Following the enthralling Emilia Romagna Grand Prix, teams made the long trip from Italy to the east of the USA with Florida hosting the inaugural Miami Grand Prix this weekend. The first day of running saw Mercedes make use of its raft of upgrades with George Russell topping the second practice session with his improved Mercedes W13.
The hotly anticipated event at the Miami International Autodrome has lived up to the expectations so far, confronting the drivers with a series of challenges due to its tight confines, crests, quick changes of direction and extremely low level of grip off the racing line.
While championship leader Charles Leclerc continued his impressive form in Florida, his team mate Carlos Sainz crashed in the second practice, giving away crucial mileage and a chance to do long runs. Reigning world champion Max Verstappen also had a difficult first day of running in Miami with overheating problems to the gearbox on his RB18 in FP1 and hydraulic issues in FP2 forcing him to sit out much of the day.
On the other hand, Mercedes suddenly and unexpectedly appeared to be in a much improved form thanks to the layout of the circuit, the heat of Miami, the reduced porpoising effect and the suite of new parts including a new front and rear wing and a new beam wing.
FerrariCharles Leclerc - FP1: 1:31.098, P1; FP2: 1:30.044, P2
"It was a good day. We focused on building up our pace little by little and learned quite a bit about this new track. It is challenging and really nice to drive, with my favourite part being the one from turn 11 to turn 16 in the second sector. Things went smoothly on our side and we tested everything we planned to. It looks like everyone is close together, which should make for an exciting weekend. The asphalt will spice things up. There is very high grip on the racing line and very low grip off it, which will make it difficult to overtake. It is also rather aggressive on tyres, so it will be important to manage them well throughout the race."Carlos Sainz - FP1: 1:31.528, P6; FP2: 1:30.964, P11
"Obviously not the best way to start the weekend after a costly snap ended our Friday early. Still, I feel the car was competitive and I have confidence in our performance. It’s pointless to dwell on today, so we’ll put our full focus on tomorrow and the race. The extra work for the mechanics is the worst part, so I’ll definitely speak to them and the rest of the team. I look forward to tomorrow."
Red BullMax Verstappen - FP1: 1:31.277, P3; FP2: No time set, P19
“It was not a good day for us, we wanted to get out there and learn the track and get fully up to speed but things didn’t go to plan. We just had some hydraulic issues, as soon as I went out I couldn’t really steer and also my breaks were on fire, so there were a few problems. We don’t have a huge amount of information and data for my car which could prove difficult for qualifying and the race but we will do our best. Of course, I will try to catch up tomorrow, we will work very hard as a Team to overcome the issues and hopefully we will be in a good place come qualifying tomorrow.”Sergio Perez - FP1: 1:31.301, P4; FP2: 1:30.150, P3
“It’s been a difficult day for every driver today. I think it was a very messy session this afternoon, in total I did one medium lap and two soft laps. On the high fuel there was nothing we could do because of all the red flags and the time we lost. We are basically going blind into the race and I think most people are in the same boat as us.
"For qualifying we have more of an idea, but things can change very quickly with the weather around here. There isn’t much grip off the racing line on this track and it feels very gravely out there too, it is a shame because I think racing will be hard due to that. Saying that, I think it is going to be an interesting race because all of us don’t know exactly where we are.”
Lewis Hamilton – FP1: 1:31.956, P8; FP2: 1:30.179, P4
"Today is just practice and everyone is doing something different, not showing their true pace, so we won’t get carried away. The car feels similar to me but we seem to be quicker and we’ve obviously improved in places. We still have the bouncing so we haven’t cured it but bit by bit, we’re improving the car. The race is going to be tough, particularly with the tyres overheating and it’s very hot for the drivers, I’ve already lost a couple of kilos today.
"The heat reminds me a little bit of driving in Malaysia - Kuala Lumpur is still number one in terms of the heat, then Singapore, and now here in Miami. There are positive elements to take from today, George looked great out there and the team are trying a lot of different things with our cars, so we’ll converge and hopefully take another step forward tomorrow."
