MIAMI GP – Charles Leclerc beats teammate Carlos Sainz to pole by almost two tenths with Max Verstappen losing out on final run

Testing & Race Reports

Charles Leclerc has beaten his Ferrari teammate Carlos Sainz to take pole position for

the Miami Grand Prix. The Monacan set a 28.796 putting himself almost two tenths ahead of Sainz, looking in control throughout the session Leclerc topped all three parts of qualifying as Ferrari secured their first front-row lockout since Mexico City 2019.

It also allowed Leclerc to take his third pole of the season, as his early championship rival Max Verstappen looked to have the edge going onto the final runs, however, couldn’t repeat the form he had shown earlier in the session, before making a mistake on the final lap leaving him almost two tenths behind his rival.

The key mistake came in the first sector leaving him third, but four hundredths ahead of teammate Sergio Perez. Verstappen was the last of the top three to do his final run but had a big snap of oversteer at Lot 6 and Training Village (Turns Five and Six) sliding off losing six tenths in the first sector alone.

Sainz, meanwhile, bounced back from his FP2 crash on Friday to pip his former teammate Verstappen by five thousandths. Ferrari and Red Bull locking out the front two rows sets up another interesting race of strategy between the top two teams, who were covered by less than a quarter of a second.

Leclerc said, “Last weekend wasn’t great for me. I made a mistake in the race, but today went well. We are starting on pole and we need to finish the job tomorrow. Red Bull is extremely quick in the straight lines. We are quick in the corners. It will be a tight challenge tomorrow.”

Verstappen added, “Overall I am pretty pleased with qualifying. Literally I did four or five laps yesterday so today I was still trying to learn the track and trying to find a decent balance in the car. To be that competitive in qualifying, I was a bit surprised.”

Valtteri Bottas put his Alfa Romeo fifth, a strong session for the Finn underlining the step forwards the team has made this season, going a quarter of a second faster than his former Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton. Mercedes had appeared to be competitive on Friday, but some of that pace didn’t come through to qualifying.

Mercedes despite topping FP2 and running near the top in all three practices went into the session playing down the significance of their upgrades. Both drivers appear to struggle with the car, with George Russell knocked out in Q2 and Hamilton just getting out of Q1.

Toto Wolff said Mercedes “worsened” their car with “experiments”, while Hamilton did at least take comfort from an improved qualifying for himself. “It was a much, much better qualifying session than I’ve had for the last three races, so I’m grateful for that to be honest and I’ll take it,” said the seven-time world champion.

Pierre Gasly put his Alpha Tauri seventh, going six hundredths ahead of the McLaren of Lando Norris, Yuki Tsunoda and Lance Stroll. Stroll had made it through to Q3 but that was at the expense of Aston Martin teammate Sebastian Vettel who was knocked out by Fernando Alonso and Russell.

However, Alonso and Russell would join him in the drop zone when Norris and Tsunoda both improved on their last lap. The Alpine driver set his fastest time at the end of the session, while Russell left it late to do his run, before struggling with oversteer through the flowing first sector.

Russell said, “We are a bit confused to be honest. Yesterday we were in the fight for pole and today we qualified P12 which is the worst qualifying of the year so it doesn’t make a lot of sense.”

His fastest time coming with just two minutes left in Q2, which wasn’t enough time for him to attempt a final run resulting in him being pushed out. Vettel was another driver to lose time at the Toll Gate chicane by sliding his way through. That left him thirteenth but nearly a tenth ahead of former teammate Daniel Ricciardo and the Haas of Mick Schumacher.

Schumacher’s teammate, Kevin Magnussen, was another driver to be caught out by the evolving track which sae him knocked out in Q1. Magnussen was a hundredth and a half fastest than the frustrated Guanyu Zhou, the Alfa Romeo frustrated by heavy traffic which he described as dangerous through Hospitality Village, Lot 5 and the last corner.

Alex Albon was eighteenth going almost seven hundredths faster than Williams teammate Nicolas Latifi. The British-Thai driver frustrated that he couldn’t improve to get out of Q1 despite doing personal bests in the first two sectors on his final lap.

Esteban Ocon took no part in qualifying, the Alpine driver crashed heavily mid way through FP3 causing a crack in his chassis meaning he took no part in qualifying.

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