Only nineteen drivers started qualifying for the Miami Grand Prix. Esteban Ocon was out after crashing into the barrier at turn fourteen during FP3. It turned out that after the incident the chassis had to be changed, which allowed the Frenchman to forget about qualifying.
Qualifying was just minutes away as Carlos Sainz put his Ferrari to the top with a 1.30.858. Max Verstappen then went under with 1.30.235. However, track conditions continued to improve throughout Q1. Sainz returned to the lead with a 1.30.079 but then saw his teammate Charles Leclerc aside with a 1.29.474. Verstappen improved to 1.29.836, three tenths of Leclerc’s time but faster than Sainz. Sergio Perez drove the second Red Bull 1.30.246, that was the fourth time in Q1.
Behind the Ferraris and Red Bulls, fifth place on the timesheet went hand in hand. Lewis Hamilton was outside the top 15 for a while but went to a 1.30.388 in the closing stages of Q1 to place himself in P5. Haas F1 driver Kevin Magnussen got stuck at 1.30.975 and was out. Guanyu Zhou, who was fifth for a short time, could also be seen when the new track in Miami really put the pedal to the metal. On the way back to the pits, the Chinese complained about traffic. Williams drivers Alexander Albon and Nicholas Latifi also failed to make it through Q1.
Russell comes up short
At the start of Q2, Leclerc was leading with a 1.29.754 while Sainz went down with a 1.29.729. Verstappen was then half a second quicker than the Ferrari duo with a 1.29.202. Leclerc then went on a new set of tires and managed to lap the track in 1.29.130, finishing the session on top and showing Verstappen in P2.
Lando Norris impressed with a 1.29.634 at the flag wave, earning him third place on the timesheets. Perez and Sainz finished fourth and fifth in Q2 due to the improvement at Norris. Valtteri Bottas did an excellent job getting his Alfa Romeo up to sixth place. Lewis Hamilton drove a fraction slower than his former teammate and finished seventh. Lance Stroll made it into Q3, as did AlphaTauri drivers Yuki Tsunoda and Pierre Gasly.
Two-time world champion Fernando Alonso was only a fraction short of qualifying and will start 11th on Sunday. George Russell was still fastest on Friday but couldn’t get past P12 in qualifying, meaning there still seems to be a lot to do at Mercedes. Sebastian Vettel and Daniel Ricciardo also finished thirteen and fourteen after Q2, as did Mick Schumacher, who drove for the fifteenth time.
Leclerc started Q3 with a 1.29.055, where teammate Sainz just missed with a 1.29.071. However, Verstappen also drove a good lap at this point. The Limburg native, who lost a lot of track time due to technical issues on Friday, crossed the finish line in 1:28.991 to put his Red Bull in P1. However, the differences were very small. The first three were within eight hundredths of each other.
After a short break, the ten remaining riders returned to the track for their final run. Leclerc and Sainz went purple one after the other in the first sector. Also in the second sector, the Monegasque was the fastest of all and then crossed the finish line in 1.28.796, which he climbed to the top of the timesheet. Sainz was unable to keep up with his teammate in the second and third parts but moved up to P2 with a 1.28.986. Verstappen made a mistake in the fifth turn and then eased off the gas. The reigning champion has to be content with third place on the grid on Sunday. He shares the second start time in Miami with teammate Perez.
Valtteri Bottas impressed with fifth in qualifying. With a 1.29.475, the Alfa Romeo driver was one and a half tenths faster than Lewis Hamilton in the Mercedes. Pierre Gasly finished seventh just behind the Brit. Lando Norris, Yuki Tsunoda and Lance Stroll are eighth, ninth and tenth respectively in Miami.
The first-ever Miami Grand Prix begins on Sunday at 9.30pm Dutch time.