George Russell and Max Verstappen have made the early statements at the star-studded Miami Grand Prix, topping a practice session each on the meet’s opening day.
Russell was fastest in FP1 while improving track conditions benefited Verstappen in FP2, who went some 2.2 seconds faster to top the timesheet for the day.
Niko Hulkenberg was a casualty of the first run, spinning his Haas through Turn 3 and hitting the outside wall at the corner exit. He emerged from the crash unharmed but left his crew with plenty of work to repair the car for FP2.
Late traffic didn’t stop Russell from going fastest with a 1:30.125, .212 seconds ahead of his teammate Lewis Hamilton in second. Charles Leclerc showed pace in his Ferrari to go third fastest, topping rival and championship leader Verstappen in fourth and Carlos Sainz in fifth. Perez could only manage the 11th-fastest lap in FP1.
Formula 1 is the sole Open Wheel class on the bill at the Miami Grand Prix, meaning grip through the racing line has been limited. As the sessions progressed, the times began to tumble as the racing line evolved.
A crash for Leclerc with 10 minutes to run at the end of FP2 brought out the red flag, the Monagasque driver losing the rear of his Ferrari at the Turn 8 hairpin, correcting but running too hot to shoot front-on into the outside wall at the corner entry.
Leclerc was also unharmed in the crash, with the damage to his Ferrari seeming limited to the front right, the new floor appearing to escape in one piece.
Just three minutes remained in FP2 when the track went green, teams electing to run on race pace over the final laps.
That meant Verstappen held the fastest lap of FP2, the two-time World Champion the only driver to go under the 1:28 barrier with a 1:27.930, some 2.2 seconds faster than Russell’s table-topping time in FP1.
Sainz was second fastest, just shy of four-tenths off the pace, one spot ahead of Leclerc, who held third despite his late incident. Perez improved to set the fourth-best time, still half a second shy of his teammate, whom he can take the championship lead off this weekend.
Both Aston Martins have also shown decent pace through the two practices. However, they seem to be slower than Mercedes and Ferrari, who can both leapfrog them in their second spot in the Constructors Championship with a strong showing in Florida.
McLaren and Alpine appear to be the best of the rest, with Lando Norris, Oscar Piastri, Esteban Ocon and Pierre Gasly all making or threatening the top 10 over the day.
Formula 1 returns for a further practice session at 4.15 am tomorrow, ahead of qualifying, with coverage starting at 7 am on Sky Sport 3.
The Miami Grand Prix begins at 7.15 am on Monday.