Leclerc recovers from spin to take Spanish Grand Prix pole

Big pressure was on the championship leader Charles Leclerc, when he spun on his first Q3 run at the chicane. The Ferrari driver was on the back foot without setting a lap time, but recovered to take an impressive pole position for Formula 1’s 2022 Spanish Grand Prix as Max Verstappen was hurt by a final-lap DRS issue.

The Ferrari driver had it all to do in the last part of qualifying after spinning at the penultimate corner during his banker lap in Q3 but then the points leader produced a magic lap on his second attempt.

A run to one minute, 18.750 seconds marked comfortably the fastest lap of the weekend as he seized his 13th Formula 1 pole position by three tenths over his title rival Verstappen.

The defending world champion, who held provisional pole after his first Q3 effort, was forced to abort his final flying lap after his Red Bull endured yet more unreliability.

Comfortable Q2 pacesetter Verstappen had not long delivered a crushing run through the final sector to extract a four tenth advantage on his first flying lap in the final part of qualifying to post a one minute, 19.073 seconds.

That threw him to the top of the timing screens as he ran a mighty 0.35 seconds ahead of provisional pacesetter Sainz, while Perez clocked third ahead of the Mercedes pair.

Leclerc was the major name missing from the top of the times after he threw away his first Q3 lap with a Turn 14 spin despite setting five session-best mini-sectors over the lap.

The rear axle of the Ferrari rotated into the left-handed part of the tight chicane when, like in Imola, he grabbed too much kerb. He then locked all four tyres bringing the car to a stop.

Leclerc was equipped with a fresh set of soft tyres and headed out comparatively early for the qualifying climax, leaving his garage with three and a half minutes left to play.

But he stitched together the fastest second and third sector to romp to pole.

After the DRS issue, Verstappen was able to record another front row slot ahead of Sainz, who fell a tenth adrift with his one minute, 19.166 seconds.

George Russell led the renewed effort from Mercedes with fourth position as he nipped ahead of Sergio Perez, while Lewis Hamilton ran to sixth after his first Q3 lap was hurt by oversteer out of the final corner.

Valtteri Bottas snared seventh for Alfa Romeo ahead of Kevin Magnussen, while Daniel Ricciardo was resigned to ninth after McLaren elected not to send him out for a second Q3 charge.

Mick Schumacher, meanwhile, completed the top ten. This was Mick’s first appearance in Q3 and the Haas driver will start in his best grid position.

Lando Norris failed to progress into the top ten by 0.035 seconds when the stewards deleted his final flying lap in the 15-minute session for marginally exceeding track limits at Turn 12.

The McLaren driver, who also clipped the Turn 14 bollard, had just prevented Mick Schumacher from squeezing into Q3 before his lap was binned and he was relegated.

Esteban Ocon aborted his second effort in Q2 to tether himself to P12, while Yuki Tsunoda nipped ahead of AlphaTauri teammate Pierre Gasly.

The French racer had struggled with Turn 5 understeer on his final run, having sat out almost all of FP3 owing to a fire igniting on his installation lap.

Alfa Romeo rookie Guanyu Zhou rounded out the top 15.

World champions Sebastian Vettel and Fernando Alonso were the major scalps to be claimed in the first part of qualifying as they were shuffled into the bottom five places.

Alpine driver Alonso, preparing for his home race, was forced to back out of his final flying lap thanks in part to early traffic from Norris, however the stewards did not to intervene. That left Alonso prey as the customary flurry of improved times landed late on.

The better laps from Pierre Gasly and Daniel Ricciardo secured their progression and subsequently dropped Vettel and Alonso to a final P16 and P17 on the leader board.

Vettel, having missed the Q2 cut-off by 0.07 seconds, did at least manage to out-qualify teammate Lance Stroll as the Canadian guided the heavily scrutinised and updated AMR22 to just P18.

Alex Albon pipped Williams stablemate Nicholas Latifi to round out the final row of the grid.

So congratulations to Charles Leclerc in rising to the challenge despite big pressure to set a lap time after spinning. The Ferrari driver did the job by securing pole position. Kudos Charles!

