Leclerc takes pole ahead of Ferrari team mate Sainz in first-ever Miami Grand Prix qualifying session
Charles Leclerc took pole position in a stunning battle for pole at the inaugural Miami Grand Prix qualifying session, his title rival Max Verstappen settling for third on the grid – while Carlos Sainz backed up a Ferrari one-two.
Leclerc aced the first two qualifying sessions but Verstappen was closing in, setting up a grandstand finish in the top-10 shootout. Q3 saw the reigning champion take provisional pole but Leclerc eclipsed him for a final pole time of 1m 28.796s, Sainz filing in second by 0.190s.
Verstappen made a mistake in his final flying lap and was eventually third, just 0.005s behind Sainz, while Red Bull team mate Sergio Perez took P4.
Valtteri Bottas, a new Ferrari power unit in his Alfa Romeo, delivered with P5 – ahead of Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton, who was sixth despite having had to put in a quick final lap in Q1 to avoid elimination.
FORMULA 1 CRYPTO.COM MIAMI GRAND PRIX 2022
United States 2022
|1 Charles Leclerc LEC Ferrari||1:28.796|
|2 Carlos Sainz SAI Ferrari||1:28.986|
|3 Max Verstappen VER Red Bull Racing||1:28.991|
|4 Sergio Perez PER Red Bull Racing||1:29.036|
|5 Valtteri Bottas BOT Alfa Romeo||1:29.475|
Pierre Gasly and Yuki Tsunoda both made it to Q3 for AlphaTauri, the Frenchman qualifying seventh and the Japanese driver ninth. Between them was Lando Norris, eighth in qualifying despite going P3 in Q2. Lance Stroll rounded out the top 10 for Aston Martin.
Alpine’s Fernando Alonso missed out on Q3 in P11, ahead of Mercedes’ George Russell – who dealt with severe porpoising in Q2 – while Sebastian Vettel was disappointed to take P13 for Aston Martin. Gear shift issues for Daniel Ricciardo put him 14th on the grid for McLaren, while Mick Schumacher was last in Q2, finishing P15 on Saturday.
His Haas team mate Kevin Magnussen (P16) missed out on Q2 by a tenth, and Alfa Romeo’s Zhou Guanyu took P17 having been compromised by traffic in his final flying run. Neither Williams driver made it out of Q1, Alex Albon taking P18 and Nicholas Latifi 19th.
Esteban Ocon did not take part in qualifying after his FP3 crash and is likely to start Sunday’s Grand Prix from the pit lane.
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AS IT HAPPENED
Q1 – Leclerc strikes first as Hamilton avoids shock elimination
Miami had plenty of drama still to offer after three action-packed practice sessions, Esteban Ocon absent from qualifying after his FP3 crash – meaning there would be 19 drivers taking part in the first-ever Miami Grand Prix qualifying session.
Verstappen set the early benchmark in Q1 but times tumbled, Charles Leclerc eclipsing him to go top with a time of 1m 29.474s, the Red Bull driver then improving to go second by 0.362s. Carlos Sainz was third and six-tenths off his team mate while Perez took fourth, another two-tenths behind.
Lewis Hamilton abandoned his first effort and a subsequent lap was deleted for track limits, putting the Mercedes driver in the drop zone with time ticking down. But he jumped from P18 to P5 with his last-gasp effort, Alpine’s Fernando Alonso also joining him in Q2 with a late flyer for P6.
Lance Stroll was a surprise seventh for Aston Martin, keeping a rapid Yuki Tsunoda behind by half a tenth, while Mercedes’ George Russell (P9) and McLaren driver Daniel Ricciardo rounded out the top 10.
Mick Schumacher, Sebastian Vettel, Lando Norris and Pierre Gasly made it out of Q1 along with 15th place Alfa Romeo driver Valtteri Bottas, the Finn through at the expense of Haas’S Kevin Magnussen.
