Sergio Perez took pole position in a dramatic qualifying session for the Miami Grand Prix ahead of Fernando Alonso.
A late crash from Charles Leclerc brought out the red flags before any final laps could be completed.
Max Verstappen was the biggest loser following Leclerc’s incident. The Dutchman abandoned his first lap in Q3 and was unable to complete his second push-lap in time. Verstappen will start the race from ninth.
The Miami International Autodrome had been resurfaced ahead of Formula 1’s return to the venue and combined with an absence of Formula 2 or Formula 3 action, drivers have struggled with the green track throughout the weekend.
Lewis Hamilton was caught out on his out lap by a slow-moving Kevin Magnussen in Q1.
Hamilton was forced to take avoiding action and made contact with the outside wall which forced an unscheduled visit to the pits to check for any potential damage. The stewards noted the incident and would investigate it after the session.
Traffic continued to be an issue for Alfa Romeo’s Zhou Guanyu who narrowly avoided the walls after a close encounter with an unaware Carlos Sainz.
Norris, Tsunoda, Piastri and Sargeant were all eliminated in Q1. The big shock in the first qualifying session, however, was the elimination of Lance Stroll. The Canadian’s fastest lap was only good enough for 18th.
Verstappen set the early benchmark in Q2. His 1:27.110 was some two-tenths faster than teammate Sergio Perez and four-tenths faster than the first non-Red Bull car in the shape of Fernando Alonso’s Aston Martin.
Carlos Sainz, running later than the rest of the field, slotted in between the Red Bull duo just 0.038s off the pace at the halfway mark in Q2.
Despite the threat from Ferrari, Verstappen managed to top the timing sheets on used tyres. His 1:26.814 saw him lead Leclerc and Alonso heading into Q3.
Out of Q2 were Albon, Hulkenberg, Hamilton, Zhou and De Vries. With Russell only just scraping through to Q3, Sunday’s Grand Prix looks to be a difficult one for Mercedes who are still looking for an answer to the unparalleled pace of Red Bull this season.
The wind was another challenge for drivers with Verstappen forced to bail on his first lap in Q3. This gave Perez the early advantage in the final qualifying session – The Mexican’s 1:26.841a statement of his intent to challenge Verstappen for the remainder of 2023.
For the second time this weekend, Charles Leclerc crashed at Turn 7, bringing out a red flag before any final runs were completed. The Monagasque driver careered backwards into the barriers, causing more unnecessary damage to his Ferrari.
The red flag meant that the session ended with just over 90 seconds on the clock. There was not enough time for the session to continue.
As a result, Sergio Perez will start the Miami Grand Prix from pole ahead of Fernando Alonso. Carlos Sainz will start the race from third. Haas’ Kevin Magnussen will start fourth.
Pierre Gasly and George Russell occupy the third row ahead of Leclerc and Esteban Ocon.
Having abandoned his first lap, Verstappen will start from ninth in a crucial race that could see the championship lead change hands. Polesitter Perez is currently just 6 points behind Verstappen in the championship standings.