George Russell - FP1: 1:31.169, P2; FP2: 1:29.938, P1
"We always knew that the warm conditions here in Miami would suit our car better – we’ve suffered with getting temperature in the tyres at previous races so that’s a big factor here. The car is running well but it’s only Friday, we’re not getting carried away. It’s probably been the most productive Friday we’ve had this season in terms of learning. We know that the porpoising will always be there but maybe it’s working at a lower range compared to where we were previously.
"You generally have races that go in your favour and some that go against you – Imola obviously wasn’t a strong circuit for us but from what we’ve seen so far, the car seems to work well around Miami. It’s a unique circuit, I was a bit unsure how I would take to the slow-speed tight section underneath the bridge, it’s a bit of a head-banger through there, but for the rest, they’ve done an amazing job – undulating in sections, with high-speed corners, I think it’s great for the fans."
Esteban Ocon - FP1: 1:33.417, P15; FP2: 1:30.861, P9
“After waiting so long for this race weekend and with all the hype, it’s finally great to be able to be on track and experiencing it all for real. For us, it was a good day of learning on what is a brand-new track for everyone. We had a first taste of how the car would behave with the simulator work we did beforehand but, of course, with new data, we can now start to confirm and look deeper into some of the discussion points. The car seems competitive and moving in the right direction, which is good news, but it is tomorrow and Sunday that counts. There’s more to come.”
“It was a good day for us, learning the circuit and moving forward from the simulator laps to the real track. There are always some differences, so today was all about understanding everything quickly. It’s an interesting track to drive and I think we had a clean Friday. There is a lot of data to analyse now, and you can see that there is a lot more to come for everybody. We need to keep fine tuning the car; we look fast again this weekend and I think we are in a good position – I am optimistic.”
AlphaTauriPierre Gasly - FP1: 1:31.498, P5; FP2: 1:30.547, P7
“The track is really cool here, it’s different to what we’re used to with all the varying corners, but so far I’ve really enjoyed it. It’s pretty challenging to drive, as it’s really hot and there’s also a lot of sliding, but it’s fun. The real-life laps times are pretty close to what we were seeing on the sim, it also feels pretty similar to what we were expecting, so we’ve come into the event well prepared.
"I think looking at today’s sessions we’re sitting right on the edge of the top 10, so hopefully we’ll make it through to Q3 in Quali tomorrow. We’ll work hard tonight, as I’m still not fully happy with the car, and hopefully find some more performance ahead of tomorrow.”Yuki Tsunoda - FP1: 1:34.043, P18; FP2: 1:31.260, P13
“The track here is quite special, I really like it, especially Sector 2. I’ve never driven corners like turn 11 and 16 in a F1 car before and it’s super fun. We’re still learning lots about the circuit, it was more slippery out there than I was expecting and if you even go off the racing line with just one tyre you lose a huge amount of grip, as we saw with a few cars today.
"Currently, I’m struggling here a little bit compared to the last few circuits, but I just need to take it step by step and build up the pace. I’m still not fully happy with the balance of the car yet, but we’ll work hard tonight and look to put it all together tomorrow for Quali.”
Daniel Ricciardo - FP1: 1:32.592, P10; FP2: 1:31.208, P12
"It’s cool to be on a new track, although it was challenging as the surface is quite unique and different. It’s not the easiest to get into as just going offline, you lose so much grip. I like the first sector, that’s cool, but the real tight stuff in the middle I think is just a bit too tight for how big the cars are now.
"Overall, we’ve got to work on a few things tonight; just the usual things for a new track, trying to discover and learn, and just try to find a sweet spot for tomorrow."
Lando Norris - FP1: 1:32.615, P11; FP2: 1:30.535, P6
"A reasonable day, if a bit tricky. There’s a few challenges for us to overcome. First of all, the ambient temperatures are tough. The track grip is quite low when you leave the racing line, and it’s quite bumpy in places, so it’s a difficult track because of that. But despite that, we made some good progress throughout the day.
