(Miami Gardens) Sergio Pérez (Red Bull) clinched the lead in the Miami Grand Prix on Sunday, the fifth round of the Formula 1 season, and will start far ahead of his teammate Max Verstappen, unlucky in Q3 and only ninth.

Dominating during free practice and the first two parts of qualifying, the Dutch reigning double world champion was unable to defend his chances due to an accident for Charles Leclerc.

Coming out of the pits late, “Mad Max” was on track to set his first lap when the Monegasque sent his Ferrari into the wall two minutes from the end of Q3, causing the deployment of a red flag synonymous with interruption of the session.

“It’s unlucky, but we hadn’t done a lap yet and it’s my fault. It’s a shame because we had been very competitive since the start of the weekend. The car was very fast, we saw that in Q2, so it’s very frustrating,” explained Verstappen.

Hounded in the championship standings by Pérez (93 points against 87), the Dutchman remains very ambitious for the race where he said he was aiming for “at least second place”.

At the second round of the season in mid-March in Saudi Arabia, he took second place behind Pérez after starting in 15th place due to a mechanical problem during qualifying.

On the other hand, all the lights are green for his Mexican teammate. Winner of the sprint and the Grand Prix last weekend in Azerbaijan, he secured his second leading position of the season and is now a strong favorite for victory at the Miami International Autodrome on Sunday. However, he did not seem at ease during free practice.

“It was one of my worst weekends until qualifying. I reset everything and made changes before qualifying and I managed to tune the car better. Before qualifying I struggled to find balance and confidence,” he explained.

Spanish veteran Fernando Alonso set the second fastest time at the wheel of his Aston Martin and reinvigorated his team which had taken a hit behind the head with the disappointing 18th place of his Quebec team-mate Lance Stroll.

His compatriot Carlos Sainz confirmed the recovery of Ferrari, which had won its first podium of the season in Baku, by winning third place. Leclerc, author of the pole in Azerbaijan, achieved the seventh fastest time before hitting the wall and precipitating in spite of himself the end of Q3.

“I’m mad at myself. I made the same mistake as yesterday at the same turn. Qualifying is one of my strengths, but today it didn’t go well so I’m very disappointed,” admitted the Monegasque.

To everyone’s surprise, the Dane Kevin Magnussen will start from fourth place to the delight of his Haas team, which plays at home in the United States.

After a disastrous weekend in Azerbaijan, Alpine has raised the bar well by placing its two single-seaters in the top 8. Frenchman Esteban Ocon achieved the 8th time, while his compatriot Pierre Gasly took fifth place, his best result in qualifying since his arrival this winter in the tricolor team.

The disappointment came from Mercedes as seven-time British world champion Lewis Hamilton was eliminated in Q2 after setting the 13th fastest time, while fellow countryman George Russell limited the damage by setting the sixth fastest time.