Verstappen cruises to sweltering Miami GP pole ahead of Leclerc

Max Verstappen has pipped Charles Leclerc to pole position for the second time this weekend for tomorrow’s Miami Grand Prix.

The Dutchman looked likely to be threatened by Leclerc after the Monegasque topped Q2, and less than 0.2s split the duo after the first runs of the pole shootout.

What appeared to be heading towards a thrilling climax ended as a fizzer, with most drivers, including the pole contenders, failing to improve in the sweltering conditions.

Verstappen first lap stood to the end of the session, his best lap of 1m 27.241s enough to beat Leclerc by 0.141s.

“I don’t know what it is, every single year we come here I find it extremely difficult to be consistent with the car feeling, with the tire feeling over one lap,” he said. “Again, today, it was really about finding that balance.


“I think we did okay. It’s not the most enjoyable lap of my career just because of how slippery it is. You’re not very confident on the lap, but we’re on pole, and that’s the most important.”

Leclerc said Ferrari lacked the ultimate pace to take the challenge to Verstappen but was optimistic he could be a victory contender with better race pace.

“It felt so much on the limit,” he said of his lap. “When we started to push for the last 0.1-0.2s, we started to lose the tires in sectors two and three.

“Today, that’s where we lost a little bit of time. However, the race is long tomorrow. This morning [in the sprint] we showed good pace, so I hope tomorrow we can put max under a bit more pressure.”

Carlos Sainz qualified third and 0.214s off the pace, but the Spaniard was hopeful that starting from the clean side of the grid could pay dividends.

“You always finish the lap and feel like you could’ve gone so much faster having a cleaner lap, but it’s almost impossible to put in a perfect clean lap around here,” he said.

“That’s why being P3, clean side of the road tomorrow, could be a good place to start.”

Sergio Perez was one of the few drivers to find any improvement with his second lap, finding almost 0.3s to rise to fourth on the grid.

Lando Norris sampled the medium tire at the start of Q3 but reverted to the soft after failing to find reasonable pace. He qualified fifth and only 0.081s ahead of teammate Oscar Piastri.

Mercedes ran out of soft tires in Q3 and had to complete the session with fresh mediums, leaving George Russell and Lewis Hamilton seventh and eighth at more than 0.8s adrift.

Nico Hulkenberg made his third Q3 entry for Haas in ninth ahead of an excellent Yuki Tsunoda in his fourth top-10 shootout appearance.

Lance Stroll was knocked out in 11th, but he was the lead Aston Martin driver in a surprising double Q2 elimination for the green team.

Stroll, set with an only aero package after his lap-one crash in the sprint, missed out on Q3 by 0.022s after failing to improve on his Q1 time, but teammate Fernando Alonso fared even worse, slumping to 15th having never been in contention.

Sandwiched between them were Alpine teammates Pierre Gasly and Esteban Ocon in 12th and 13th ahead of Alex Albon in 14th.

Valtteri Bottas will line up 16th ahead of hometown hero Logan Sargeant.

Daniel Ricciardo was a shock elimination in 18th after starting and finishing an impressive fourth in the sprint race earlier in the day.

Ricciardo had been on track to make it through to Q2 two-thirds of his way around the lap, but a poor final sector in which he didn’t improve on his personal best left him languishing in the drop zone.

A three-place penalty carried over from the Chinese Grand Prix will drop him to last on the grid.

Kevin Magnussen will be promoted to 18th but is facing a stewards investigation into unsportsmanlike behavior defending against Hamilton in the sprint race.

Zhou Guanyu, who will move up to 19th, will also see the stewards for crossing the white line on pit exit.

Story originally appeared on Racer