F1 – Miami GP – Qualifying

Hello, MiniFans! A sea of blue and pink has welcomed F1 back to Miami. With the addition of new asphalt, mistakes were common during the free practices, as was a seemingly quick degradation of soft tyres due to this different surface. However, some things never change and Verstappen had presented his candidacy to the pole position, the rest of the top places being a bit more shared among the fastest cars.

Q1 kicked off in a quiet manner, with teams needing a bit of time to send everyone out, save for Hulkenberg losing the rear and almost hitting the wall. Red Bull topped the timing tower since the beginning, with Leclerc managing to split them and Alonso sitting comfortably behind them despite all the changes that have been done to his car for the weekend. Hamilton, still with no lap time halfway through the session, nearly missed the back of Magnussen, who was almost stopped on track. This difference in speed became problematic with a few other drivers, as they tried to find a space, and avoiding cars was as natural as taking a corner.

The order nearing the end of this first session was the expected one after the free practices, with Red Bull at the top and followed by Ferrari and Aston Martin, but the last couple minutes, with the track at its best, started to shuffle the order. Haas, Alfa Romeo and Williams all slotted a car in the top seven, while both Mercedes and McLarens were out. A few incidents were noted, including impending laps and unsafe releases, but eyes were glued to the track as both Russell and Hamilton clawed out of the elimination zone in their last attempt. The eliminated drivers in Q1 were Norris (P16), Tsunoda (P17), Stroll (P18), Piastri (P19) and Sargeant (P20).

The start of Q2 was similar to the previous session’s, with around half the grid out since the beginning. Used tyres were prominent in order to try and save two fresh soft sets for Q3, as were, once again, slow cars on track. After the first stint was over for everyone, Verstappen was still unsurprisingly the fastest, but Sainz had managed to set a lap less than half a tenth away, while Alonso, on used tyres, was less than four tenths behind. Mercedes wasn’t as happy as them, though, due to both their drivers being stuck, once again, in positions out of Q3.

In the second stint, Ferrari briefly managed to be at the top, but it didn’t last long, as Verstappen soon reclaimed his throne. The surprise was further at the back, with Hamilton not being able to improve his time and blaming the team for going out too late, while his teammate barely made it through, scoring a tenth place in extremis. On another brighter note, Bottas achieved the first top 10 for Alfa Romeo of the season, who were the last team to do so. The eliminated drivers in Q2 were Albon (P11), Hulkenberg (P12), Hamilton (P13), Zhou (P14) and De Vries (P15).

Q3 was the first time when a sliver of problems seemed to come up for Verstappen, as he went out but had to abort his lap and go back to pits without a timed lap. His teammate picked up the slack, settling in first and followed by the other two Spanish speakers of the grid. Small mistakes littered many laps, so the second stint would be key for everyone to find their spot on the grid. Ferrari was the first one back on track, but Leclerc’s need for a good time prompted him to make a mistake, spin into the wall and cause a red flag with so little time left that it was decided it wouldn’t be resumed. Pérez clinched pole position, while Alonso scored his first true front row, followed by Sainz. However, Red Bull wasn’t all celebrating, as Verstappen’s lack of lap time meant a ninth position on the grid, but promising an entertaining Sunday in his quest to get to the podium.

The fight for pole position in Miami didn’t look as if it would be as entertaining as the one for the few places right behind it, and that is exactly what didn’t happen. An untouchable Verstappen was supposed to keep everyone at bay, while the rest of the top dogs fought viciously to join him in the front row and be as close to him as possible. Red Bull’s supremacy is crystal clear this year, but it wasn’t Verstappen who clinched the best grid position, but rather his teammate. A mistake from Leclerc, after Verstappen had also not managed to do a good lap in his first try, meant he wouldn’t be able to start from the front, but the promise of a fight will roll over to Sunday, when we’ll see how everyone manages to transform their grid positions into their final standing.

MiniDrivers – F1
2023 Miami GP