Miami GP Sprint Qualy data: McLaren ‘hand’ Sprint pole to Max Verstappen as Mercedes sinks close to Alpine

Pablo Hidalgo
Ideal lap time SQ Miami

Ideal lap time SQ Miami

The data confirms that McLaren missed a golden opportunity with its ‘2.0’ car to steal the Sprint pole from a “horrible” Max Verstappen lap.

Mercedes, meanwhile, fell behind Alpine as they failed to get their upgrades to work.

Sprint Qualifying analysis

Lando Norris had it in his hand to take pole position in Sprint Qualifying. The British driver, with his time in SQ2, could have unseated Max Verstappen for the second time in a qualifying session this season having taken pole for the Chinese GP Sprint.

The ‘new’ McLaren really works and the data confirms it. Just as it confirmed that Mercedes are sinking further down the table even with updates.

The harsh reality for the Silver Arrows, with a car with a lot of drag due to the chosen rear wing configuration, is that they are closer to Alpine and Haas than to Aston Martin with both Lewis Hamilton and George Russell out in SQ2.

Ideal lap time SQ Miami

Meanwhile, the last – and only – attempt by the drivers qualified for SQ3 was particularly difficult and they even failed to improve the times set with the medium compound in SQ2.

This was mainly due to the more than 10-minute wait between the end of SQ2 and the moment when the teams decided to take the drivers out on track in SQ3 so that no one would benefit from a late-track improvement.

This led to major problems for the drivers during Sector 1 of their final run of the session.

Norris missed pole due to a terrible first partial with a plenitude of corrections while surfing through corners 1 to 7 where he lost +0.694s with respect to his best lap first sector and +0.770s to Verstappen’s pole Sector 1 time.

Miami data image SQ

Only Verstappen, Charles Leclerc and Daniel Ricciardo managed to improve their lap times with the mandatory set of soft tyres for the final SQ run.

Here we can see how the final results would have looked like with the ideal lap time estimated for each driver during the Sprint Qualifying session:

Leclerc’s P2 after just two laps in the only practice session and Ricciardo’s superb fourth, who benefited from the mistakes of the other drivers in his SQ3 attempt, are worth mentioning. Still, the Australian with the new VCARB01 chassis seems to be getting more and more comfortable after a disconcerting start to the season.

If we talked earlier about Mercedes’ high drag, we should point out that McLaren seem to have fixed that lack of top speed on the straights with its aerodynamic improvements.

The Woking-based team have gone from being at the bottom of this graph to being in the same numbers as their direct rivals. All this while still maintaining good cornering performance.

As we saw on the telemetry comparison between Norris’ and Verstappen’s fastest lap, the ‘new’ MCL38 is capable of reaching faster top speeds than before while maintaining good traction on corner exits after heavy braking.

Now, the big question comes for Saturday’s Sprint: will the new McLaren keep up with the dominant Red Bull on race pace?

Long run analysis from FP1

The only free practice session of the Miami Grand Prix weekend, the data from FP1 not only gives an idea as to the drivers’ pace for the Sprint but also Sunday’s Grand Prix.

FP1 was marked by a red flag caused by Leclerc who did only two laps, putting his weekend at risk right from the start and with the drivers trying to push their cars to the limit to find the perfect set-up for both Sprint Qualifying and the Sprint Race.

It is important to mention that this data must be taken with a pinch of salt as we do not know the fuel load and the engine maps selected by each team, among other variables.

On the Hard Pirellis, it was pretty even pace in long runs between McLaren and Ferrari. They could be the two teams fighting directly for the podium in Sunday’s race.

Even more evenly matched in the midfield, led in this case by Lance Stroll’s Aston Martin ahead of Alpine and RB.

As for the mediums, the long runs put Mercedes ahead of Red Bull. This data is quite unrealistic and shows that the Milton Keynes-based team have not shown their true potential. Probably running with a more conservative engine map or with more fuel load to evaluate Sunday’s performance more thoroughly.

Read next: Miami Grand Prix: Max Verstappen peerless as McLaren’s pole challenge founders