The reigning double world champion Max Verstappen (Red Bull) dominated Friday’s free practice for the Miami Grand Prix, the fifth round of the F1 season, and is the favorite to clinch pole position on Saturday.
The Dutchman, only fourth in the first session, set the record straight in the second by beating the two Ferraris of Spaniard Carlos Sainz and Monegasque Charles Leclerc respectively by 385 and 468/1000th.
Verstappen, who remains on a frustrating weekend in Azerbaijan where he took third place in the sprint and second in the Grand Prix, relegated his Mexican teammate Sergio Pérez, who had won both races in Baku, to almost a half second (4th).
In the sweltering Florida heat, he demonstrated the superiority of his RB-19 and improved by two and a half seconds his best time achieved earlier in the afternoon.
“It was a good day. First we tried to get used to the circuit and the new surface. It was sometimes a bit slippery. We had good settings in the car today so I’m happy. We we still have a few things to work on tonight and ideally we would like to be faster in each corner”, underlined “Mad Max”.
Verstappen, who had to give up pole position to Leclerc last weekend, will still advance as the favorite on Saturday to clinch first place on the grid after crushing the competition in this second session.
After a nice weekend in Baku, marked by two podiums for Leclerc (second in the sprint and third in the race), the first of the season, Ferrari continued its momentum and seemed comfortable on the circuit around the Hard Rock Stadium.
Thus, Sainz and Leclerc limited the damage by finishing less than half a second behind the leader of the world championship.
“The impressions in the car are good on the fast laps. But in terms of race pace, we still lack speed compared to our competitors. But we are determined to close this gap,” said the Monegasque.
Mercedes, who recorded frustrating results in Azerbaijan, had a mixed day. The Britons Lewis Hamilton and George Russell had won the first two places in the first practice session, before unscrewing in the second. The seven-time world champion set the seventh time, while Russell had to settle for a disappointing 15th time.
True to form this season, veteran Spanish Fernando Alonso still managed to place his Aston Martin in the Top 5 to finish ahead of his Canadian teammate Lance Stroll (8th).
After a calamitous weekend in Azerbaijan, the French Alpine team recovered a little by placing its two cars in the Top 10 during the first session (Gasly 6th, Ocon 10th), and improving its times in the second . Ocon took ninth time and Gasly 11th.
“We had a smooth day and it was good to have two full sessions to work on the settings,” Ocon said.
“I think we are pretty well placed before the rest of the weekend, said Gasly. We have a much better understanding of the single-seater than last Friday and the objective now is to continue our efforts by doing even better on Saturday.”
The third and final free practice session is scheduled for Saturday from 6:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. (French time). Qualifying will take place from 10:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m. The race will start at 9:30 p.m. Sunday (3:30 p.m. local).