Verstappen surprised to take sprint pole in Miami

Max Verstappen will start the Miami sprint from pole position after narrowly defeating Charles Leclerc to first on the grid.

Verstappen was surprised to learn he’d closed out the session with the quickest time after a scruffy lap in what at times looked like a recalcitrant car that came close to putting him in the wall through the chicane.

The Dutchman collected the car exiting Turn 15 to complete the lap believing his fight for pole was over, but his time of 1m 27.641s proved unbeatable despite the error.

“To be honest, it felt pretty terrible,” he said. “That last session was just incredibly difficult to get the tires to work, because already in SQ2 I didn’t feel great.


“I didn’t really improve a lot on the softs, but somehow we were first. I’ll happily take it, but it didn’t really feel enjoyable to drive out there.

“I don’t know what happened to the other cars on the last lap.”

Charles Leclerc performed beyond expectations, having completed just three laps before spinning out of the sole practice session earlier in the day.

The Ferrari driver improved throughout qualifying to get to within 0.108s of the shocked Verstappen to set himself up for a front-row start.

Sergio Perez will start behind his teammate in third and alongside another strong single-lap performance from Daniel Ricciardo to line up fourth.

Carlos Sainz qualified fifth ahead of Oscar Piastri, who was mystifyingly only 0.002s faster when he switched from the medium tires to the softs for SQ3.

It was at least buoying for the Australian to have outqualified teammate Lando Norris, who is running a more heavily upgraded car worth an estimated 0.2s per lap.

Aston Martin teammates Lance Stroll and Fernando Alonso will line up seventh and eighth ahead of Norris, whose SQ2 time on medium tires would have been quick enough for pole but who lost 0.875s when he switched to softs, leaving him ninth ahead of Nico Hulkenberg.

George Russell heads a disappointed Mercedes contingent on the sprint grid, with him and teammate Lewis Hamilton knocked out in 11th and 12th and less than 0.05s short of a top-10 spot in their upgraded cars.

Hamilton’s day could yet get worse, with the Briton to be investigated by the stewards for a pit lane infringement, though it appears to relate to safety gear worn by his mechanics.

Esteban Ocon qualified 13th ahead of Kevin Magnussen and Yuki Tsunoda at the back of SQ2.

Pierre Gasly will line up 16th ahead of Sauber teammates Zhou Guanyu and Valtteri Bottas.

Bottas could yet start lower, with the Finn facing a post-session investigation for blocking Piastri at the first turn after having not been given notice by his new race engineer of the Australian’s approach.

Miami local Logan Sargeant outqualified Williams teammate Alex Albon for the first time in their 28 race weekends together, albeit this being a sprint race.

Albon had been on track for a time that would have put him 16th, but the Thai driver had cut the chicane after carrying too much speed into Turn 14.

Story originally appeared on Racer