Sergio Perez claimed his first Formula 1 pole position outside of Saudi Arabia as a crash for Charles Leclerc brought a premature end to qualifying for the Miami Grand Prix — an incident which also compromised his Red Bull teammate, championship leader Max Verstappen.
Leclerc was on a fast lap in the last two minutes of Q3 when he lost control at Turn 7 and spun into the barrier, his second off at that turn so far this weekend.
Perez had set an early banker lap of 1m26.841s which, with the red flags for Leclerc robbing most of the top 10 of a chance to set a second fast lap in the final session, was enough for pole.
Afterwards Perez admitted that he had been struggling with confidence and the balance of the car before a change ahead of qualifying made it come “more alive.”
“I think it’s been my worst weekend up to qualifying,” said Perez. “I just couldn’t figure out how to pull those tenths that I was missing all the time to Max and to the Ferraris. I was just resetting everything we did with a small change into qualifying. Everything came more alive and I think we were just playing with the tools and we put a lap when it mattered.”
It was a similar story for Fernando Alonso, who was second and set his Q3 time of 1m27.202s being set on used tires.
“It was a good qualifying,” he said. “I think FP3 was a little bit messy for us, we tried different setups and they didn’t work but the car came alive in qualifying so I’m extremely happy with P2 — first row of the grid, so lets see what we can do.
Third was Carlos Sainz, salvaging something for Ferrari, while Kevin Magnussen was a fine fourth for Haas in the team’s first of three home races this season.
“It was a very tricky quali for all,” said Sainz. I think it’s very tricky to find the right feeling with the tires around this tarmac and it was a fight the whole way through quali and very easy to make mistakes. It was getting windier and windier, which for our cars — or for our car in particular — is quite tricky to drive. But yeah, in general, P3 is where we’re targeting to be but I think today we could have been even better.”
Pierre Gasly was fifth, ahead of George Russell while Leclerc took seventh despite his off, and Esteban Ocon eighth. Verstappen was classified ninth — he abandoned his first flying lap in Q3 after being compromised by wind in Turns 5, 6, and 7 and didn’t have time to make another attempt due to the red flag.
It was a similar story for Valtteri Bottas who also failed to set a time in Q3. Alexander Albon will line up 11th, ahead of Nico Hulkenberg who missed out on the top-10 for the second race in a row.
Lewis Hamilton was a surprise omission from Q3, qualifying 13th despite a personal best final sector on his last flying lap, oversteer earlier in the run costing him heavily — although a radio message to his team after he crossed the line suggested he was unhappy with being sent out late for what ended up being his final qualifying lap, that resulting in his out-lap being in traffic and affecting his tire preparation.
It marks the first time Hamilton has qualified outside the top-six on U.S. soil — counting 12 previous starts at Indianapolis, Circuit of The Americas, and last year’s inaugural Miami GP — and his first absence from the top-10 since last year’s Italian GP.
Zhou Guanyu an Nyck de Vries were also eliminated from Q2 and will start 14th and 15th respectively.
Lando Norris will start 16th after falling into the drop zone towards the end Q1 thanks to late laps from the Mercedes pair. He will line up ahead of Yuki Tsunoda and Lance Stroll — a surprising result given Aston Martin’s strong form so far this season.
Oscar Piastri and Logan Sargeant complete the field, the local driver falling down the order late on as track evolution handed a hefty advantage to those running later in the session.