Spanish Grand Prix, qualifying positions:
1 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 1:18.750
2 Max Verstappen Red Bull 1:19.073
3 Carlos Sainz Ferrari 1:19.166
4 George Russell Mercedes 1:19.393
5 Sergio Peérez Red Bull 1:19.420
6 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:19.512
7 Valtteri Bottas Alfa Romeo 1:19.608
8 Kevin Magnussen Haas 1:19.682
9 Daniel Ricciardo McLaren 1:20.297
10 Mick Schumacher Haas 1:20.368
11 Lando Norris McLaren 1:20.471
12 Esteban Ocon Alpine 1:20.638
13 Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri 1:20.639
14 Pierre Gasly AlphaTaur 1:20.861
15 Zhou Guanyu Alfa Romeo 1:21.094
16 Sebastian Vettel Aston Martin 1:20.954
17 Fernando Alonso Alpine 1:21.043
18 Lance Stroll Aston Martin 1:21.418
19 Alexander Albon Williams 1:21.645
20 Nicholas Latifi Williams 1:21.915

Verstappen takes Miami victory from Leclerc

Max Verstappen was victorious at the Miami Grand Prix by passing Charles Leclerc and then resisting the pressure from the Ferrari driver.

Carlos Sainz finished in third position ahead of Sergio Perez, with George Russell coming home in fifth ahead of Lewis Hamilton after gaining so much ground with the safety car timing and then beating his Mercedes teammate in battle afterwards.

At the start, Leclerc led away from pole position in P1, while alongside his teammate Sainz could not make a similarly quick getaway from away from the racing line on the right-hand side of the track.

That meant Verstappen was able to quickly get alongside the second Ferrari and the defending champion went wheel-to-wheel with Sainz through the first corner before passing with a forceful move in to the second corner sweep through which they were soon blasting.

Leclerc had a 0.8 seconds lead at the end of the first lap of 57 and quickly moved to pull clear of Verstappen’s DRS range by the time it was activated on the third lap.

For the opening phase of the race, Leclerc would gain three-four tenths each time through the first sector before Verstappen’s superior top speed brought him back towards the Ferrari along the long straights in the second two thirds of the circuit.

Leclerc’s lead reached a maximum of 1.4 seconds at the start of lap six, just as he had set a then fastest lap in the high one minute, 33 seconds, but soon after this a dark band of rubber appeared on his right front tyre.

Verstappen, informed his rival was struggling to preserve the mediums tyres all the leaders had started on, then began to edge back towards the Ferrari.

At the end of lap eight, Leclerc slid exiting the Turn 17 hairpin and Verstappen arrived right on his gearbox, moving alongside as they ran down the pit straight and then taking the lead with a simple pass into Turn 1, Leclerc opting not to fight too hard.

On the next lap, Leclerc pushed hard to keep up through the first sector that favour’s Ferrari’s higher downforce package, but was dropped as Verstappen ran down every subsequent straight and was out of DRS threat after two laps.

The Red Bull was steadily able to build a lead, aided by Leclerc locking up and sliding deep at Turn 17 on lap 12, which cost him a second and meant at the end of that tour Verstappen’s lead had reached 2.6 seconds.

That was 4.2 seconds by lap 21 – Leclerc being told Ferrari was moving to its “Plan D” strategy, while Red Bull informed Verstappen his right front tyre management was making the key difference.

Behind the leaders, Sainz had soon fallen back, with Perez initially following him closely before losing over five seconds as his engine developed an issue that Red Bull had to issue a steering wheel setting fix to correct.

Leclerc was able to set competitive times at this stage, but could not do so consistently and with Verstappen able to cover him off each time anyway, so Ferrari called him in to switch to the hards at the end of lap 24, just after he had reported his car was “so difficult to drive”.

Red Bull left Verstappen out for two more laps before he was switched on the hards, gaining another 0.8 seconds with a quicker service from his mechanics compared to those working on Leclerc’s car earlier.

Verstappen led by 7.5 seconds at the start of the second stint, which Leclerc initially cut with a series of fastest laps into the high one minute, 32 seconds, before the lead responded with an even quicker best time and restore and then maintain his advantage.

Much like at the start of the race, Leclerc regularly gained several tenths through the twisty first sector before Verstappen took back time later in the lap – the pair trading fastest laps but the gap between then staying stable.

Heading into the final third, Verstappen led by 7.8 seconds, with Red Bull seemingly only concerned about a threat of rain, as clouds built up above the Miami Gardens track.

But a serene had no chance to play out after the safety car was called out on lap 41 after Pierre Gasly and Lando Norris collided, putting the McLaren driver out just past the start of the long, meandering acceleration zone that follows the fake marina at Turn 8.