"Hopefully we can make another step into tomorrow and gain even more. It looks very close, between everyone, from the front to the back. Everyone is much closer than they have been lately, which is tough, but hopefully we can just squeeze a bit more performance. I think every little bit of time can be the difference between a few positions. It's going to be a tight qualifying, so every little thing we can get out of the car into tomorrow will be helpful."
Mick Schumacher – FP1: 1:34.945, P19; FP2: 1:31.587, P15
“The tight section is tight, that’s for sure, and the straights are very long so it’s an interesting, different mix. It seems that the run-offs are dirty so once you go off it definitely punishes you, so it’s just a matter of putting everything together and still trying to find some set-up options so that we’re in a good position. Lots learned, lots to learn still, so I’m looking forward to tomorrow.”
Kevin Magnussen – FP1: 1:32.559, P9; FP2: 1:30.921, P10
“It’s been an interesting day with a new track, trying to learn it quickly and get the balance dialed-in as quickly as possible. The track is changing so much because it’s brand new so it’s going to be interesting. The fast sections I’m happy with and that’s not normally what we think our strength is, so let’s see if we can try and improve the low-speed parts tomorrow. Hopefully we’ll stay in the top 10 – we’ll make some changes – but so will everyone else, so we’ll see.”
Valtteri Bottas - FP1: 1:33.773, P17; FP2: No time set, P20
“It’s annoying to miss out on most of the day, but there is still a long way to go in this weekend. Unfortunately, I went slightly on the dirtier part of the track and lost the rear, and when that happens you cannot catch the car back. We damaged the exhaust and the turbo and it was impossible to get the car fixed in time for FP2. It means we need to really maximise the last hour of practice tomorrow: thankfully, the team has made good progress with Zhou and it seems the set-up direction we have taken, with the changes the team made on his car for FP2, is the right one.
"For what I could experience, the track is good fun: it’s technical and challenging, but nice to drive, and the twisty section towards the end is definitely difficult to get right. I think they did a good job in designing a track that should offer good overtaking opportunities, so hopefully the racing will be fun. The focus for me, however, is to catch up on the time we lost today.”Zhou Guanyu - FP1: 1:33.020, P13; FP2: 1:30.860, P8
“I am pretty happy with how the day has gone, especially with the progress we have made between FP1 and FP2. It was quite tricky out there: it’s fun to go to new tracks, but of course the surface is always an issue at the beginning of the weekend. It was very, very slippery, we do expect it to evolve a lot, but we have to find out exactly how much tomorrow.
"I quite enjoyed driving here today, it was a challenge but it was interesting. For me, especially with Valtteri not being able to do FP2, it was key to get as many laps in as possible to get as much data as we could: in that regard, we did well and we have enough to work with to prepare for qualifying. My objective for tomorrow is not changing: I want to keep progressing, make it to Q2 and then do the best I can to see how far high I can get.”
“I think we have made a good start to the weekend, but I feel that there is still room to tweak our car and adapt to the track. It is a tricky circuit and most of the corners are blind, which makes it difficult in terms of navigating traffic. This will likely be an important factor in qualifying, especially in Q1 when you need to find space. The red flags today disrupted some of our running, but we adapted as best we could because you want to get as many laps as possible on a new circuit. There is still pace on the table and if we can make some progress overnight we can hopefully edge closer to the top 10 tomorrow.”Lance Stroll - FP1: 1:33.576, P16; FP2: 1:31.631, P16
“Going to a new venue is always fun and they have created an interesting track here in Miami that offers a good driving challenge. Turns Four to Seven are a fun sequence of corners and allow you to attack. The sessions were disrupted with a few red flags, which is never ideal when you are learning a new track, but we did what we could. The energy around this weekend has been awesome so far and I am excited for qualifying tomorrow when dealing with traffic on a busy track will be especially challenging.”