November 29, 2022

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Miami GP: Charles Leclerc’s big chance to extend title lead as Lewis Hamilton addresses Mercedes form

6 min read

Charles Leclerc on pole ahead of Carlos Sainz and Max Verstappen with Lewis Hamilton sixth and George Russell only 12th for Mercedes; Watch inaugural Miami GP live on Sky Sports F1 tonight at 8.30pm, with build-up from 7pm

Last Updated: 08/05/22 6:53pm


Ferrari's Charles Leclerc joins Karun Chandhok to discuss how he was able to take pole position in the Miami GP.

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Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc joins Karun Chandhok to discuss how he was able to take pole position in the Miami GP.

Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc joins Karun Chandhok to discuss how he was able to take pole position in the Miami GP.

Charles Leclerc has a huge chance to extend his championship lead over Max Verstappen as he lines up on pole for Sunday night’s Miami GP, the star-studded new race that is set to provide another 2022 thriller amid a boom in Formula 1 popularity and excitement in the United States.

Lewis Hamilton meanwhile insists he has done a “damn good job” to qualify sixth for the maiden Miami event given Mercedes’ continued struggles.

The Miami GP is live on Sky Sports F1 at 8.30pm, with build-up from 7pm, and the season and the title race could well take another twist as the sport hits an unforgiving street track specially built for fine racing.

Leclerc will start on pole ahead of Ferrari team-mate Carlos Sainz for the race, with Max Verstappen only third after a costly error robbed him of momentum following his victory in Round Four. Leclerc, on the other hand, couldn’t have asked for a better opportunity to build on a 27-point lead as he chases his first world championship.

“Carlos is very competitive too so hopefully we can have both of us in front of the Red Bull,” Leclerc told Sky Sports F1, with Ferrari also leading the constructors’ standings after a superb start to the season,

Charles Leclerc says he pleased Ferrari teammate Carlos Sainz will line up behind him as Leclerc claims pole position in the Miami GP.

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Charles Leclerc says he pleased Ferrari teammate Carlos Sainz will line up behind him as Leclerc claims pole position in the Miami GP.

Charles Leclerc says he pleased Ferrari teammate Carlos Sainz will line up behind him as Leclerc claims pole position in the Miami GP.

“Let’s see if our performance is enough.”

Leclerc and Verstappen’s title rivalry – which has already produced incredible wheel-to-wheel racing and skill – is poised to dominate the F1 2022 campaign and it also headlines F1’s latest race in America, much to the delight of a bumper Miami crowd who have generated a wild atmosphere through the weekend.

There is a feeling that F1 – with two and soon to be three races Stateside – has finally cracked the USA, and as well as a huge fan presence there will also be several A-list celebrities in attendance.

David Beckham, LeBron James and Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson are just a few of the stars that will be watching on from a track that, surrounding the Miami Dolphins’ Hard Rock Stadium, aptly has a Super Bowl feel.

Max Verstappen says he wasn't expecting miracles in qualification after struggling in Practice sessions and admits he was pleasantly surprised with his performance.

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Max Verstappen says he wasn’t expecting miracles in qualification after struggling in Practice sessions and admits he was pleasantly surprised with his performance.

Max Verstappen says he wasn’t expecting miracles in qualification after struggling in Practice sessions and admits he was pleasantly surprised with his performance.

“We don’t know about race pace, especially with Max because he didn’t run in P2, but with more laps I am sure he will only be more competitive,” added Leclerc.

“It is going to be tight, but it is great to have Carlos by my side.”

Hamilton insists: I’m performing well in ‘very hard car’

Despite not being in contention at the front, Mercedes will once again be a major talking point for the race after a topsy-turvy weekend. Mercedes started the Miami GP by hinting they were back, topping Friday practice, but Saturday experiments with downforce led them back to where they have been for much of the season, fighting in the midfield.

Lewis Hamilton says Mercedes are not moving forward at the pace they'd like but is happy with today's performance in qualifying.

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Lewis Hamilton says Mercedes are not moving forward at the pace they’d like but is happy with today’s performance in qualifying.

Lewis Hamilton says Mercedes are not moving forward at the pace they’d like but is happy with today’s performance in qualifying.

Hamilton qualified sixth and George Russell only 12th.

With their porpoising issues seemingly returning it could be a tough race for Mercedes, and Russell admitted the “flip-flopping of performance” meant a prediction was impossible. Hamilton, however, should be able to score strong points and, after a couple of tricky weekends, is proud of his work so far.

“I am generally really happy with the job I did,” Hamilton said after qualifying. “I did the best I could with the car that I have. It’s a very hard car to drive.”

George Russell says the flip-flopping performance of his Mercedes 'really doesn't make a lot of sense' after qualifying 12th in Miami, his worst of the season so far.

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George Russell says the flip-flopping performance of his Mercedes ‘really doesn’t make a lot of sense’ after qualifying 12th in Miami, his worst of the season so far.

George Russell says the flip-flopping performance of his Mercedes ‘really doesn’t make a lot of sense’ after qualifying 12th in Miami, his worst of the season so far.

Hamilton added that a French reporter had told him he was “not performing so well”. He responded to media in Miami: “I did a damn good job today and I’m happy with it.”

Drivers angry over concrete wall safety concerns

There is also an undercurrent of discontent heading into the race, specifically from drivers who have crashed over the weekend and feel F1’s governing body the FIA are not listening to their safety concerns.

Sainz and Alpine’s Esteban Ocon, who both crashed heavily into the Turn 14 wall during practice in Miami – with Ocon missing qualifying altogether because of it – and argued that a Tecpro barrier should have been erected to soften the blow of the impact against concrete.

“I am sorry to be critical but I told the FIA yesterday that my crash in second gear should not feel that hard but today my neck was in pain a bit,” said Sainz.

Carlos Sainz and Esteban Ocon make complaints about their concrete wall crashes at turn 14 at the Miami GP and believe it should be Tecpro at that corner for the safety of the drivers.

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Carlos Sainz and Esteban Ocon make complaints about their concrete wall crashes at turn 14 at the Miami GP and believe it should be Tecpro at that corner for the safety of the drivers.

Carlos Sainz and Esteban Ocon make complaints about their concrete wall crashes at turn 14 at the Miami GP and believe it should be Tecpro at that corner for the safety of the drivers.

“I told them ‘let’s put Tecpro there’ because it’s a very hard concrete wall. I’m pretty sure Esteban felt it too.

“It’s one of those things that I will never understand.”

Sainz said he had brought the matter up in Friday’s drivers’ briefing but nothing had changed.

Ocon’s crash cracked his car’s chassis and meant he could not take part in qualifying.

The Frenchman said it had been a 51G impact and painful, although he was cleared to race.

“The impact has been so hard in comparison to what it should have been. We’ve discussed it with Carlos yesterday, with the race directors, to say that we should probably put a Tecpro barrier there and it hasn’t been listened to,” he added.

Sky Sports' Karun Chandhok takes a closer look at the final qualifying laps of Ferrari pair Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz.

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Sky Sports’ Karun Chandhok takes a closer look at the final qualifying laps of Ferrari pair Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz.

Sky Sports’ Karun Chandhok takes a closer look at the final qualifying laps of Ferrari pair Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz.

“That is not acceptable, and the FIA should push harder for our safety.”

There was no immediate comment from the governing body.