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Miami Sprint Qualifying: Verstappen tops Leclerc, Mercedes flop

Miami Sprint Qualifying: Verstappen tops Leclerc, Mercedes flop

Miami Sprint Qualifying: Verstappen tops Leclerc, Mercedes flop

Max Verstappen took his first Sprint pole position in the 2024 Formula 1 season beating Charles Leclerc on a day when Mercedes failed to make the top ten with both cars.

Verstappen left his best till last as while McLaren showed strong pace in the first two stages of Sprint Qualifying, the Papaya challenge faded away on the top ten shootout.

The upgraded MCL38 seemed to show a lot of promise, but once the Soft tyres went on it for SQ3, the pace was gone along with the any chances of claiming pole.

Charles Leclerc bounced back after missing out on practice after spinning and failing to get his car going, the Monegasque going second fastest behind Verstappen.

Sergio Perez, once again, delivered a decent qualifying, and was third fastest behind Leclerc.

The team left scratching their heads once again were Mercedes, as their upgraded W15, did not deliver on the promise with both drivers George Russell and Lewis Hamilton eliminated in SQ2, the former again outqualifying the latter.

The biggest achiever on the day must be Daniel Ricciardo who was fourth fastest in the VCARB ahead of the Ferrari of Carlos Sainz.

Despite claiming pole, Verstappen admitted his disappointment with his performance, he said: “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,” he revealed. “I didn’t really improve on the soft. Somehow we were first. Of course, I happily take it.

“But it didn’t feel enjoyable out there to drive for whatever reason because in practice it felt really, really nice, I was very comfortable and confident, qualifying, not so much.”

Trying to find some logic, the Dutchman added: “It might be the track layout a little bit. I thought after practice, I was quite confident we could fight for pole, then in qualifying it didn’t really look like that for me.

“But somehow we ended up in first. I don’t know what happened to the other cars on that last lap,” the Red Bull ace concluded.

SQ3: McLarens fade away

With the final shootout of the Sprint Qualifying green-lighted, the drivers remained in the garages and did not exit to the track until four minutes remained on the clock from the the eight-minute session, with the Soft tyre now making an appearance.

That meant all the drivers had only one chance to put in that perfect lap to try and claim the best starting position for the Sprint Race on Saturday.

In the end, and despite having a moment on his final lap, and while he admitted the session was not very good, Verstappen managed to claim pole with a 1:27.641, one tenth clear of Leclerc in second.

Perez was over two tenths down on his teammate’s pole time but was third fastest and 0.168s ahead of an elated Ricciardo who was fourth fastest.

Sainz was fifth fastest, 0.462s off the pace and ahead of Oscar Piastri who was sixth in the McLaren after much early promise from the orange cars. Piastri was over half a second down from the benchmark time.

Lance Stroll did well to beat teammate Fernando Alonso, the Canadian seventh fastest and just 0.044s ahead of the Spaniard who was eighth fastest.

Lando Norris must be bewildered how his pace from SQ1 and SQ2 evaporated and when it mattered he was over eight tenths off the pace, managing only ninth in his upgraded McLaren.

Nico Hulkenberg was superb again in the Haas, tenth fastest albeit 0.835s off the pace.

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SQ2: Both Mercedes are out!

The Medium compound, again was the tyre mandated by the rules for SQ2 and the remaining 15 drivers were soon out setting lap times.

It was Ricciardo’s turn to kiss the wall at Turn 16, he radioed that all was good with the car though.

With less than one minute remaining, Verstappen finally starts a flying lap, and was only fourth behind Norris, Perez and Leclerc.

In the end, McLaren kept their edge with Norris fastest of all with a 1:27.579, ahead of Perez in second, with Leclerc third. Verstappen was fourth.

Even with their upgraded W15, George Russell and Lewis Hamilton were the first two drivers to drop out of qualifying, 11th and 12th respectively, the latter hitting the wall on his final lap.

Esteban Ocon was 13th fastest ahead of Kevin Magnussen, while Yuki Tsunoda was 15th having his best lap time deleted. Ricciardo beat him again.

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SQ1: One Alpine in and one out, but no major surprises

Track temperature were even higher at the start of SQ1 compared to FP1 earlier, and registered 51 degrees Celsius while the air temperature was 29 degrees.

As mandated by the rules of the Sprint Qualifying, all the drivers set out on track with the Medium tyres bolted on their cars.

Leclerc did not waste any time, and was the first driver to head out on the track to get acquainted with it after missing the whole of the first practice.

He started a flying lap but immediately backs off after a snap of oversteer at Turn 8, as other drivers join the action and start their own flying laps.

Replay showed Alonso touching the wall on the exit of Turn 16, but he kept going.

As is the case with Sprint qualifying, the drivers kept pounding around the track improving their lap times.

Replay showed Piastri and Valtteri Bottas have a moment, the latter in the McLaren driver’s way who just manages to avoid the Sauber. Bottas complains that his engineer’s warning was too late.

With SQ1 over, Norris lead the way with a 1:27.939, 0.117s ahead of teammate Piastri who was second fastest with Alonso third fastest.

The first to drop out of the session was Pierre Gasly who was 16th fastest, missing out to Hulkenberg by 0.145s and was ahead of Zhou Guanyu by 0.082s, the Chinese driver 17th fastest.

Bottas was 18th fastest in the sister Sauber, 0.093s behind his teammate and 0.191s ahead of Logan Sargeant in 19th.

Alex Albon who had his best lap time deleted was 20th, keeping in mind his deleted time wouldn’t have lifted him into SQ2 anyway.

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