Miami Gardens, Fla. ( Associated Press) – Ferrari stormed the front of the grid for the inaugural Miami Grand Prix as Formula One championship leader Charles Leclerc and teammate Carlos Sainz Jr. locked the front row in qualifying on Saturday.
It is the first time since Michael Schumacher’s pole win at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in 2006 that Ferrari will take the field green in the United States. This is the first line-up of the season for Sainz, who has been outqualified in all five seasons by Leclerc.
Leclerc has won three poles this year in the lead up to Sunday, the first F1 race at the purpose-built circuit around Hard Rock Stadium. The race is the first of two in the US this year – which has not hosted two F1 races in the same year since 1984.
Leclerc turned to the roaring crowd and waved During interview by Danica Patrick, retired IndyCar and NASCAR driver.
“The fans are crazy. It’s incredible to be here in America and see how much support has grown over the years,” Leclerc said. “I’ve seen so many people in the grandstands. It definitely inspires us.”
Defending world champion Max Verstappen led the final qualifying segment until the Dutchman made a rare error and Ferrari both overtook him in the final seconds. He will start third on Sunday; Leclerc and Verstappen have split the first four races, winning two each.
“It’s pretty slippery outside the normal racing line, but we’ll see. A lot of things can happen,” Verstappen said.
Sergio Perez was fourth as Red Bull locked the second row. Earlier on Saturday, Red Bull principal Christian Horner denied the rumor that the team plans to sign Fernando Alonso for 2023 and said talks on an extension for Perez would begin during F1’s summer break.
“Checo is doing a great job. He is driving at a very high level. He is more comfortable in the team this year,” said Horner. “We are pleased with his work. However, we’ve only seen a sample of four races, so it’s still early in the year.”
Valtteri Bottas qualified in fifth place, one place ahead of former Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton. Bottas was replaced by George Russell at Mercedes this year, prompting speculation at Imola two weeks ago that Bottas has a grudge with Russell based on his late-race battle for the position.
“No, it’s points, we’re chasing points and always really trying to maximize every opportunity, every position you can make,” Bottas said. “The goal was more points rather than one person.”
Hamilton finished sixth in a small improvement for Mercedes, which has struggled since the introduction of its new car. He knocked out Russell, who was fastest in Friday’s second practice, but failed to progress past the second round and finished 12th.
“I don’t think I trust the car today,” Russell radioed his Mercedes team.
Hamilton, meanwhile, was watching both former First Lady Michelle Obama and director George Lucas from their pits. Hamilton had a great start to the weekend when he arrived at the venue on Friday wearing all-fit jewelry in protest of the FIA’s new crackdown on wearing bling during competition.
Hamilton said he has holes he cannot remove and is ready to sign a liability waiver. F1’s governing body, the FIA, claims that jewelry poses a safety hazard. On Saturday it amended the ban to include wristwatches.
“It is clear that the rules are here to protect drivers; On the other hand, we need to have diversity and the means of expression and the possibility to express ourselves,” Mercedes boss Toto Wolff said. “And we know it’s important to Lewis, so without going into detail where the piercing stopped… I’m sure they’ll come to a good resolution.”
It’s been a disappointing weekend for Haas F1, a team owned by California businessman Gene Haas, who also owns a NASCAR team with Tony Stewart. The team has improved a lot at the beginning of this season as compared to last year. When Haas was the worst on the grid and failed to score a single point throughout the year.
But in qualifying, Kevin Magnussen, who has 15 points from the first four races, failed to make a first round exit. Mick Schumacher advanced to the second round but finished only 15th, one place ahead of Magnussen, and the “American F1 team” will have a long drive Sunday to impress the expected 85,000 spectators.
At least half of the IndyCar paddock for the event is in Miami and includes Michael Andretti and his father, 1978 F1 champion Mario Andretti. Michael Andretti failed to buy the existing F1 team last year and has since applied for an extension to start a new two-car team.
He has received no word back from the FIA or the US company Liberty Media, which owns F1. Andretti wants to bring 22-year-old IndyCar driver Colton Herta from California into F1, but Herta has been signed by McLaren to a test contract as Andretti awaits his fate.
Paddock was not keen to welcome the two new cars to the grid anytime soon, as Wolff said on Saturday that he was against reducing the purse and other team principals insisted that the expansion should be done only if the team Planning a legitimate effort.
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