Miami Grand Prix – Despite missing a lot of the session getting his steering changed, George Russell finished on top ahead of his teammate at the end.
It was a brand new surface that greeted the drivers as they headed out onto the sunkissed Miami International Autodrome to start the first of three race weekends in the US this season – the others coming in towards the tail end of the season at the Circuit of the Americas in Austin in October and then a month later on the streets of Las Vegas.
George Russell struggled with his steering when he headed out and when he was told it’d take most of the session to change headed right back to the pits without setting a time as he felt it’d be worth it as he wouldn’t learn anything the way things were. Mercedes later revealed that Russell was running a developmental part on his steering which was too heavy so the steering rack all had to be changed.
At the ten minutes mark it was Max Verstappen at the top with a 1:34.054 on the hards with Nico Hulkenberg three and a half tenths behind in P2. There was a big moment for Nyck de Vries around that time as the AlphaTauri driver spun at T12 and had to drive the wrong way down the track to find a place to spin his car around. The stewards had a look at the incident for potentially being a dangerous driving offence but the Dutch driver was cleared of any wrongdoing.
With a lot of dust on the track and in the pits, lock ups and slides were common during the session and at the halfway point Hulkenberg on soft tyres held the top of the timesheets with a 1:31.392, over four tenths up on Verstappen’s best on the hards. The reigning champion did retake the P1 spot with a 1:31.054 when he switched to the red-ringed tyres and with 26 minutes still on the clock the session was Red Flagged as the Haas racer got slightly off line, onto the dust, and lost the rear which spun him into the wall at T3.
The session was back underway with 18 minutes to go and Russell was out with them, Mercedes having initially sent him back out a couple of minutes before the session was suspended.
Heading into the final ten minutes Verstappen’s 1:30.549 was the best so far, half a second ahead of Charles Leclerc who was his closest rival at that stage. Pierre Gasly had a moment at T17, lost the rear and spun into the run off but managed to keep his Alpine out of the barriers and continue with the session.
After having languished around the lower part of the timesheets for the majority of the opening practice the Mercedes drivers waited to show their pace at the very end with first Lewis Hamilton and then Russell taking the top of the charts. Russell’s best time was a 1:30.125, two tenths ahead of his teammate while Leclerc was P3. Verstappen had changed to the hards at the end so he wasn’t improving his times when the track reached his best at the end, he finished P4.
Carlos Sainz took P5 while Gasly in P6 was the last driver within a second of Russell with a 1:31.104. Fernando Alonso was the seventh fastest while Lance Stroll kept the Aston Martins together and ended P8. Despite crashing and missing half the session, Hulkenberg’s earlier time still saw him end P9 while Esteban Pcpn rounded out the top ten with a 1:31.542.