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Miami Grand Prix Sprint Qualifying: A perplexed Verstappen takes pole

Written by Meghana Sree, Edited by Vyas Ponnuri

Image Credits: Clive Rose

Formula 1 returns to the States for the Miami Grand Prix, first of the three USA rounds, held in the Miami International Autodrome built around Hard Rock Stadium. For the second Sprint weekend of this season, many teams had brought on a slew of upgrades, flashy new liveries, and vibrant driver helmets to celebrate the Miami energy.

This Sprint Qualifying came right off the back of a dramatic practice, which saw Charles Leclerc spinning out of the session, bringing out the red flag.

Sprint Q1 (SQ1) - Testing out the track

It was Leclerc immediately out on track to make up for lost time, as the other cars poured out of the pits too under the scorching sunshine of Florida.

Image Credits: Steven Tee

As the session heated up, with five minutes to go, both the Williams were yet to set lap times.

One of the headlines going into the weekend was Valtteri Bottas’ change of race engineer, which could perhaps be an explanation to his case of impeding McLaren’s Oscar Piastri, owing to still getting used to a new right hand man. 

Kevin Magnussen was also a victim of being impeded by the Sauber, but that did not deter him from taking Haas to the top of the timing tower with under two minutes to go.

Soon after, the top five were separated by eight hundredths of a second, and importantly, McLaren’s upgrades seemed to be working as planned as Lando Norris delivered a 1.27:939, clinching P1.

The session ended with a McLaren 1-2, Piastri putting in a solid lap in the nick of time, followed by Fernando Alonso to round out the top three drivers of SQ1. 

At the other end of the field, Williams occupied the last two positions, after Alex Albon’s lap time was deleted due to track limit violations, putting him behind his teammate, Logan Sargeant, while Esteban Ocon became the sole Alpine to make it into the next session, once again. 

SQ1 Exits

Pierre Gasly 

Zhou Guanyu 

Valtteri Bottas 

Logan Sargeant

Alex Albon 

SQ2 - Driving on the limit

With eight minutes on the clock, Sergio Perez set the first lap time of SQ2 with a  1.27:865.

Throughout the session, drivers toed the very limits of the track, and pushed their cars as close as they possibly could to the barriers, with those like Daniel Ricciardo slightly tapping the wall.

With half a minute to go, both Mercedes were in the elimination zone, joined by Ocon, Magnussen, and Yuki Tsunoda. 

A discouraged Lewis Hamilton then radioed that he had hit the wall, cementing his elimination from SQ2. As his teammate crossed the line, the Silver arrows ended their Sprint qualifying session sooner than they were expecting. 

The session once again rounded out with Norris topping the timing sheets with 1.27:597, followed by Perez and Leclerc; and Hulkenberg carrying Haas into SQ3.

Image Credits: Clive Rose

SQ2 Exits

George Russell 

Lewis Hamilton

Esteban Ocon 

Kevin Magnussen

Yuki Tsunoda 

SQ3 - One lap wonders

As the final green light came on for this session, teams took their time rolling out of the pits, waiting for another team to take it first to the track.

The seconds ticked away, and with under four minutes to go, cars finally spilled out onto the pitlane, all set to get that crucial lap in. With just one chance to put it all together, the top ten drivers knew exactly what was at stake here. 

A flurry of action descended upon the track as Hulkenberg set the first lap time of 1.28:476, but as the track evolved, other drivers found more time and Max Verstappen slid into P1 with a 1.27.641. Leclerc finished right behind him, only a tenth off the pace after his scant practice time.

Ricciardo found his footing and moved into P3, but Perez snatched that position away just as the chequered flag fell. Meanwhile, the McLaren team seemed to have lost their flow, finishing the session with a disappointing P6 for Piastri and P9 for Norris, breaking their run of back-to-back Sprint poles. 

The session rounded out with Lance Stroll out-qualifying Alonso, his first time since Australia, Carlos Sainz in P5 after a lockup, and a befuddled Verstappen taking his first Sprint pole of the season.

As teams gear up for the Sprint race, and later on the Grand Prix qualifying on Saturday, major talking points will be whether or not McLaren take advantage of their upgrades to challenge for the Grand Prix pole, and the possibility of Ferrari still in the mix to take the fight to Red Bull.

Sprint Race Starting Grid - Sprint Qualifying Results

1st - Max Verstappen (Red Bull) 

2nd - Charles Leclerc (Ferrari)

3rd - Sergio Perez (Red Bull)

4th - Daniel Ricciardo (RB)

5th - Carlos Sainz (Ferrari)

6th - Oscar Piastri (McLaren)

7th - Lance Stroll (Aston Martin)

8th - Fernando Alonso (Aston Martin)

9th - Lando Norris (McLaren)

10th - Nico Hulkenberg (Haas)

11th - George Russell (Mercedes)

12th - Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes)

13th - Esteban Ocon (Alpine)

14th - Kevin Magnussen (Haas)

15th - Yuki Tsunoda (RB)

16th - Pierre Gasly (Alpine)

17th - Zhou Guanyu (Sauber)

18th - Valtteri Bottas (Sauber)

19th - Logan Sargeant (Williams)

20th - Alex Albon (Williams)


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