July 24, 2024
Max Verstappen

Max Verstappen was surprised to take pole for the Miami Grand Prix sprint race

Red Bull’s Max Verstappen beat Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc to take pole position for the sprint race at the Miami Grand Prix.

The Dutchman was 0.108 seconds quicker than Leclerc, with Red Bull’s Sergio Perez third ahead of Daniel Ricciardo’s RB in a surprise fourth place.

McLaren’s Lando Norris appeared to miss an opportunity to compete with Verstappen for pole with a slow first sector of his final lap.

Mercedes drivers George Russell and Lewis Hamilton could manage only 11th and 12th places.

Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz was fifth, with McLaren’s Oscar Piastri heading the Aston Martins of Lance Stroll and Fernando Alonso, Norris and Haas driver Nico Hulkenberg.

Norris had been fastest in both the first and second parts of qualifying and was quickest in both the second and third sectors of his final lap in the last session, but 0.8secs off the pace in the first sector.

McLaren have a major upgrade on their car, which Norris has all of and Piastri only about half, but the Briton said he had made too many errors.

“I just pushed too hard, simple as that,” Norris said. “Car was feeling very good. Just silly, to be honest – a couple of mistakes in Turn One and then a big spiral from there.

“A shame because the team have done a good job. The upgrades are working, happy with everything but not with one thing.”

Max Verstappen was surprised to be on pole, saying the car had felt quick in race trim but not in low-fuel specification.

The Dutchman said: “To be honest, it felt really terrible. Maybe that last session was just incredibly difficult to get the tyres to work. I didn’t really improve a lot on the soft but somehow we were first.

“Practice felt really nice, it felt like the car was in a really good window but in qualifying it didn’t feel like that any more. I was really not happy.

“In Q3 I saw I was only going 0.2secs faster and I was sliding around, no grip and they told me it was P1 and I thought it must be a joke but we’ll take it.”

Leclerc recovers but Mercedes face ‘qualifying woes’

Ferrari have a special blue livery during this weekend’s event to celebrate its 70th year in the US market

For Leclerc, it was an impressive performance after the Ferrari driver went into qualifying cold because he had missed all but one lap of practice following a spin out of Turn 16, which left him stranded in the middle of the track and brought out a red flag.

“I am pleased,” he said. “It was very tricky but straight away I felt the feeling and the hard work I have done to put the tyres in the right window has paid off.”

He said he felt he had answered criticisms he had received after a couple of poor qualifying sessions in recent races.

“I’m happy,” Leclerc said, “because there are so many talks now and you are as good as your last race in this sport and you have two races in a row when you are bad in qualifying – and I haven’t done a great job – people start to talk. But now we have to work on the consistency and try to stay at that level.”

Mercedes also have an upgrade – albeit not as significant as McLaren’s – but it appeared to do little to improve their car’s pace.

Hamilton hit the wall lightly on his final run in the second session but the car simply lacked pace.

Russell said: “In practice the soft tyre was feeling really good but on the medium couldn’t find the sweet spot and found ourselves on the wrong side of it. We need to work hard and find some improvements for the main qualifying. We need to try and get on top of our qualifying woes.”

Hamilton said: “It didn’t feel terrible but we’re just 0.7secs. That’s just the pace of our car, I think. We just have to accept it for the moment.”

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