Leclerc spin leaves Perez in pole and Verstappen starting P9 for Miami Grand Prix
Sergio Perez took pole position for the 2023 Miami Grand Prix after a dramatic conclusion to Q3, which saw Max Verstappen qualify ninth as Charles Leclerc spun out to bring out a red flag.
The top-10 shootout saw seven teams represented and, while Verstappen had topped the first two qualifying segments, he aborted his first lap with a snap at Turn 5. Conditions were tough in the final session as winds had picked up. Perez took provisional pole in Q3 with a time of 1m 26.841s, but there was still time for Verstappen to try again.
The reigning champion equipped new tyres and emerged with just over three minutes left in an effort to make it up from P10. However, Leclerc lost his car at Turn 4 and spun into the barriers, bringing out a red flag and ending qualifying early.
That left Aston Martin’s Fernando Alonso in P2 for the race while Carlos Sainz qualified third for Ferrari and Kevin Magnussen was a surprise fourth for Haas. Alpine’s Pierre Gasly took P5 ahead of Mercedes’ George Russell, leaving Leclerc seventh and Esteban Ocon eighth in the other Alpine.
As for Verstappen he qualified ninth ahead of Valtteri Bottas – neither driver having set a flying lap in Q3.
FORMULA 1 CRYPTO.COM MIAMI GRAND PRIX 2023
United States 2023
|1 Sergio Perez PER Red Bull Racing
|2 Fernando Alonso ALO Aston Martin
|3 Carlos Sainz SAI Ferrari
|4 Kevin Magnussen MAG Haas F1 Team
|5 Pierre Gasly GAS Alpine
Alex Albon qualified 11th overall for Williams while Nico Hulkenberg was left 12th for Haas despite a promising Q1 performance.
Lewis Hamilton suffered his worst qualifying performance in the United States and first Q2 elimination since Monza last year with P13, having struggled through Sector 1 in the second segment of qualifying. Zhou Guanyu qualified P14 for Alfa Romeo, and Nyck de Vries managed P15 for AlphaTauri.
Q1 saw both McLarens eliminated with Lando Norris 16th and his team mate Oscar Piastri 19th. Yuki Tsunoda qualified a provisional 17th for AlphaTauri ahead of Aston Martin’s Lance Stroll – while home driver Logan Sargeant was last on the board for Williams.
AS IT HAPPENED
Q1 – Verstappen cruises to top spot while Aston Martin face a shock elimination
After Max Verstappen topped FP3, it looked like the reigning champion would be the driver to beat in qualifying – and he duly delivered with a lap of 1m 27.363s to top Q1, with team mate Sergio Perez 0.350s off in P2 and Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc third with the same time.
In the drop zone with four minutes remaining was Haas’s Nico Hulkenberg, followed by McLaren’s Oscar Piastri, AlphaTauri’s Yuki Tsunoda, the other McLaren of Lando Norris and the second AlphaTauri of Nyck de Vries – but that would all change in the sweltering heat.
While Verstappen pitted after two flying efforts, the rest of the field continued to lap and Carlos Sainz ended up second in Q1, 0.323s off the pace, while Perez stayed 0.350s off the pace in P3 and Leclerc was the same margin away from Verstappen in P4.
Haas showed a stunning turn of pace, Kevin Magnussen taking P5 – 0.446s off the pace – and Nico Hulkenberg P9 and six tenths off the pace despite tapping the wall out of P16 on his first flying lap.
Lewis Hamilton – who tapped the wall in avoidance of Haas’s Magnussen early in the session – was sixth in front of Alfa Romeo’s Valtteri Bottas in P7 and Alpine’s Esteban Ocon in P8, while Ocon’s team mate Pierre Gasly finished 10th.
George Russell ended up 11th ahead of Fernando Alonso in P12, while Zhou Guanyu was 13th and Alex Albon 14th. In P15 was AlphaTauri’s Nyck de Vries as the last driver within a second of Verstappen, leaving McLaren’s Lando Norris out of Q1 in P16.
