In a session dubbed “Max’s Verstappen’s to lose,” it was his teammate Sergio Perez that took pole position under the hot Florida sun during Miami Grand Prix qualifying.
Under the baking hot sun, in the (limited) shadow of Hard Rock Stadium, the qualifying for the 2023 Miami Grand Prix got underway from the Miami International Autodrome. We came into qualifying in Miami knowing that Max Verstappen dominated Free Practice 3 with a fastest lap time of 1:27.535s, over four tenths faster than his nearest rival, Charles LeClerc. Sky Sports analyst, Ted Kravitz, declared this session Max’s qualifying to lose. Should the FIA have just declared Max the pole sitter and moved on, then?
Q1 was destined to be a crucial session for McLaren, Williams and AlphaTauri who struggled to varying degrees in the weekend’s free practice sessions and sought, at the very least, to escape the first qualifying session. Nyck DeVries survived the session in P15 with a 1:28.325s, 0.069s ahead of Lando Norris. Both McLarens – Norris and Piastri, Lance Stroll, Logan Sargeant and DeVries’ teammate Yuki Tsunoda did not make it through to the second session.
Things were a little touch and go for Lewis Hamilton in Q1 as he had to come back in to check the front wing after hitting the wall avoiding the almost stationary Haas of Kevin Magnussen. After receiving the all clear from his pit crew, though, the Mercedes driver put his car into a provisional P11, alongside his teammate, George Russell.
Max Verstappen once again led the session with a 1:27.363s, three and a half tenths clear of Sergio Perez in second place. Ted’s decree is safe so far.
The Red Bull team continued to improve upon their lead early into Q2 with Max putting in a 1:27.110s and kicking up his feet in the pits for the rest of the session. No, not really. He came back out at the end of Q2 to put his teammate in his place and best his 1:26.964s by 0.150s.
Things looked like a challenge for Mercedes in this session, once again, as both Hamilton and Russell hung around in the elimination zone for the majority of Q2. George jumped into the final spot at P10 with a 1:27.743s as time expired, but Hamilton only achieved 13th place. Lewis was joined in relegation by Albon, Hulkenberg, Zhou and DeVries. Valtteri Bottas made his first Q3 of the season and both Alpine’s continued their bounce back from a disastrous showing in Azerbaijan.
The top ten shootout got underway with Max Verstappen giving up on his first flying lap after being blown of course by the increasing Miami winds. It was Sergio Perez who would set the benchmark for Q3, putting in the time to beat of 1:26.841s.
As the entire field left the pits to complete their final flying laps, Charles Leclerc binned his lap into the wall and brought qualifying to an abrupt end. This caught out Max Verstappen and Valtteri Bottas, who did not set times in Q3, and put them on the fifth row of the grid, P9 and P10, respectively.
Fernando Alonso had a quietly good qualifying overall and set a very respectable 1:27.202s on used tyres. With the stoppage, this earned the Aston Martin driver a place on the front row, starting P2 in tomorrow’s race. Carlos Sainz takes the third spot, claiming that he had more in him in post-quali interviews. Magnussen joins him on the second row; an excellent result for Haas. Pierre Gasly and George Russell make up P5 and P6, followed by Leclerc in P7, despite his crash, and Esteban Ocon in P8.
In a championship where Sergio Perez seems the only real competition to his teammate, this is an absolute result for the Mexican. With Verstappen starting the Grand Prix from ninth, we can at least expect to see some overtaking on the Miami circuit tomorrow evening.
Should Max have put in a banker lap early in Q3 or would it not have made much difference? Is Leclerc back on Perez’s Christmas card list? Share your thoughts in the comment section below or reach out to us on social media, @JEZSports.