Reigning world champion Max Verstappen will start Sunday’s Miami Grand Prix in ninth after qualifying was abruptly ended by a red flag following Charles Leclerc’s crash; Verstappen’s Red Bull team-mate Sergio Perez secured pole; watch the Miami GP on Sky Sports F1
Last Updated: 07/05/23 12:05am
Max Verstappen has his sights firmly set on at least a second-place finish in Sunday’s Miami Grand Prix despite having to settle for ninth on the grid in qualifying.
The reigning world champion was left to rue an error while on a hot lap in Q3 and was then left aghast when the session was red flagged and ultimately curtailed with 1min 36sec remaining when Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc crashed heavily at Turn Seven.
Verstappen shouldered the blame for his failure to qualify higher up the grid, but the drivers’ championship leader is targeting at least finishing on the second step of the podium after winning the inaugural race in Miami last year.
“I was trying to put it on the limit and then I made a mistake and had to abort the lap,” Verstappen said.
“Then you rely on a bit of luck that there is not going to be a red flag, but that can happen on a street circuit. I’m just a bit upset with myself.
“It’s going to be difficult. I made it difficult for myself, so I have to accept that. [I’m aiming for a] Minimum P2.”
But while Verstappen ended up coming unstuck in Q3, his Red Bull team-mate and early title challenger Sergio Perez secured pole position to give himself a great opportunity to make it back-to-back wins after triumphing in Azerbaijan last week.
That victory in Baku saw Perez move to within six points of the Dutchman in the drivers’ standings heading into the Miami Grand Prix, and the 33-year-old is now well-placed to push on for another victory on a street circuit – one which would give him the lead in the championship.
The outcome of qualifying came as a welcome relief for Perez though as he had struggled in the three practice sessions preceding it, but managed to find the right set-up when it mattered and produced a lap time of 1:26.841 which proved enough to seal the spot at the front of the grid.
“It has been my worst weekend up to qualifying,” Perez said. “I couldn’t figure out how to put those tenths all the time that I was missing to Max and the Ferraris.
“I was just resetting everything we did; we made a small change into qualifying that really everything became more alive. We put in the lap when it mattered.
“I’m enjoying [the battle with Max]. I’m just thinking race by race. [Sunday] is a new opportunity starting from pole – we are the ones that have something to lose.”
Red Bull team principal Christian Horner was frustrated Verstappen was unable to qualify higher up the grid after his mistake earlier in Q3.
However, he was full of praise for Perez as the Mexican claimed his second pole of the year.
“Had it been stopped immediately you could have possibly got round [for another lap],” Horner told Sky Sports F1. “That’s the difficulty of not getting your first lap in.
“Checo did that and it was a great first lap. Delighted with the pole for Checo, just frustrated not to have both the cars up there with Max having a lot to do [on Sunday].
“It’s amazing. It was a great first lap for Checo and I think he had the potential to go quicker as well. They were all struggling with the wind getting up and whether that’s what caught Max and Charles out, I don’t know.
“It was getting tricky, but Checo got the pole which was well deserved.”
The Formula 1 season continues with the Miami GP – watch Sunday’s race live on Sky Sports F1 from 7pm, lights out at 8.30pm. Get Sky Sports