Miami Grand Prix – Sergio Perez will start on pole for the Miami race tomorrow after the session was Red Flagged early after a crash from Charles Leclerc.
The Williams cars led the Alfa Romeos out as the first part of qualifying got underway, qualifying was nearly over for Nico Hulkenberg before it even started when the German almost slid out of T16 and into the wall.
Alex Albon put in a 1:30.967 as his opening lap though as they headed into the last ten minutes Sergio Perez had brought the time down to a 1:28.306, with Charles Leclerc 0.116 seconds behind and Max Verstappen only 0.002 seconds further back in P3.
Lewis Hamilton was P20 and in the pits at that point after damaging his front wing against the wall as he moved offline to avoid going into the back of a slow moving Kevin Magnussen. The stewards will be looking at the incident.
With five minutes to go the Red Bulls were on top, Verstappen with a 1:27.363, three and a half tenths ahead of his teammate, while both Williams cars, Yuki Tsunoda, Lando Norris and Nyck de Vries were in the drop zone.
With only two minutes to go, the McLarens and Mercedes had all just headed out of the pits and needed to set good times if they wanted to get out of the bottom five and continue with qualifying.
At the front Sainz pipped Perez for P2 and while Norris did make it out of the drop zone, improvements from those behind saw him fall right back in by the end of the session. The Mercedes drivers saved themselves – Hamilton making it to P6 with Russell P11 – but Norris, Tsunoda, Lance Stroll, Oscar Piastri and Sargeant won’t be continuing in the session.
De Vries was the last driver to make it through to the next part of qualifying and was also the last car within a second of Verstappen but it was the first time this year that he has unqualified his AlphaTauri teammate Tsunoda.
Verstappen and Perez were the first out in Q2 and the Dutch driver wasn’t wasting time, setting a 1:27.110, on his first timed lap, half a second quicker than his Q1 effort. Verstappen returned to the pits after his opening effort and it was once again Sainz that got closest to his time, the Ferrari driver getting to just 0.038 seconds of the best while Perez was two tenths off.
The track got very quiet around the five minute mark with only five cars on track but heading into the final few minutes all cars came back out and it was Zhou Guanyu, Magnussen, the two Mercedes and de Vries who were the ones outside the top ten.
Leclerc was the first into the 1:26s, the Monegasque putting in a 1:26.964 just before the final minute while Sainz returned to the pits, confident with his P3 time. Verstappen did get back ahead, going a tenth and a half ahead of Leclerc while Fernando Alonso split the Ferraris.
Russell managed to save himself with a P10 but he’ll be the only Mercedes fighting in the top ten as a messy lap from Hamilton saw him end P13. Albon, Hulkenberg, Zhou and de Vries joined him in the elimination zone.
Verstappen and Perez were once again the first to take to the track, the reigning champion not having the smoothest of opening laps though as he had to deal with a few squirrelly moments and ended up bailing out and going back to the pits.
Perez was the first to set a time then, a 1:26.841, and he had Alonso three and a half tenths behind with Sainz in P3 and Leclerc back in P7. The track went silent as all cars went back to their garages and Verstappen and Bottas were the only two without any times, the Alfa Romeo driver not having headed out yet.
There were no more times set however as Leclerc, who was the lead car, spun out and crashed at T6 bringing out the Red Flag with just over ninety seconds on the clock and the session would not be resumed. That means that Perez’ first lap secured him the pole and Alonso will start alongside him on the front row. and it was an all-Spanish speaking trio heading to the post-quali press conference with Sainz in P3.
It’ll be the third pole of Perez’ career, his first at a track other than Jeddah, and given he converted the pole to a win earlier this year he’ll be feeling pretty confident about adding a third winning trophy to his collection from this season.
Sainz will have the Haas of Magnussen beside him on row two while Gasly and Russell will start P5 and P6. Leclerc and Ocon will share row four while Verstappen and Bottas, neither of whom set a Q3 time, will round out the top ten.