MIAMI GP – Sergio Perez takes pole by three tenths as Charles Leclerc crashes bring qualifying to a early conclusion
Sergio Perez has taken pole position for the Miami Grand Prix beating Fernando Alonso by three tenths, as the session drew to a anti climax as Charles Leclerc crashed his Ferrari in the closing moments of Q3. The Red Bull driver set a 26.841 putting him ahead of the Aston Martin.
Perez set his fastest time on his first run to take pole looking to be the driver who maximised his first attempt saying it had been a bad weekend before he got it together on the penultimate lap. That would give him an advantage over teammate Max Verstappen who aborted his first lap, after running wide at Lot Five.
The Mexican looked a bit all over the place going into qualifying but he nailed an excellent lap on the first runs in the final session to put himself in the prime position going into the final runs. It could also demonstrate the bounce back something he will need if he wants to fight and win the championship.
Both needed to deliver on their final runs but Leclerc wrecked the rest of the session for everyone else when, running early, he lost control through the fast Turn Six and spun on the entry to Turn Seven, backing his Ferrari into the wall. While Verrstappen ran wide and abort both his laps in Q3.
Leclerc second mistake of the weekend through the same section of track, showing he couldn’t bounce back like Perez. Perez was cheered loudly by the crowd at Hard Rock Stadium in this city with a large Latino population and thanked them during his interview after the session.
He said, “It has been my worst weekend until qualifying really. I just couldn’t figure out how to [recover] all those tenths I was missing to the Max and the Ferraris. I was just resetting everything and we did a small change into qualifying and everything came alive. I was just struggling for balance, confidence, this Tarmac is very sensitive to temperature.”
Alonso said: “It was a good qualifying. Final practice was a little bit messy for us. We tried a few set-ups and they did not work but we put the car back in a known place and it came alive.”
Carlos Sainz was third half a second off pole and ahead of the Haas of Kevin Magnussen, who put in a decent performance to go fourth. The Ferrari driver producing a steady lap to go third with a steady lap.
Going into qualifying Verstappen looked like the man to beat having topped FP2 and FP3, but the momentary lost of control proved costly. Perez will look to take advantage of that having two wins this season and dominating both the sprint and race last weekend in Baku.
When it mattered most, the Mexican produced a strong lap that gives him a huge opportunity to secure a victory that would take him above Verstappen in the championship, with Red Bull seeking a fifth win in as many races this season. Perez will be looking to take the lead of the championship for first time in hia8
Verstappen looked in FP3 to find form and be the man to beat once again going into Q3, he looked to be on course for pole until he was the latest to fall foul of the winds which has caught most drivers out during the weekend.
He said, “I was trying to put it on the limit and then I made a mistake and had to abort the lap. Then you rely on a bit of luck that there is not going to be a red flag, but that can happen on a street circuit. I’m just a bit upset with myself.” He may have got away with it if it had not been for Leclerc’s latest display of ill-discipline.
Magnussen lucky by time timing of Leclerc’s crash. Leclerc lost the rear of the Ferrari sending him into a spin and contact with the wall. Pierre Gasly put his Alpine fifth ahead of George Russell by almost two tenths, but it has been a difficult weekend for Mercedes. Russell had just got through to Q3, while Lewis Hamilton was knocked out in Q2, when his teammate improved, that leaves him ahead of Leclerc.
Esteban Ocon was eighth seven hundredths behind Leclerc, Alpine looking to struggle this weekend. Verstappen’s crash left him ninth ahead of Valtteri Bottas, the Alfa Romeo driver like Verstappen not completing his final run in Q3.
Alex Albon was fastest of those knocked out in Q2 the Williams driver missing out by five hundredths on a place in the final part of qualifying. The British-Thai drivers last lap knocked Russell out of Q2 after going half a tenth faster than the Mercedes. That was thanks to the rapid track evolution through out of qualifying.
Albon was just over a tenth ahead of the Haas of Kevin Magnussen both drivers finding themselves shuffled out of Q3, the German spending most of Q2 inside the top ten. Guanyu Zhou was fourteenth over a tenth behind Hamilton. Hamilton could not repeat that feat in Q2 as he was left annoyed by being sent out into traffic for an out-lap that he felt compromised his flying effort.
While Nyck De Vries was fifteenth for Alpha Tauri, bouncing back from his crashfest and error filled weekend in Baku, where he crashed out in Q1.
Lando Norris was sixteenth fastest of those knocked out in Q1 by seven hundredths, the McLaren driver couldn’t copy the Mercedes and get out the drop zone. The Englishman had gone eleventh on his final attempt but as others behind improved, he found himself pushed out of qualifying.
The upgrades for this weekend has not delivered the step forwards the team wanted, lt highlighting the difficult situation McLaren are in and why they are restructuring the team. This weekend, it has emerged that they have brought back former IndyCar champion Gil de Ferran, their sporting director from 2018-21, in a consultancy role, to help them identify how they can get themselves back on track.
Yuki Tsunoda was almost four hundredths behind in seventeenth. Lance Stroll going eighteenth a surprise given the performance of Aston Martin this season, going ahead of Oscar Piastri. Logan Sargeant was slowest, the Floridan going nearly a tenth behind Piastri ahead of his home Grand Prix.