Formula One: Verstappen warms up for Miami qualification with fastest practice time

AFP , Saturday 6 May 2023

World champion Max Verstappen of Red Bull will expect to take pole position for the Miami Grand Prix after posting the fastest time in the final practice session before Saturday's qualification while rivals Mercedes struggled.

Max Verstappen
Red Bull Racing s Dutch driver Max Verstappen returns to the garage during the third practice session for the 2023 Miami Formula One Grand Prix at the Miami International Autodrome in Miami Gardens, Florida, on May 6, 2023. Photo: AFP


Verstappen, the current championship leader who has won two of the four races so far this season, was 0.406 seconds faster than Ferrari's Charles Leclerc posting a fastest lap of 1:27.535.

Red Bull's Mexican driver Sergio Perez, who is six points behind Verstappen in the standings having also won two races including last week's Azerbaijan Grand Prix, was third quickest, 0.515 behind the Dutchman.

There was good speed in the final practice session from Alpine's Esteban Ocon and Pierre Gasly who finished fifth and sixth fastest.

But Mercedes struggled to post quick laps with seven-times world champion Lewis Hamilton down in 13th place, 1.183 behind Verstappen's time and George Russell tenth quickest, 1.071 off last year's Miami winner.

"We seem to be losing a lot more on the straights," Hamilton said over the team radio while Russell again reported steering issues.

"Lots of vibrations on the steering rack through that high speed," he said, after having the rack fully replaced in Friday's session.

After Friday's two sessions on the track around Hard Rock Stadium, the home of the NFL's Miami Dolphins, several drivers had complained about the relaid surface being slippery -- especially away from the main driving line.

There were signs of that throughout the session with a number of drivers running off track and McLaren's Lando Norris had to use all his skills to avoid going into the wall.

The debut Miami race attracted plenty of celebrity attention last year and entrepeneurs Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos were both at the track on Saturday.

Tesla, SpaceX and Twitter owner Musk watched the practice session from inside Red Bull's garage while Amazon owner Bezos was with McLaren.

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