We’ll be honest, we were just as dubious as anyone that the fresh new Miami GP could do what so many other circuits have failed to do; bring Formula 1 to the USA successfully. If Saturday’s events were anything to go by, however, we had little to fear.
The quali’ session followed straight after a thrilling season opener for the W Series, which saw Britain’s Jamie Chadwick come out on top after a topsy-turvy, safety car laden race. If there was any doubt that the W Series could find an audience, or belief that it would just remain a sideshow, these were all surely put to bed after this display. The crowds enjoying the Miami sun on the artificial waters of the freshly created Yacht Club barely had time to catch their breath before the F1 cars were fired up.
There were no huge dramas to come from Q1, with the 5 teams unfortunate enough to make up the first drop-zone consisting of the usual suspects; two Williams’, Kevin Magnussen’s Haas and Esteban Ocon’s Alpine. Ocon’s car failed to set a lap time after the heavy crash on turn 14 in Friday’s Free Practice 3 session cracked his car’s frame.
Q2 however claimed some big scalps indeed. Two ex-champions in the form of Sebastien Vettel and Fernando Alonso failed to claim their place in the top 10 shoutout. Also forced to sit this one out were Mick Schumacher (with no shortage of F1 prestige himself thanks to his legendary patronage) and, perhaps most shocking of all, the Mercedes of George Russell. This is the first time in the 2022 season that Russell has not out-qualified his team mate, Lewis Hamilton.
So, to the final sprint for pole which is Q3. All weekend Red Bull appeared to have pace on tap and it felt like Max Verstappen was gearing up to claim F1’s first ever Miami GP pole position. It wasn’t until the last few final laps that his lap times were improved upon by both Ferrari pilots, Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz Jr. Still with time on the board to retaliate, Verstappen started his final hot lap attempt looking imperious, but an uncharacteristic mistake in turn 5 cost him any chance of leapfrogging the red cars ahead. He had to make do with 3rd position, just ahead of his team mate Sergio Perez.
Valterri Bottas heroically strong-armed his Alfa Romeo into 5th and Lewis Hamilton’s skill and talent got another weak-looking chassis and engine combination from Mercedes into 6th. Before turning a wheel in anger on the fresh new tarmac, he had seemed more concerned about how much bling he would be allowed to wear following new guidelines. Lets hope this improved qualifying performance can focus his mind on the more important matters and we might see him being more involved at the head of the pack once more.
If the qualifying session was anything to go by, tomorrow’s race is guaranteed to deliver. Then, finally, F1 can hopefully stake its rightful claim on US soil.