedes pits. Perez also pitted for a new set of mediums, but none of the front trio stopped.
The race restarted with Verstappen leading Leclerc, Sainz and the fresh-tyred Perez with 10 laps remaining.
Leclerc stayed in Verstappen’s DRS range, while Bottas ran wide and hit the wall at Turn 17 on lap 50, handing positions to the battling Mercedes of Hamilton and Russell, who swapped places on the following lap.
Perez passed Sainz but ran long at Turn 1 with six laps to go, handing the position back, as Verstappen and Leclerc ran nose-to-tail ahead. With three laps to go, Verstappen escaped Leclerc’s DRS range and sealed his third win of the year.
Sainz managed to fend off Perez’s attacks to finish third, while Russell’s fifth had a lot to do with the timing of the safety car. Hamilton finished sixth, ahead of Bottas, Esteban Ocon, the penalized Alonso and Alex Albon’s Williams.
Mick Schumacher’s Haas rammed into Sebastian Vettel’s Aston Martin at Turn 1 late on – both Astons having started from the pitlane after they encountered fuel issues before the pit exit closed.
Vettel was forced out, as was Gasly and Norris from accident damage. Zhou Guanyu was the first retirement of the race when his Alfa Romeo broke down.
2022 Formula 1 Miami Grand Prix fastest laps
2022 Formula 1 Miami Grand Prix pitstops
George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.