Perez on Miami pole, red flag leaves Verstappen ninth
By Mat Coch
Sunday 7th May, 2023 - 7:08am
Sergio Perez has claimed pole position for the Miami Grand Prix in a session dramatically cut short by a red flag.
Charles Leclerc crashed soon after beginning his final push lap, spinning into the barrier to halt the session.
With little time remaining, qualifying was not restarted to confirm Fernando Alonso second and Carlos Sainz third.
After abandoning his initial Qualifying 3 effort, Max Verstappen was without a time and will start ninth, sharing the fifth row with Valtteri Bottas.
The two Williams headed out at the front of the pack, local favourite Logan Sargeant following team-mate Alex Albon.
All bar the two Ferraris and Aston Martins ventured forth.
That resulted from a confused picture following the three practice sessions and a low grip circuit that was evolving rapidly.
As a result, it was vital to get on track and bank a time early to cover the risk of a red flag – a distinct possibility given the slippery circuit,
Nico Hulkenberg demonstrated the point well as he stamped on the throttle, entering the back straight.
The rear of the Haas stepped out in protest, sliding and brushing the wall in an incident that could easily have left more than a tyre mark against the fence.
Sergio Perez sat atop the totem following the initial run of flying laps with a 1:28.306s.
He was 0.118s clear of second-best Verstappen, the Dutchman demoted to third when Charles Leclerc recorded his first time a few minutes later – just 0.002s quicker than the championship leader.
Lewis Hamilton tagged the wall when he encountered Kevin Magnussen at Turn 17.
The Haas driver was dawdling on the racing line when approached by the Mercedes, who darted right to avoid contact and clouted the wall in the process.
Hamilton radioed back to have his front wing checked; his decision to move right was strange as the inside of the circuit was empty and had more space.
Officials noted the incident and resolved to investigate post-session.
With five minutes remaining, Oscar Piastri sat on the bubble in 15th while team-mate Lando Norris was 19th.
The Australian was soon bumped out as others around him improved.
By the time he emerged for his final push lap, he’d dropped to 19th, ahead only of Norris.
Joining them at risk were both Mercedes and Sargeant.
All but Verstappen, who’d gone fastest as the session developed, were on track in the final minute.
Conditions were improving significantly, with the Haas pair rising to fifth (Magnussen) and sixth (Hulkenberg).
The chequered flag fell soon after; Norris, Yuki Tsunoda, Lance Stroll, Piastri, and Sargeant all missed the cut – Hamilton improved to sixth while George Russell climbed to 11th.
The margins were narrow; Nyck de Vries’ time for 15th, a 1:28.325s little more than a tenth faster than Sargeant’s 1:28.484s.
There was not quite the same stampede to head out as there had been at the start of Qualifying 1, with 10 of the surviving 15 runners taking to the circuit immediately.
That included both Red Bulls, with Verstappen logging a 1:27.110s and Perez 0.218s slower as they sat first and second.
The two Alpines, de Vries, both Ferraris, and Alex Albon run slightly off sequence, remaining in the garage for a further three minutes.
The strategy netted fourth for Ocon, 0.564s off the outright pace and a little under 0.2s back from third-best Alonso.
Leclerc was capable of only a 1:27.514s while slotted him between Ocon and Alonso for what became fifth once Sainz completed his first timed lap.
That ended with a 1:27.148s, just 0.038s away from Verstappen’s best of the session.
The two Alfa Romeo Sauber ran close to one another once Valtteri Bottas finally emerged, the Finn having maintained a watching brief until the latter minutes of Qualifying 2.
Zhou Guanyu could do no better than 11th best while Bottas was sixth fastest, 0.454s away from Verstappen.
At the segment’s climax, all but Sainz were on track, the Spaniard having pitted in the final minute.
As the chequered flag waved, Verstappen had gone fastest of anyone to the final sector.
Alonso rose to third with a 1:27.097s while Verstappen improved to 1:26.814s with his final lap.
At the other end, the five drivers who failed to progress were Albon, Hulkenberg, Hamilton, Zhou, and de Vries.
The result was Hamilton’s worst qualifying perfomance in the United States, and Alfa Romeo Sauber’s first top 10 appearance of 2023.
As they had in Qualifying 2, Ferrari and Alfa Romeo Sauber delayed their entry once the pit exit was opened.
The Scuderia offset its drivers by half a lap, while Bottas remained in the shed longer still.
A wobble for Verstappen saw him abandon his initial flying lap.
That allowed Perez to top the session with a 1:26.841s ahead of Alonso with a 1:27.202s.
Leclerc’s initial effort was steady, a full second away from Perez, the time lost at Turn 17 when he pinched the brake.
His team-mate, Sainz, was third best but 0.5s off provisional pole.
Verstappen didn’t set a time to sit ninth ahead of Bottas.
With little more than three minutes remaining, the field as one headed out for their final efforts.
Sitting seventh, Leclerc crashed out to draw the red flag with just 1:36 left in the session.
The session was not resumed meaning Perez was confirmed on pole with Verstappen stranded without a time in ninth.
Leclerc had lost the back end of his Ferrari at Turn 7, spinning through the run off before making comparatively light but nonetheless meaningful contact with the barrier.
Then result marked Perez’s third career pole and his first outside of the Jeddah Corniche circuit.
Join the discussion below in the Speedcafe.com comments section
Please note: Speedcafe.com reserves the right to remove any comment that does not follow the comment policy. For support, contact [email protected]