Gasly was touring slowly having just had an earlier collision with Fernando Alonso at Turn 1 as they fought in the lower reaches of the top 10 and when the AlphaTauri ran wide through Turn 8 Norris moved to overtake on its right-hand side.

But Gasly appeared to drift left, unaware Norris was coming by, reporting his “car doesn’t turn” with a problem, and the contact spun Norris around and knocked off his right-rear, after which the race was neutralised for five laps, during which Perez pitted from fourth to go back to the hards.

At the restart, Verstappen easily pulled clear of Leclerc, while Perez pressured Sainz heavily onto the pit straight but was rebuffed on the outside line into Turn 1.

There followed a thrilling 11-lap sprint to the finish, with Leclerc able to stay within DRS threat for much of the remaining action and putting Verstappen under severe pressure.

Leclerc came closest to making a pass with a look to the inside of Turn 11 at the end of the long, curving run from the ‘marina’, but was pinched on the inside line and lost ground – never getting alongside the leader.

He closed in again, but clattering the kerbs hard at the chicane on lap 52 meant he dropped from 0.5 seconds behind to 0.8 seconds and as Verstappen’s superior top speed then came into play on the next straight the writing was on the wall for the Ferrari driver.

On the next lap, Leclerc fell out of DRS range on the back straight and never recovered it – Verstappen easing clear to win by 3.7 seconds.

Sainz took the final podium spot despite his tyres being much older than those on the following Perez, who had closed in again after his restart attack did not pay off.

On lap 52, Perez, still down on power after his earlier issue, made a late lunge at the first corner, but when Sainz swept right and the pair nearly touched the Red Bull driver locked up and went deep, allowing the Ferrari back into third, which he did not lose from there.

George Russell finished fifth after gaining massively under the safety car – the Mercedes driver having started in P12 on the hards and running a very long first stint in the hope of a race interruption.

He got his wish and so was able to take the mediums while the rest where travelling slowly and restarted behind Lewis Hamilton, who had recovered from a slow first lap where he climbed over the Turn 1 kerbs and was then tapped by Alonso at the next turn, cost him momentum.

Hamilton recovered to run sixth behind Valtteri Bottas at the restart, with the Finn then gifting the Mercedes pair a place when he glanced the wall exiting Turn 17 – after which Russell came out on top of a wheel-to-wheel fight with his illustrious teammate going through the Turns 11-12 sequence.

He had to repass Hamilton at the same spot with DRS when the seven-time champion had nipped back ahead late on, but Russell held on from there to finish fifth.

Bottas was seventh ahead of Esteban Ocon, who benefitted from a late Turn 1 shunt between Sebastian Vettel and Mick Schumacher.

The pair had both been running in the points when Ocon attacked Schumacher at Turn 17 on lap 53, with Vettel passing both in one move but giving DRS to Schumacher as they ran onto the pit straight.

There was contact between the Aston Martin and the Haas at Turn 1, which spun Vettel around broke Schumacher’s front wing, the former later retiring in the pits with damage and the latter coming home P15 having missed the chance to score his first Formula 1 career points.

Alonso, who was given a five-second time addition for his clash with Gasly, took ninth, with Alex Albon completing the top ten for Williams.

Zhou Guanyu was the other retirement, ordered to stop in the pits during the early laps.

Congratulations to Max Verstappen and Red Bull in winning this Miami Grand Prix. The event was overhyped by Formula 1 standards as this is a new race in terms of location and excitement but the actual racing was simply lacking. Only the late safety car made it entertaining. Still, important championship points scored.

Miami Grand Prix race results:
1 Max Verstappen Red Bull 1:34:24.258
2 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 3.786
3 Carlos Sainz Ferrari 8.229
4 Sergio Perez Red Bull 10.638
5 George Russell Mercedes 18.582
6 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 21.368
7 Valtteri Bottas Alfa Romeo 25.073
8 Esteban Ocon Alpine 28.386
9 Fernando Alonso Alpine 32.128
10 Alex Albon Williams 32.365
11 Daniel Ricciardo McLaren 35.902
12 Lance Stroll Aston Martin 37.026
13 Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri 40.146
14 Nicholas Latifi Williams 49.936
15 Mick Schumacher Haas 73.305s
16 Kevin Magnussen Haas DNF
17 Sebastian Vettel Aston Martin DNF
– Pierre Gasly AlphaTauri DNF
– Lando Norris McLaren DNF
– Zhou Guanyu Alfa Romeo DNF

Leclerc leads Ferrari 1-2 in Miami qualifying

Charles Leclerc led a Scuderia Ferrari 1-2 in Formula 1 Miami Grand Prix qualifying ahead of Carlos Sainz, while a last-lap mistake from Max Verstappen dropped the defending champion from provisional pole to third position.

