Perez on Miami GP pole; Verstappen ninth


Red Bull’s Sergio Perez took pole position for the Miami Grand Prix, while team-mate and title rival Max Verstappen will start only ninth.

Verstappen made a mistake on his first run in the final session and when Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc crashed there was no time to resume the session.

Aston Martin’s Fernando Alonso will join Perez on the front row.

Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz is third, with Kevin Magnussen scoring a sensational fourth for the US-based Haas team.

“That was a mistake of mine trying to put it to the limit and then having to abort the lap,” said Verstappen.

“Then you rely on a bit of luck of course that there is not going to be a red flag. It can happen on a street circuit so I’m a bit upset with myself.”

Elsewhere, Mercedes struggled. Lewis Hamilton was knocked out in the second session and will start down in 13th. He was compromised by the team sending him out late, which affected his ability to prepare his tyres effectively.

George Russell managed to sneak through into the top-10 shootout, where he secured sixth place behind the Alpine of Pierre Gasly.

Leclerc crash shakes up the order
Both Verstappen and Leclerc were under pressure going into the final runs after making errors in the early part of the session.

Verstappen had run wide at Turns Six and Seven and Leclerc brushed the wall at Turn 16.

Both needed to deliver on their final runs but Leclerc wrecked the rest of the session for everyone else when, running early, he lost control through the fast Turn Six and spun on the entry to Turn Seven, backing his Ferrari into the wall.

It was Leclerc’s second crash in two days at the same place after he also lost control a little later in the same sequence of corners in second practice on Friday. He will line up seventh.

The result is a huge bonus for Perez, who is six points behind Verstappen in a private championship battle between the two drivers for the dominant Red Bull team.

Perez had looked out of sorts for much of the weekend but he nailed an excellent lap on the first runs in the final session to put himself in the prime position going into the final runs.

The Mexican beat Alonso by 0.361secs as the veteran Spaniard continues his excellent start to the season.

Sainz was a further 0.147secs behind in his Ferrari.

Behind Leclerc, Alpine’s Esteban Ocon, Verstappen and Alfa Romeo’s Valtteri Bottas completed the top 10. (BBC Sport)

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