Winners and losers from the 2024 Miami Grand Prix qualifying

Thomas Maher
Max Verstappen, Daniel Ricciardo, 2024 Miami Grand Prix qualifying.

Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo feature on our list of Winners and Losers from the 2024 Miami Grand Prix qualifying session.

Qualifying for the Miami Grand Prix yielded few surprises with the same front row as Sprint Qualifying, although an earlier star performer slipped backward badly.

Having seen off Charles Leclerc in the Sprint Qualifying session and the ensuing Sprint race, Max Verstappen took pole position for the 2024 Miami Grand Prix.

Max Verstappen

On a weekend where he has spent most of his time seemingly completely confused by why exactly he’s quicker than everyone, given the supposedly awful tyre behaviour on his Red Bull, Verstappen has nonetheless kept a nose ahead of everyone during this weekend.

With none of the top three improving on their second runs in Q3, Verstappen’s first lap proved enough to take pole position and secure the top spot.

While his post-session radio wasn’t quite as memorable as his “LOL” message after Sprint Qualifying, the Dutch driver explained after qualifying that, for once, Red Bull haven’t been enjoying the Pirelli tyres.

“I think it has just been extremely difficult to put a lap in where everything just works,” he said.

“For some reason, it’s just extremely difficult to make the tyres work around the whole lap. Yeah, sometimes you have little moments here and there and it’s just not very consistent, let’s say it like that. And that makes it very difficult to, let’s say, try and hit a perfect lap.

“So every lap that you put on the board was a bit of guessing what was going to happen, which doesn’t make it very nice to drive. But I think we handled the situation well. We did the best we could and the car definitely felt a little bit nicer compared to yesterday.”

Given he managed to control the Sprint with a car he was less happy with, the signs are good for the winning to continue on Sunday.

Charles Leclerc/Ferrari

The weird-looking bluey-red Ferrari has been a good performer so far this weekend, appearing more competitive than it was two weeks ago in China.

Leclerc has responded to the early season pressure applied by Sainz and is starting to establish himself once again, coming out on top by less than a tenth of a second.

Bemoaning the tyres as the reason he couldn’t improve on his second run and try finding the tenth he needed to challenge Verstappen, the Monégasque driver pointed to the fact both he and Sainz are lining up behind Verstappen as being able to take a two-pronged attack into the race.

“Just the Sprint race, we were a little bit closer to what we normally see,” Leclerc said of his optimism for the Grand Prix.

“Max wasn’t really happy with his car this morning in the Sprint race. So we need to see how much of a step forward he does tomorrow, being happier with the car.

“But we did some fine-tuning on our side. We’re also confident we did a step forward. so we’ll see.

“But, if we have a similar pace like we’ve seen this morning then I think, with strategy, you can always put a bit more a bit more pressure. And I hope that is the case. We’ve got the two cars in the front, so it’s a good opportunity.”

Mercedes

The Sprint portion of the weekend was absolutely horrible for Mercedes, with neither George Russell nor Lewis Hamilton able to break free of the midfield after a poor qualifying.

But, having made setup changes after the Sprint, aimed at helping their race pace after having more ultimate pace than the cars they were held up by, the two cars managed to make it through into Q3 with relative ease.

Mercedes ran out of fresh soft tyres for their final runs in Q3, but seventh and eighth on the grid isn’t a disaster. Sure, it’s very far from the standards Mercedes were once used to but, once again, Hamilton showed the flashes of speed that hint at the potential inherent in the W15. If only Mercedes could figure out how to unlock it on a consistent basis.

McLaren

McLaren’s erratic weekend has promised more than what’s been achieved so far, but fifth and sixth on the grid for Sunday’s race has the Woking-based squad ready for battle for Ferrari and Red Bull.

The Sprint portion of the weekend got away from McLaren, due to their inability to get the soft tyres working optimally in time for a full Q3 race, and Norris unusually took some time to experiment with the medium tyre during qualifying.

The comprehensive upgrade package introduced this weekend hasn’t been optimised for the car, given the lack of practice time, but the initial signs are good for the Woking-based squad.

The team is edging ever closer to what Red Bull and Ferrari are capable of and McLaren are, arguably, the outright quickest Mercedes-powered team. With a little bit of luck on circumstances, there’s little separating Norris from securing his first F1 race win.

Logan Sargeant

Sure, his F1 career might be ticking away rather rapidly if Kimi Antonelli is given an FIA dispensation to be granted a super licence before his 18th birthday, but Sargeant is digging deep during what might be his final home race.

Finishing 10th in the Sprint race – annoyingly not a points place – he missed out on Q2 by just 0.034 seconds and was just over a tenth slower than Alex Albon.

On a weekend where he’s out-qualified Albon for the first time ever as Williams teammates (granted, after Albon had a time deleted), Sargeant hasn’t looked as out of his depth as he has on frequent occasions and, so far, can look back on this weekend with some pride.

