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

Thomas Maher
Max Verstappen, Red Bull, 2024 Miami Grand Prix.

Max Verstappen was surprised himself to take pole position in Miami.

Max Verstappen put in the time that mattered during the Sprint Qualifying session at the Miami Grand Prix, claiming pole position ahead of Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc.

McLaren had looked potent through the first two sections of the Sprint Qualifying, but it was Red Bull’s Max Verstappen who utilised the soft tyres best in SQ3 to snatch pole position, while Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc bounced back from his error in practice.


The track remained almost silent until just over three minutes remained in the final part of Sprint Qualifying, with the field heading out almost together – forcing the drivers to cruise around and find some space for themselves for their critical single flying laps.

Red Bull’s Sergio Perez was first to pop in a flying lap, setting a 1:28.876, six-tenths clear of Haas’ Nico Hulkenberg.

But Verstappen beat Perez’s time by two-tenths of a second despite a snap of oversteer through the chicane.

Verstappen’s time remained unbeaten to the chequered flag, with Leclerc bouncing back from missing most of practice as the Ferrari driver finished just a tenth down on Verstappen.

Taking pole position, it led Verstappen to express surprise on team radio and exclaim “LOL, what happened to the others? This was terrible. I mean, I’ll take it”, as it appeared Red Bull had not had the advantage following SQ2.

With Perez relegated to third, it was Daniel Ricciardo who put in the performance of the day as he finished fourth for RB as teammate Yuki Tsunoda was knocked out in Q2.

Carlos Sainz finished fifth for Ferrari, three-tenths down on Leclerc and almost half a second down on the top time, while McLaren’s soft tyre performance fell away compared to what they had managed on the mediums.

Oscar Piastri was sixth in his upgraded McLaren, while Lance Stroll came out on top of the Aston Martin battle to claim seventh ahead of Fernando Alonso.

Lando Norris finished ninth for McLaren, while Hulkenberg rounded out the top 10. recommends

2024 Miami Grand Prix – Sprint qualifying results

F1 starting grid: How will the drivers line up for the Miami Grand Prix Sprint?


With Perez setting the initial pace in SQ2, Norris underlined the potency of McLaren’s upgrades by beating his time on the mediums by some three-tenths of a second as he popped in a 1:27.597.

Verstappen was only given one lap to do a time good enough to get through into the top 10, starting his flying lap with just two minutes remaining in the session. While unable to trouble the front, his time was good enough to make it into safety and through into SQ3.

Norris held onto top spot at the chequered flag, 0.268 clear of Perez, with Leclerc making it through in third place ahead of Verstappen.

Ricciardo was another driver to tap the wall at Turn 16 but put in a great lap to make it through in fifth place, ahead of Piastri, Alonso, and Sainz.

The top 10 was rounded out by Stroll and Hulkenberg.

Marking a tough day for Mercedes, both George Russell and Lewis Hamilton were knocked out – Russell falling short by 0.013 seconds and Hamilton by 0.041 seconds. Hamilton got on the radio to report he had struck the wall exiting Turn 16, costing him a little bit of drive down the following straight.

The stewards are also set to investigate a pitlane incident involving Hamilton when he came into the pits. The pit crew were not wearing their helmets, as the rules require.

Joining the Mercedes drivers on the sidelines after SQ2 were Alpine’s Esteban Ocon, Haas’ Kevin Magnussen, and Tsunoda.


Having spun himself out of the practice session earlier on Friday, Leclerc was straight out on track at the start of Sprint Qualifying in order to maximise his time on track and familiarise himself with the tricky Miami Autodrome.

It didn’t take him long to increase his pace, with Leclerc slotting into third with two minutes left in SQ1 behind the pacesetters Verstappen and Piastri.

Piastri found himself embroiled in an eye-opening incident in the final two minutes, as he approached a very slow Valtteri Bottas approaching Turn 1. Diving up the inside of the Finn, the Sauber driver turned into the corner and struck the McLaren’s sidepod.

The unflustered Piastri got on team radio to say “If that’s not a penalty, I don’t know what is,” while Bottas berated his new race engineer by saying “That was too late, man, I had no idea”.

The stewards opted to have a look at the incident following the Sprint Qualifying session, but Bottas wasn’t to escape the elimination zone anyway – the Sauber driver was knocked out along with teammate Zhou Guanyu, the Williams drivers Alex Albon and Logan Sargeant, and Alpine’s Pierre Gasly.

Albon’s best lap was deleted due to running wide and exceeding track limits at the chicane, meaning Sargeant outqualified Albon for the first time as Williams teammates.

Alonso was lucky to be able to continue after a hefty strike of the wall while exiting Turn 16, with onboard footage showing the Spaniard looking in his mirrors to check for damage as he accelerated away from the corner.

Leclerc also tapped the wall at the same spot, a lighter strike than Alonso’s, marking another moment of drama for the Monegasque driver at Turn 16.

The session ended with Lando Norris and Oscar Piastri topping the times in their upgraded McLarens, ahead of Alonso, Verstappen, and Magnussen.

Sprint Qualifying results – 2024 Miami Grand Prix

  1. 1 Max Verstappen Red Bull Racing 1:27.641
  2. 2 Charles Leclerc Ferrari +0.108
  3. 3 Sergio Perez Red Bull Racing +0.235
  4. 4 Daniel Ricciardo RB +0.403
  5. 5 Carlos Sainz Ferrari +0.462
  6. 6 Oscar Piastri McLaren +0.520
  7. 7 Lance Stroll Aston Martin +0.734
  8. 8 Fernando Alonso Aston Martin +0.778
  9. 9 Lando Norris McLaren +0.831
  10. 10 Nico Hulkenberg Haas F1 Team +0.835
  11. 11 George Russell Mercedes
  12. 12 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes
  13. 13 Esteban Ocon Alpine
  14. 14 Kevin Magnussen Haas F1 Team
  15. 15 Yuki Tsunoda RB
  16. 16 Pierre Gasly Alpine
  17. 17 Guanyu Zhou Kick Sauber
  18. 18 Valtteri Bottas Kick Sauber
  19. 19 Logan Sargeant Williams
  20. 20 Alexander Albon Williams