F1 Miami GP | FP1 | Verstappen leads Piastri and Sainz as Leclerc’s awkward spin brings out the red flag

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Formula One returns to the United States for the Miami Grand Prix. 

It’s a second consecutive sprint weekend, meaning the drivers only get one practice session to get to grips with the challenging street circuit before Sprint qualifying later in the day. 

Almost immediately the McLaren drivers came on the radio to complain about the steering feeling heavy, with Lando Norris struggling when turning right. 

Zak Brown clarified that Norris’s issue was caused by “asymmetric power steering assistance” rather than the upgrades McLaren brought to Miami. 

It was a rough start to the weekend for Charles Leclerc. The Ferrari driver climbed the kerb at Turn 16 and spun, finding himself facing the wrong way in an awkward part of the track, under the flyover. He initially attempted to wrestle his car back into position and get going again, but there wasn’t enough room between the walls and the red flag was thrown nine minutes into the session so Leclerc’s Ferrari could be recovered by the marshals. 

The misadventure proved costly for Leclerc as he was forced to miss the remainder of the weekend’s sole practice session. While all other drivers managed to complete a minimum of 21 laps, Leclerc only completed three and a half. Sainz, meanwhile, went quickest with 1:29.331, staying there for the next 15 minutes of the session. 

The drivers generally struggled with that section of the track, with many making mistakes as they tried to find their rhythm, with Turns 14 through 17 catching drivers out.   

It wasn’t the smoothest session for Max Verstappen either, as his RB20 seemed unbalanced for the majority of the time. The reigning champion locked up into Turn 17 and had to take the escape road. He struggled to put a lap together until the closing stages of the session, ultimately propelling himself to P1 with a 1:28.595, just a tenth clear of McLaren’s Oscar Piastri.

Sergio Perez, by comparison, had a very solid session, shooting to the top of the timesheets as the session resumed with 1:29.632s on used mediums. He lost out in the final minutes of the session with a compromised lap, dethroned by Verstappen. Sainz, Piastri and Russell also improved, pushing the Mexican down to 6th. Stroll rounded out the top 5. 

Williams’ Alex Albon was the first driver to make the switch to soft tyres as he set off on a qualifying simulation run with 15 minutes left on the clock. 

Albon had a hairy moment as he caught a slide in Turn 4, later reporting rear locking as his car got loose again on his next lap. 

Alpine’s Pierre Gasly briefly went fastest overall on softs in the final ten minutes. Both Ocon and Gasly ended the session inside the top 10, joined by RB’s Yuki Tsunoda in 8th.

The Mercedes drivers—sporting new floors for Miami—also had a fairly productive outing. George Russell posted a 1:28.910 and briefly sent himself to the top of the timesheets. Russell and Hamilton finished the session 4th and 7th respectively.