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Formula 1

Upgraded McLaren flies then flops and hands Verstappen pole

by Josh Suttill
3 min read

Max Verstappen took pole for Formula 1’s Miami Grand Prix sprint race as the upgraded McLaren’s early qualifying promise burned bright but faded badly by SQ3.

Lando Norris looked like a pole contender in an updated McLaren that CEO Zak Brown called “almost a b-spec” car, topping SQ1 and SQ2 on the medium tyres.

But SQ3 was defined by drivers struggling to get the soft tyres in the right temperature window.

Five of the 10 drivers in SQ3 failed to improve on their SQ2 times on the mediums and Norris was chief among those to struggle.

He was wrestling his McLaren through sector one and bled time enough time there that even a fast final sector couldn’t place him any higher than ninth.

That left Verstappen - even in what he called a “pretty terrible” to drive Red Bull - to take pole position for the sprint, just over a tenth of a second quicker than Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc, who made a great recovery from losing most of FP1 to an early blunder.

Sergio Perez was third but arguably the star of SQ3 was Daniel Ricciardo putting his RB into fourth on the grid, matching the best qualifying result of his post-McLaren comeback.

Last time at Shanghai Ricciardo got the chassis change he wanted and he continued his strong form as the faster RB driver.

Carlos Sainz was fifth ahead of Oscar Piastri who has just half of the new McLaren upgrade this weekend.

Lance Stroll earned a rare intra-team victory over Fernando Alonso at Aston Martin as they shared row four, with Norris and Nico Hulkenberg completing the top 10.

Double SQ2 exit for Mercedes

Unlike McLaren’s at least temporary promise, a major upgrade package at the Miami GP didn’t fare well on debut for Mercedes.

Both its drivers were struggling to put a lap together throughout sprint qualifying, with visible struggles throughout the low and high-speed corners.

George Russell pipped Lewis Hamilton but they were 11th and 12th, dumped out by Stroll and Hulkenberg.

And there could be more pain on the way given Mercedes is under investigation for a pitlane incident - potentially mechanics servicing Hamilton’s car while not wearing the appropriate safety equipment.

Esteban Ocon got his Alpine through to SQ2 and ended up 13th ahead of the second Haas of Kevin Magnussen (fifth in SQ1 but faded to 14th in SQ2) and RB’s Yuki Tsunoda whose Chinese GP struggles seem to have continued in Miami.

A muted victory for Sargeant 

Logan Sargeant went fastest of anyone in SQ1 through the final sector but a costly error in the first sector left him 0.511s from a place in SQ2. “I’m such a dumbass” was Sargeant’s radio message after completing his final lap.

But that was still good enough for Sargeant to place ahead of Williams team-mate Alex Albon on merit for the very first time.

Albon had his fastest laptime deleted (good enough for 16th) for making a mistake and cutting the chicane. He’s set to start behind Sargeant on the back row of the grid for the sprint.

What’s most likely to prevent an all-Williams back row is whether the stewards punish Valtteri Bottas for a rather obvious impediment of Piastri during his first qualifying session with his new race engineer.

Bottas was 18th fastest behind Sauber team-mate Zhou Guanyu and Pierre Gasly, who was 16th fastest in his Alpine.

Qualifying Results

1Max VerstappenRed Bull-Honda RBPT1m28.194s1m28.001s1m27.641s
2Charles LeclercFerrari1m28.537s1m27.977s1m27.749s
3Sergio PérezRed Bull-Honda RBPT1m28.681s1m27.865s1m27.876s
4Daniel RicciardoRB-Honda RBPT1m28.700s1m28.122s1m28.044s
5Carlos SainzFerrari1m28.435s1m28.262s1m28.103s
6Oscar PiastriMcLaren-Mercedes1m28.056s1m28.163s1m28.161s
7Lance StrollAston Martin-Mercedes1m28.807s1m28.323s1m28.375s
8Fernando AlonsoAston Martin-Mercedes1m28.192s1m28.189s1m28.419s
9Lando NorrisMcLaren-Mercedes1m27.939s1m27.597s1m28.472s
10Nico HülkenbergHaas-Ferrari1m29.040s1m28.330s1m28.476s
11George RussellMercedes1m28.387s1m28.343s
12Lewis HamiltonMercedes1m28.736s1m28.371s
13Esteban OconAlpine-Renault1m28.873s1m28.379s
14Kevin MagnussenHaas-Ferrari1m28.377s1m28.614s
15Yuki TsunodaRB-Honda RBPT1m28.687s
16Pierre GaslyAlpine-Renault1m29.185s
17Guanyu ZhouSauber-Ferrari1m29.267s
18Valtteri BottasSauber-Ferrari1m29.360s
19Logan SargeantWilliams-Mercedes1m29.551s
20Alex AlbonWilliams-Mercedes1m29.858s
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