Mercedes made it through, but at the expense of two sets of soft tyres apiece, which would put Hamilton and Russell at a disadvantage later on.
AlphaTauri’s Yuki Tsunoda was out in P17 while Lance Stroll was a surprise elimination in P18. Oscar Piastri’s McLaren was 19th while home driver Logan Sargeant was 20th and just 1.214s off the pace in a very close-cut opening segment.
Knocked out: Norris, Tsunoda, Stroll, Piastri, Sargeant
Q2 – Verstappen and Leclerc lead the standings while Hamilton struggles
Verstappen continued as he left off, shooting to the top with his first effort of 1m 27.110s while Ferrari’s Sainz made it to second, just 0.038s off the Red Bull, to leave Perez third and 0.218s off his team mate. It later emerged that the Mexican hit the wall on the entry of Turn 4 on his second flying effort in Q2.
With five minutes of Q2 remaining, neither Mercedes (who began Q2 on used softs), neither Alfa Romeo, nor AlphaTauri’s De Vries, were safe.
The track had evolved significantly as the chequered flag approached and Verstappen improved to a 1m 26.814s on used softs, leaving Leclerc 0.150s off in P2 and Alonso 0.283s off in P3. Meanwhile Sainz took P4 by 0.334s and Perez rounded out the top five on used softs.
Alpine’s Ocon took sixth ahead of Bottas and the other Alpine of Gasly, leaving Magnussen ninth for Haas. Russell made it through in P10, 0.929s off the pace, while team mate Hamilton struggled in Sector 1 to finish P13, having complained that his team “left that way too late” to send him out for a final flying effort.
Albon was 11th, 0.53s off safety, while Hulkenberg was out in P12. Zhou and De Vries qualified 14th and 15th, respectively.
Knocked out: Albon, Hulkenberg, Hamilton, Zhou, De Vries
Q3 – Leclerc spins to leave Perez on pole and Verstappen starting ninth
Ten different drivers representing seven different teams would compete for pole in Q3, but it was clear that the Red Bulls held the advantage and Ferrari were close behind. The tension was ramping up – as was the wind - with conditions tricky around the Miami International Autodrome. That was evident as Verstappen aborted his first lap with his car wavering off the line at Turn 7 after a snap of oversteer at Turn 5.
Perez took the initiative and set a provisional pole time of 1m 26.841s with Alonso 0.361s off on used tyres, but there was clearly time on the table as Verstappen had set a faster lap on used softs in Q2.
Leclerc suffered a snap of oversteer in Turn 17 and went seventh on his first lap, while Sainz was third-fastest and half a second off the pace with six minutes left – between them the cars of Magnussen, Gasly and Russell.
Verstappen equipped new softs to emerge with three minutes and 40 seconds on the clock, while Bottas also emerged to set what would be his only flying effort.
But at Turn 4, there was trouble – for Leclerc. The Ferrari driver sent his Ferrari spinning through the sky-blue runoff area and red flags flew, interrupting Verstappen and Bottas and leaving Perez in pole position with 1m 36 seconds left. There was not enough time for Q3 to be resumed.
Alonso managed to secure a front row start ahead of Sainz, while Magnussen would start from P4. Gasly rounded out the top five ahead of Russell in P6. As for Leclerc, he qualified seventh in front of Ocon.
And the championship leader had to settle for ninth, in front of Bottas – neither driver having set a flying effort.
"I think it’s been my worst weekend up to qualifying," said Perez after securing his pole. "I just couldn’t figure out how to pull those tenths that I was missing all the time to Max and to the Ferraris.
"I was just resetting everything. We did a small change into qualifying and really everything became more alive. I think with this tarmac we were just playing a bit with the tools, and we put in the lap when it mattered."
Perez is set to lead Alonso off the line in the 2023 Miami Grand Prix at 1530 local time on Sunday. Head to the RACE HUB to find out how you can catch the action from the Miami International Autodrome.
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