Charles Leclerc clinched pole position in a stunning battle for pole in the opening qualifying session for the Miami Grand Prix, with title rival Max Verstappen settling for third on the grid – while Carlos Sainz backed a doubled Ferrari.
Leclerc was successful in the first two qualifying sessions, but Verstappen was closing in, setting up a grandstand finish in the top 10 on penalties. Q3 saw the defending champion take provisional pole but Leclerc eclipsed him for a final pole time of 1m 28.796s, with Sainz finishing second by 0.190s.
Verstappen made a mistake on his last flying lap and eventually finished third, just 0.005 seconds behind Sainz, while his Red Bull team-mate Sergio Perez took fourth.
Valtteri Bottas, a new Ferrari power unit in his Alfa Romeo, delivered with P5 – ahead of Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton, who finished sixth despite having to put in a fast final lap in Q1 to avoid elimination.
Running of the red bulls
Running of the red bulls
Pierre Gasly and Yuki Tsunoda both reached Q3 for AlphaTauri, with the Frenchman qualifying seventh and the Japanese driver ninth. Between them was Lando Norris, eighth in qualifying despite finishing third in Q2. Lance Stroll completes the top 10 for Aston Martin.
Alpine’s Fernando Alonso missed Q3 in P11, ahead of Mercedes’ George Russell – who faced serious porpoises in Q2 – while Sebastian Vettel was disappointed to take P13 for Aston Martin. Gear change problems for Daniel Ricciardo put him 14th on the grid for McLaren, while Mick Schumacher was last in Q2, finishing P15 on Saturday.
His Haas teammate Kevin Magnussen (P16) missed Q2 by a tenth, and Alfa Romeo’s Zhou Guanyu took P17 after being compromised by traffic on his final run. No Williams driver made it out of Q1, with Alex Albon taking 18th and Nicholas Latifi 19th.
Esteban Ocon did not take part in qualifying after his crash in FP3 and is expected to start Sunday’s Grand Prix from the pit lane.
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2022 Miami GP qualifying: Leclerc takes pole position as Ferrari seals front-row lockdown
HOW IT HAPPENED
Q1 – Leclerc strikes first as Hamilton avoids clash elimination
Miami still had plenty of drama to offer after three action-packed workouts, Esteban Ocon absent after his FP3 crash – meaning there would be 19 drivers taking part in the first-ever Miami Grand Prix qualifying session.
Verstappen set the first benchmark in Q1 but times dropped, Charles Leclerc eclipsing him to take the lead with a time of 1m 29.474s, the Red Bull driver then improving to second by 0.362s. Carlos Sainz was third and six tenths behind his teammate while Perez took fourth, two tenths behind.
Lewis Hamilton dropped his first effort and a later lap was scrapped for track limits, putting the Mercedes driver in the drop zone with time running out. But he went from P18 to P5 with his latest effort, with 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 quick Yuki Tsunoda behind by half a tenth, while Mercedes’ George Russell (P9) and McLaren driver Daniel Ricciardo completed the top 10.
Mick Schumacher, Sebastian Vettel, Lando Norris and Pierre Gasly crashed out of Q1 with Alfa Romeo driver Valtteri Bottas in 15th place, the Finn at the expense of Haas’ Kevin Magnussen.
Along with Magnussen, frustrated Alfa Romeo rookie Zhou Guanyu – bailing out his last effort due to traffic – was eliminated, as were Williams drivers Alex Albon (P18 due to insufficient tire warm-up) and Nicholas Latifi ( P19).
Eliminated: Magnussen, Zhou, Albon, Latifi
Q2 – Leclerc puts pressure on as midfield scrum erupts
Fifteen drivers remained, Ferrari with the advantage over Red Bull with growing grip and tension in equal measure. Both Ferraris emerged on second-hand softs; the two Red Bulls on new softs to start the session. Early forays saw Verstappen lead with a time of 1m 29.202s and Perez second with 0.471s, the Ferraris half a tenth behind in third and fourth.
In the provisional drop zone were Stroll, Schumacher, Vettel, Ricciardo and Russell, who gave up two efforts with the car porpoising heavily. With six minutes remaining, Russell was still in P15 with no time on the board; Ricciardo was 14th thanks to a gearshift problem on his knees.
Further races would see the field mixed up, with the Scuderia re-emerging for Leclerc to come out on top with a time of 1m 29.130s, Verstappen now 0.072s behind. Norris moved into P3 with a late flyer, 0.504s off the pace, leaving Perez in P4 and Sainz in P5.
Bottas moved up to sixth ahead of his former team-mate Hamilton while an assured Stroll clinched Q3 for the first time since the Turkish GP, in P8. The AlphaTauri duo Tsunoda (P9) and Gasly (P10) also qualified for Q3.
This meant Alonso (who felt hampered by compatriot Carlos Sainz) missed just 0.032s – and Russell finished P12 amid severe porpoising, 0.013s clear of the double champion. Although Vettel improved, he was only four hundredths down in P13 after making a mistake in the chicane. Ricciardo could only manage P14, having been delayed to hit the track for his final race, while Schumacher completed the top 15 for Haas.
Eliminated: Alonso, Russell, Vettel, Ricciardo, Schumacher
Q3 – Verstappen and Leclerc clash and Sainz enters the fray
The last 10 featured seven teams, with only Haas, Williams and Alpine missing in Q3. And as Verstappen closed in on Leclerc, it looked like the championship leader’s pole position was up for grabs.
Early efforts, however, saw Verstappen break for P1 with a time of 1m 28.991s, with Leclerc just 0.064s behind 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 its height for the fast final laps of the third quarter, with Perez allowing Verstappen through as the Red Bull pair prepared. Verstappen was now in command from pole.
Leclerc improved in sector 1, established a second purple sector, but could not improve in his third. Still, that would be enough for an eventual time of 1m 28.796s and pole position as a frustrated Verstappen made a mistake and abandoned his last effort.
Sainz took second, with the Spaniard denying Verstappen a top-row start and securing a Ferrari one-two in Miami, with the Dutchman dropping to third ahead of team-mate Perez.
Bottas completed the top five ahead of Hamilton, while Gasly took seventh place. And despite his exploits in Q2, Norris settled for the P8. Tsunoda (P9) and Stroll will start in the top 10 for the first Miami Grand Prix.
“It’s amazing to be here in the United States and see how the sport has grown over the last few years and to see so many people in the stands. It really motivates us and there’s also a lot of Ferrari fans. It’s unbelievable. So last weekend wasn’t great for me, I made a mistake in the race but today it went well, so we start on pole and we have to finish the job tomorrow.
“[Red Bull] are extremely fast on the straights, we are fast in the corners and it will be a tough challenge tomorrow, hopefully we will come out on top” – Charles Leclerc, Ferrari
The first-ever Miami Grand Prix takes place at 3:30 p.m. local time on Sunday, with Leclerc leading teammate Sainz to the front row ahead of Verstappen and Perez. Don’t miss it – head to the RACING HUB to see how you can catch all the action – and stay tuned to F1.com throughout.