Along with Magnussen, Alfa Romeo’s frustrated rookie Zhou Guanyu – bailing out of his final effort due to traffic – was eliminated, as were Williams drivers Alex Albon (P18 due to insufficient tyre warm-up) and Nicholas Latifi (P19).
Knocked out: Magnussen, Zhou, Albon, Latifi
Q2 – Leclerc piles on the pressure as the midfield melee erupts
Fifteen drivers remained, Ferrari with the edge over Red Bull with grip and tension ramping up in equal measure. Both Ferraris emerged on used softs; both Red Bulls on new softs to start the session. First forays saw Verstappen top with a time of 1m 29.202s and Perez second by 0.471s, the Ferraris half a tenth behind in third and fourth.
In the provisional drop zone was Stroll, Schumacher, Vettel, Ricciardo and Russell, who backed out of two efforts with the car porpoising heavily. With six minutes remaining, Russell was still in P15 without a time on the board; Ricciardo was 14th thanks to a gear shift issue on his lap.
Further runs would see the pack shuffle, the Scuderia re-emerging for Leclerc to go top again with a time of 1m 29.130s, Verstappen now 0.072s behind. Norris jumped to P3 with a late flyer, 0.504s off the pace, dropping Perez to P4 and Sainz to P5.
Bottas rose to sixth ahead of former team mate Hamilton while an assured Stroll clinched Q3 for the first time since the Turkish GP, in P8. AlphaTauri duo Tsunoda (P9) and Gasly (P10) also made it through to Q3.
That meant Alonso (who felt he was impeded by compatriot Carlos Sainz) missed out by just 0.032s – and Russell finished P12 amid severe porpoising, another 0.013s off the two-time champion. Although Vettel improved, he was just four-hundredths away in P13 having made a mistake in the chicane. Ricciardo could only manage P14, having been delayed getting out on track for his final run, while Schumacher rounded out the top 15 for Haas.
Knocked out: Alonso, Russell, Vettel, Ricciardo, Schumacher
Q3 – Verstappen and Leclerc face off and Sainz enters the fray
The final 10 comprised seven teams, only Haas, Williams and Alpine missing out on Q3. And while Verstappen was closing in on Leclerc, this seemed the championship leader’s pole position to lose.
First efforts however saw Verstappen make a break for P1 with a time of 1m 28.991s, with Leclerc just 0.064s off and Sainz 0.080s behind in the fight for provisional pole. Perez’s first effort put him half a second behind in P4.
The tension was at fever pitch for the final flying laps in Q3, Perez allowing Verstappen past as the Red Bull pair geared up. Verstappen was now in the driving seat for pole.
Leclerc improved in Sector 1, set a purple second sector, but couldn’t improve in his third. Yet, that would be enough for an eventual time of 1m 28.796s and pole position as a frustrated Verstappen made a mistake and backed out of his final effort.
Jumping to second was Sainz, the Spaniard denying Verstappen a front-row start and securing a Ferrari one-two in Miami, the Dutchman dropping to third ahead of team mate Perez.
Bottas rounded out the top five ahead of Hamilton, while Gasly took seventh. And despite his Q2 heroics, Norris settled for P8. Tsunoda (P9) and Stroll will start in the top 10 for the inaugural Miami Grand Prix.
“It’s incredible to be here in the US and to see how much the sport has grown over the past few years and to see so many people in the grandstand. It definitely motivates us and there are also a lot of Ferrari fans. It’s amazing. So the last weekend hasn’t been great for me, I did a mistake in the race but today went well, so we are starting on pole and we need to finish the job tomorrow.
“[Red Bull] are extremely quick in a straight line, we are quick in the corners and it will be a tight challenge tomorrow hopefully we will come out on top” – Charles Leclerc, Ferrari
The first-ever Miami Grand Prix takes place on Sunday at 1530 local time, Leclerc leading team mate Sainz off the front row ahead of Verstappen and Perez. Don't miss it – head to the RACE HUB to see how you can catch all the action – and stay tuned to F1.com throughout.