Verstappen beats Leclerc to Miami Sprint pole as Mercedes struggle

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Verstappen beats Leclerc to Miami Sprint pole as Mercedes struggle

Max Verstappen beat Charles Leclerc to Miami Grand Prix Sprint pole as Mercedes suffered a dismal start to the weekend with a double early exit.

Verstappen struggled with his Red Bull throughout the session, including on the lap that he secured pole with, but the other contenders fell away to leave the world championship leader at the top of the timesheet.

Ferrari’s Leclerc recovered from missing most of the weekend’s only practice session earlier on Friday to take second as he finished a tenth back from the Dutchman.

Lando Norris had appeared the most likely driver to deny Verstappen pole having topped SQ1 and SQ2 in his significantly upgraded McLaren but the Brit will only start ninth after struggling in SQ3.

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Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton and George Russell face elimination in SQ2 at the Miami Grand Prix

Verstappen’s team-mate Sergio Perez took third, while Daniel Ricciardo claimed a hugely impressive fourth for Red Bull’s junior team RB as the Australian fights for his future in the sport.

Carlos Sainz was fifth for Ferrari ahead of McLaren’s Piastri, while Lance Stroll claimed a rare qualifying victory over Aston Martin team-mate Fernando Alonso as they took seventh and eighth, respectively.

Mercedes, who also brought upgrades to the Miami International Autodrome, continued their dismal start to the season as both George Russell and Lewis Hamilton were knocked in SQ2.

Miami GP Sprint Qualifying: Top 10

1) Max Verstappen, Red Bull

2) Charles Leclerc, Ferrari

3) Sergio Perez, Red Bull

4) Daniel Ricciardo, RB

5) Carlos Sainz, Ferrari

6) Oscar Piastri, McLaren

7) Lance Stroll, Aston Martin

8) Fernando Alonso, Aston Martin

9) Lando Norris, McLaren

10) Nico Hulkenberg, Haas

‘LOL!’ – Verstappen shocked by Sprint pole

The upgraded MCL38 had been the talk of the paddock on Friday morning as McLaren revealed what chief executive Zak Brown admitted is basically a B-spec car, such are the extent of the changes.

The new parts, which Norris had all of and team-mate Piastri only some of, appeared to be working as planned as the Brit showed strong pace to top SQ1 and SQ2 on medium tyres.

However, the mandatory switch to soft tyres for the final eight-minute shootout seemed to totally throw Norris off, as he was almost a full second slower than he had been in SQ2.

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Max Verstappen takes Sprint Pole after a challenging Sprint Qualifying session at the Miami Grand Prix

Verstappen was unable to achieve the near-perfect standard of performance he expects from himself and his team, but found almost 0.4s of improvement from SQ2 to SQ3 to go clear.

Given his own struggles, Verstappen sounded shocked as he was told over team radio that he had taken pole.

“LOL (laugh out loud),” he said. “What happened to the others? This was terrible. I mean I will take it!”

Speaking after the session, Verstappen explained: “It felt really terrible. Maybe that last session was just incredibly difficult to get the tyres to work.

“Already in SQ2 I didn’t feel great. SQ3, it just felt quite similar for me. I didn’t really improve on the soft. Somehow we were first. Of course, I happily take it.”

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The McLaren team reflects on the Sprint Qualifying session at the Miami Grand Prix

Friday provided a snapshot of Leclerc’s inconsistent start to the season as the Monegasque, who has been chosen over team-mate Sainz to remain as Hamilton’s team-mate at Ferrari next year, missed almost the entirety of practice after an early spin.

With the sole practice session of a Sprint weekend being so crucial, missing so much of it appeared likely to be a major setback but Leclerc displayed his trademark one-lap speed to end the day on a high.

Mercedes woes continue despite upgrades

While not as significant as McLaren’s upgrades, Mercedes brought a new floor and front suspension that they had hoped would enable the W15 to take a step forward.

However, there was little sign of improvement as neither Russell nor Hamilton were able to reach SQ3.

Hamilton, who couldn’t be blamed at this point for letting his mind drift towards his move to Ferrari next year, cut a despondent figure at the end of his final flying lap attempt.

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Ted Kravitz and Ed Sheeran walk the pit lane where they discuss Ipswich, Formula 1 and much more

“I’ve got nothing,” the seven-time world champion said over team radio.

Mercedes will hope that Friday’s poor performance is a result of failing to optimise their upgrades, as opposed to the parts simply failing to address any of their issues.

The good news for the Silver Arrows is that F1’s new Sprint format for 2024, which debuted in China last month, permits teams to make major setup changes as the cars are released from parc ferme after Saturday’s 100km race and before qualifying for Sunday’s Grand Prix.

With only the top eight scoring points in the Sprint, Mercedes will be fighting for scraps on Saturday but will hope something can be salvaged from the weekend when bigger prizes are available on Sunday.

Miami GP Sprint Qualifying Timesheet

Driver Team Time
1) Max Verstappen Red Bull 1:27.641
2) Charles Leclerc Ferrari +0.108
3) Sergio Perez Red Bull +0.235
4) Daniel Ricciardo RB +0.403
5) Carlos Sainz Ferrari +0.462
6) Oscar Piasti McLaren +0.520
7) Lance Stroll Aston Martin +0.734
8) Fernando Alonso Aston Martin +0.778
9) Lando Norris McLaren +0.831
10) Nico Hulkenberg Haas +0.835
Knocked out in SQ2
11) George Russell Mercedes 1:28.343
12) Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:28.371
13) Esteban Ocon Alpine 1:28.379
14) Kevin Magnussen Haas 1:28.614
15) Yuki Tsunoda RB No time set
Knocked out in SQ1
16) Pierre Gasly Alpine 1:29.185
17) Zhou Guanyu Sauber 1:29.267
18) Valtteri Bottas Sauber 1:29.360
19) Logan Sargeant Williams 1:29.551
20) Alex Albon Williams 1:29.858

Sky Sports F1’s live Miami GP schedule

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Managing partner of the 2024 Miami GP Tom Garfinkel tells Sky Sports’ Craig Slater the improvements they have made to the track and its surroundings to improve the experience for both competitors and spectators

Saturday May 4
3.25pm: F1 Academy Qualifying
4pm: Miami GP Sprint (race starts at 5pm)
6.30pm: Ted’s Sprint Notebook
7.05pm: F1 Academy Race 1
8pm: Miami GP Qualifying build-up*
9pm: Miami GP Qualifying*
11pm: Ted’s Qualifying Notebook*

Sunday May 5
6.05pm: F1 Academy Race 2
7.30pm: Grand Prix Sunday Miami GP build-up*
9pm: The MIAMI GRAND PRIX*
11pm: Chequered Flag: Miami GP reaction*
Midnight: Ted’s Notebook*

*also live on Sky Sports Main Event

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