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Losers

Daniel Ricciardo

Having shown clear improvement during the first half of the weekend as he finished in fourth and held off the charge of Carlos Sainz’s Ferrari, it was back down to earth with a bang for Ricciardo in qualifying.

With a three-place grid penalty a sword of Damocles hanging over him coming into qualifying, Ricciardo struggled for grip and was knocked out at the first hurdle and is now facing a tough Sunday.

But, make no mistake, Ricciardo’s confidence is returning and the Australian can look at this weekend as being a big turning point in his comeback – even if qualifying went wrong.

“It’s nice to still have that dog in me; it’s cool. A lot of people like to talk s**t so it’s nice to couple of middle fingers up, subtly,” Ricciardo said after the session.

“We had a little bit of a sniff yesterday and I feel like we capitalised on that. Here we are, four hours later, starting last for tomorrow!”

Having had to go from the high of the Sprint to the low of qualifying, Ricciardo said he felt it was like what had happened for Norris in Sprint Qualifying.

“I feel like it was one of those ones where I don’t think we could have done anything in terms of I didn’t have the grip starting the lap,” he said.

“I generally felt like Lando how he felt yesterday in SQ3. I don’t know what he said afterwards, but I saw his lap and he went pretty much a second slower on that soft. You could see him sliding already from the exit of Turn 1 and it was a mess, and that’s honestly how I felt.

“It didn’t feel like that second set of tyres give me typically what it should with a new soft, so I felt like we were a little bit kind of handicapped. Obviously, we don’t have an answer why, I’m not sure if Lando had an answer yesterday, but I felt his pain.

“The lap time’s there in the car, I simply just don’t really know what happened with that second set of tyres. It’s kind of a thing to say because there are no facts behind it, but you feel it when it doesn’t give you what you want, so that’s where the frustration lies.”

Kevin Magnussen

Magnussen is falling into the role of becoming a (very effective) rear gunner for Nico Hulkenberg, given his willingness to absolutely throw all semblance of pretence out the window when he needs to defend against the cars behind him.

His Sprint race was hilariously entertaining, a typical display of his outright refusal to be overtaken by anyone, ever.

Racking up over half a minute’s worth of penalties, he shook it off to set about qualifying on a clean sheet of paper as the stewards looked into his behaviour for allegedly unsportsmanlike driving.

While Hulkenberg made it through to Q3, Magnussen was knocked out in 19th after his flying lap was ruined at Turn 17 due to some distracting traffic that could have done a better job getting out of the way.

“I sound like a broken record every time after qualifying talking about traffic,” he said afterward.

“I think we have a decent car so should be able to do something tomorrow, but I’m tired of starting from a bad position because of traffic. For now, it’s time to stay focused and do the job.”

Fernando Alonso

Alonso hasn’t been his usual sharp self this weekend and, unusually, has even been having trouble keeping pace with Lance Stroll.

His contact with Stroll at Turn 1 in the Sprint might have been problematic for intra-team relations, but he was saved by the harder hit from Hamilton that passed the blame over to the Mercedes driver.

Only managing 15th on the grid as his final flying lap in Q2 ebbed away from him, replays showed him missing apexes and generally struggling for grip – Stroll managing to come out on top by a few tenths, although the Canadian couldn’t make it into Q3 either.

“We struggled in Q1 and Q2 and finished in P15 in both sessions,” Alonso said afterward.

“I didn’t seem to have much pace and we were just outside of that group fighting for the top ten this time around. We made some set-up changes from the Sprint race to now and it seems these changes didn’t work.

The steward’s decisions

There have been some absolutely baffling decisions made by the stewards recently. At the time of writing, the right of review lodged by Aston Martin coming into the weekend has still yet to be formally signed off on – although it’s understood the petition has been denied.

Having been caught up and, arguably, the catalyst of the first-lap accident in the Sprint race, the stewards almost immediately decided not to investigate – even though more than one car had been eliminated as a result.

While Hamilton escaped any sort of scrutiny for that, Fernando Alonso picked up a rather draconian penalty for his far more minor incident with Carlos Sainz in the Chinese Sprint, and even got a penalty for slowing down in front of George Russell and contributing to the Mercedes driver’s late-race crash in Australia.

But, with the stewards not slapping Hamilton with a penalty for that, it was the innocent Lando Norris who did get a big penalty as he got a €50,000 fine for walking across the track to return to the pits due to not having got permission from the stewards.

A few moments later, Kevin Magnussen was also given an instant 10-second time penalty for missing the chicane – due to having gone off track and gaining a lasting advantage in the eyes of the stewards, an apparently much bigger issue than hitting other cars while entering a corner too quickly.

The stewarding decisions have got a bit inconsistent recently and Alonso has been the main victim of some dodgy decision making. His comments to DAZN, in which he said the stewards wouldn’t do anything as Hamilton “isn’t Spanish” might yet land him in further hot water, due to it appearing to call them into disrepute, but it has to be said – the Spaniard does seem to have a point.

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