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Miami GP Qualifying: Sergio Perez takes pole as Charles Leclerc crash leaves Max Verstappen ninth

Sergio Perez boosts world championship hopes by taking pole in Miami; Charles Leclerc's crash in Q3 ended session; Max Verstappen starts ninth after failing to set a time; watch the Miami GP live on Sky Sports F1 at 8:30pm on Sunday, build-up from 7pm

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Charles Leclerc had a massive crash in his Ferrari towards the end of Q3, bringing out the red flag and in the process handing pole to Red Bull's Sergio Perez

Sergio Perez claimed pole at the Miami Grand Prix as Charles Leclerc's crash prematurely ended Qualifying and left Max Verstappen ninth on the grid.

Fernando Alonso took second for Aston Martin ahead of Ferrari's Carlos Sainz, while there were surprise high finishes behind them for Haas' Kevin Magnussen in fourth and Alpine's Pierre Gasly in fifth.

Verstappen, who leads Red Bull team-mate Perez at the top of the drivers' championship by six points, aborted his first attempt at a flying lap in the final part of Qualifying after an error and was then prevented from completing his second effort when Ferrari's Leclerc hitting the barrier at Turn 7 prompted a red flag.

The Dutchman, who is chasing a third successive drivers' title, had appeared in a league of his own after topping second and third practice, but paid a heavy price for a momentary loss of control.

In contrast, Perez, who arrived in the US buoyed by a sprint and race victory in Azerbaijan last weekend, had admitted on Friday he was struggling with his driving around the Miami International Autodrome.

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Sergio Perez joined Anthony Davidson at the SkyPad to reflect on sealing pole position for the Miami Grand Prix

However, when it mattered most, the Mexican produced a strong lap that gives him a huge opportunity to secure a victory that would take him above Verstappen in the championship, with Red Bull seeking a fifth win in as many races this season.

"It has been my worst weekend up to qualifying," Perez said. "I couldn't figure out how to put those tenths all the time that I was missing to Max and the Ferraris.

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"I was just resetting everything we did, we made a small change into qualifying that really everything became more alive. We put in the lap when it mattered."

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Lewis Hamilton could only go 13th fastest as he failed to make it into Q3 for the first time in the United States

George Russell was sixth for Mercedes, ahead of Leclerc and the other Alpine of Esteban Ocon, while Valtteri Bottas rounded out the top 10 for Alfa Romeo.

Earlier there had been surprise exits for Aston Martin's Lance Stroll, who starts 18th, and Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton, who was 13th.

Miami GP Qualifying Result
1) Sergio Perez, Red Bull
2) Fernando Alonso, Aston Martin
3) Carlos Sainz, Ferrari
4) Kevin Magnussen, Haas
5) Pierre Gasly, Alpine
6) George Russell, Mercedes
7) Charles Leclerc, Ferrari
8) Esteban Ocon, Alpine
9) Max Verstappen, Red Bull
10) Valtteri Bottas, Alfa Romeo

Verstappen, Leclerc left to rue errors

Having been outdriven by Perez in Azerbaijan, Verstappen appeared to have summoned his best form as he produced imperious displays in the final two practice sessions.

The Dutchman, who has been calm and focused amid the fanfare surrounding the first of three US races this season, then looked to be on course for a third pole of the season as he topped Q1 and Q2.

However, the Miami track - and the windy conditions - had caught just about every driver out at some point during the weekend, and Verstappen's moment came at the worst possible time.

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Red Bull driver Max Verstappen reacts to an immediate P9 finish after Charles Leclerc brought out the red flag to end qualifying early

"I was trying to put it on the limit and then I made a mistake and had to abort the lap," Verstappen said.

"Then you rely on a bit of luck that there is not going to be a red flag, but that can happen on a street circuit. I'm just a bit upset with myself."

He may have got away with it if it had not been for Leclerc's latest display of ill-discipline.

After a promising weekend in Azerbaijan that saw him claim a first podium of the season, Leclerc has endured a highly erratic weekend in Miami.

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Anthony Davidson was at the SkyPad to analyse how Charles Leclerc could have avoided crashing his Ferrari in the final part of qualifying

The Ferrari driver crashed in practice on Friday, and it was at the same corner - Turn 7 - where his Qualifying incident occurred.

While Baku was an overall success for Leclerc, he also crashed in a Sprint qualifying session in which he took pole, and his mounting errors will no doubt be of growing concern for Ferrari.

"I think what's unacceptable is doing twice the same mistake in the same corner," Leclerc said.

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Ferrari driver Charles Leclerc reflects on a disappointing qualifying session after he crashed into the barriers at the Miami Grand Prix

"I am really disappointed in myself. You cannot always find excuses in those stations, the wind was really strong, it was really tricky, the set up of the car was tricky also but I put myself in this situation."

The only consolation for Ferrari was that Sainz benefitted from the series of events to take third.

Meanwhile, Alonso will be targeting a fourth podium in five races this season after equalling his best qualifying performance of the campaign.

Shock early exits for Hamilton, Stroll

While Red Bull's - and to a lesser degree Ferrari's - pace had been evident in practice, going into Qualifying it was hugely unclear what the pecking order would be behind them.

That unpredictability played out in dramatic fashion as Stroll, who had reached Q3 at each of the previous four races this season, was a casualty in Q1.

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Lewis Hamilton was despondent after qualifying 13th in his Mercedes for the Miami Grand Prix

The fact that the newly laid surface was rapidly improving throughout each session meant that there was jeopardy for the majority of the field, with Alonso only avoiding a Q1 exit by a tenth of a second.

Both Mercedes drivers escaped from the drop zone in the closing moments of Q1, but Hamilton could not repeat that feat in Q2 as he was left annoyed by being sent out into traffic for an out-lap that he felt compromised his flying effort.

There were also Q1 exits for McLaren duo Lando Norris and Oscar Piastri, with the significant upgrades they brought last weekend in Baku failing to lift them into the midfield.

Miami GP Qualifying Timesheet

Driver Team Time
1) Sergio Perez Red Bull 1:27.713
2) Fernando Alonso Aston Martin +0.361
3) Carlos Sainz Ferrari +0.508
4) Kevin Magnussen Haas +0.926
5) Pierre Gasly Alpine +0.945
6) George Russell Mercedes +0.963
7) Charles Leclerc Ferrari +1.020
8) Esteban Ocon Alpine +1.094
9) Max Verstappen Red Bull no time
10) Valtteri Bottas Alfa Romeo no time
Out in Q2
11) Alex Albon Williams 1:27.795
12) Nico Hulkenberg Haas 1:27.903
13) Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:27.975
14) Zhou Guanyu Alfa Romeo 1:28.091
15) Nyck de Vries AlphaTauri 1:28.395
Out in Q1
16) Lando Norris McLaren 1:28.394
17) Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri 1:28.429
18) Lance Stroll Aston Martin 1:28.476
19) Oscar Piastri McLaren 1:28.484
20) Logan Sargeant Williams 1:28.577

The Formula 1 season continues with the Miami GP - watch Sunday's race live on Sky Sports F1 from 7pm, lights out at 8.30pm. Get Sky Sports

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