Verstappen led after the first runs in Q3 with a time of one minute, 28.991 seconds, with Leclerc and Sainz trailing – just 0.080 seconds covering all three.

On the final runs, Leclerc headed the pack and was up on his own personal best time from the off, then taking the best time in the middle sector to roar to a one minute, 28.796 seconds.

Running behind, Sainz registered a stunning first sector 0.2 seconds quicker than his teammate, but he lost time as the lap went on and he ended up 0.190 seconds adrift.

But that was still enough to slot him ahead of Verstappen’s run one time, which secured second position on the grid for Sunday’s race as the Red Bull driver abandoned his final effort.

Verstappen had to catch a massive oversteer snap he encountered after throwing his RB18 through the fast, flowing Turns 5 and 6, sliding off at the latter corner and winding up 0.6 seconds down on Leclerc in sector one – after which he toured back to the finish line and accepting his defeat with the note that he “fucked it”.

Sergio Perez took fourth for Red Bull ahead of Alfa Romeo’s Valtteri Bottas and Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton.

Pierre Gasly took seventh, with Lando Norris, Yuki Tsunoda and Lance Stroll rounding out the top ten.

In Q2, Fernando Alonso set his best time right at the end, but could not reach the top ten shootout as he was eliminated in P11, on spot ahead of FP2 pace-setter George Russell.

Russell went for most of Q2 without a time on the board as he struggled with wild oversteer snaps through the track’s flowing first sector and porpoising elsewhere, but finally reached the top ten with his final effort.

But that came nearly two minutes before the middle segment of qualifying had finished and he did not have enough time to return to the pits for fresh tyres and so was pushed down the order and eliminated.

He finished ahead of Sebastian Vettel, who lost time by sliding out of the chicane at the end of the second sector for his P13 result, ahead of McLaren’s Daniel Ricciardo and Haas driver Mick Schumacher.

In Q1, a series of late improvements from several drivers languishing down the order after the early running – including Hamilton and Alonso – shuffled Kevin Magnussen down to P16 and out.

Zhou Guanyu was knocked out in P17, frustrated to hit heavy traffic at the final corners of his last flying lap, describing the scenes as “dangerous” and urging Alfa Romeo to report the incident to the sport’s governing body, the FIA.

Williams had hoped Alex Albon could replicate his strong speed FP3, where he finished ninth, but he rued not setting personal best times in the final two sectors of his last lap, which left him down in P18.

That was ahead of Nicholas Latifi in the other Williams, who set a personal best right at the very end of Q1 but could not climb off the back row of the grid for Sunday’s main event.

Esteban Ocon took no part in qualifying after a crack was discovered in his chassis following his heavy crash at the chicane in FP3 and he will start the race last as a result.

So congratulations to Ferrari with this front row lock-out. Championship leader Charles Leclerc achieved a brilliant pole position to beat Max Verstappen and edged ahead of his teammate Carlos Sainz. Sunday’s Miami Grand Prix is going to be interesting as this is the first time the drivers will go racing. Hopefully a good race on Sunday.

Qualifying times, Miami:
1 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 1:28.796
2 Carlos Sainz Ferrari 1:28.986
3 Max Verstappen Red Bull 1:28.991
4 Sergio Perez Red Bull 1:29.036
5 Valtteri Bottas Alfa Romeo 1:29.475
6 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:29.625
7 Pierre Gasly AlphaTauri 1:29.690
8 Lando Norris McLaren 1:29.750
9 Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri 1:29.932
10 Lance Stroll Aston Martin 1:30.676
11 Fernando Alonso Alpine 1:30.160
12 George Russell Mercedes 1:30.173
13 Sebastian Vettel Aston Martin 1:30.214
14 Daniel Ricciardo McLaren 1:30.310
15 Mick Schumacher Haas 1:30.423
16 Kevin Magnussen Haas 1:30.975
17 Zhou Guanyu Alfa Romeo 1:31.020
18 Alex Albon Williams 1:31.266
19 Nicholas Latifi Williams 1:31.325
20 Esteban Ocon Alpine No time