Ferrari locked out the front row with Charles Leclerc, but it took a Max Verstappen mistake to open the door to pole — a mistake the Dutchman put down to a lack of clean practice time thanks to a technical problem.
The cost of Red Bull Racing’s unreliability issues continues to compound.
But despite the Dutchman’s disappointment, Ferrari and Red Bull Racing line up on the front two rows of the grid, and the disrupted practice sessions mean neither team has as much data as it would like to strategise the fastest route to the flag. The victory battle remains an open question.
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All four drivers will have to think on their feet as they navigate the hot and slippery Miami circuit, and with so many error-generating corners and several drivers starting out of position, it could well be a frenetic race.
THE NUMBERS GAME HAUNTING FERRARI’S FRONT-ROW LOCKOUT
It might have depended on Max Verstappen making a late mistake, but the battle was just that close that an error was enough to swing momentum behind Ferrari, with Charles Leclerc leading Carlos Sainz to a front-row lockout, the team’s first since 2019.
It’s a steadying result for Leclerc, whose end to the Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix has been a dominant storyline over the last two weeks, but more so for Sainz, whose scrappy run of form intruded into this Friday weekend with two major mistakes during practice, the second of which put him into the wall and cost him most of FP2.
The Ferrari is competitive enough to close out victory if it plays its cards correctly, but historically a front-row lockout is something of a curse for the Italian team.
The Scuderia has converted just one of its last eight front-row starts into one-two finishes, and it’s won just three of those eight races.
Leclerc pole position conversion rate is similarly mixed. Although all four of his race wins have come from pole position, including his two victories this year, he’d taken 11 poles before the Miami Grand Prix for a strike rate of only 36 per cent.
But he has converted both of his 2022 poles into victories, in Bahrain and Australia — it’s been three years, dating back to 2019, since a Ferrari driver has turned so many poles into wins — illustrating his good run of modern form as well as his car’s title-contending strengths.
Ferrari could be up against it in the race this weekend. Relative to the RB18 the SF-75 is still carrying more downforce despite wearing a specific low-drag set-up. Both drivers were resultantly around 10 kilometers per hour down on the straights compared to Verstappen and Sergio Perez.