Qualifying produced an unexpected grid for the Miami Grand Prix and the session delivered mixed emotions for Scuderia Ferrari. Carlos Sainz will start third, his best grid position of the season, while Charles Leclerc has to settle for seventh spot on the fourth row after crashing into the barriers at turn 7 on his second run in Q3. Up to that point he and his team-mate were clearly contenders for pole, but Charles’ accident brought the Q3 session to a premature end with drivers only getting the one run.
Q3. Carlos and Charles comfortably made it through to the final phase, each with two sets of new Soft tyres to use. On the first run, the Monegasque was very quick in the first two sectors but brushed the wall at turn 16, so his time was a modest 1’27”861. Carlos claimed to be not altogether happy with his lap, even though it was a good 1’27”349 which put him provisionally third behind Sergio Perez and Fernando Alonso. All the drivers then pitted to change tyres and go again, with Charles leading the way. But then he went off at turn 7, ending up in the barriers damaging the right rear corner of the SF-23, although he was perfectly okay. This triggered the red flag with under 100 seconds of the session remaining, which meant it was not restarted and the positions remained unchanged, so that Carlos was third, Charles seventh and Verstappen ninth, having made a mistake on his first run.
Many variables. The unusual grid is just one factor that promises a spectacular race tomorrow. Carlos will be chasing his first podium finish of the season, while Charles will clearly be working his way up the order from behind, along with his usual rivals including the aforementioned Verstappen as well as Lewis Hamilton (13th). The weather could also play a part as the forecast says there is a chance of rain, which would make the new track surface at the Miami International Autodrome even more treacherous.
‘It was coming together as a very good qualifying until the end. This P3 is not too bad, but I feel I had very strong pace and maybe we could have fought for more. It was an unfortunate moment for Charles but these things can happen and tomorrow we go again. The race will not be an easy one for sure and we’ll keep an eye on changing weather conditions. We’ll fight hard to bring home a good result!’
‘I pushed too hard on my last lap in Q3 and there are no excuses to be made. We will start from P7 tomorrow and the weather looks like it could mix things up. I hope to have a clean race and will push to make my way back to the front.’
Frédéric Vasseur, Team Principal
‘First of all, well done to Carlos for his best qualifying of the season, even though he might have gone even quicker on his second run. We could have had a better team result as it was clear that Charles was also very quick. He was pushing hard as always in the final phase and unfortunately, he hit the wall. However, when you are chasing pole, mistakes can happen. The top ten on the grid is certainly unusual, with some of the expected front runners further back, so it looks like being an interesting race tomorrow. For our part, we hope to see the fruits of the race preparation we have done between yesterday and today as this will be a tough race in terms of tyre management. Then there are the usual scenarios that can arise when racing between the walls, plus there’s a chance of rain tomorrow, which could shake things up as well.’