(Miami) A loot box. That’s what qualifying day was like, which elicited many murmurs of astonishment at the Miami International Autodrome on Saturday. Final verdict: Sergio Pérez, Fernando Alonso and Carlos Sainz Jr. will start at the front of the grid on Sunday.

If Pérez’s top position is more or less a surprise, the absence of his teammate Max Verstappen in this top 3 is certainly one. Arguably the biggest of this day in the Florida heat – it was 40 degrees on the track.

Things were going very smoothly for the two-time defending champion until the third qualifying session began. After making a rare mistake in a corner on his first attempt, the Red Bull driver retreated to the pits. On his return, as he was about to start his fast lap, the session was interrupted by a red flag: Charles Leclerc’s Ferrari had – again! – swerved. The Dutchman will start 9th.

“We didn’t do a lap and it’s all my fault,” a rather serene Verstappen told us, a can of Red Bull in his hand.

“I was hoping I’d get a little lucky and there wouldn’t be a red flag, but when you start thinking about it, of course it happens. It’s a bit frustrating. We were very fast all weekend. »

Verstappen is not one to worry about the race, however. When asked by a reporter what position he thought he could achieve on Sunday, considering his starting rank, the 25-year-old was very clear: “Minimum P2”, he replied twice rather than once. One only has to think of his performance in Saudi Arabia, when he went from 15th to 2nd place…

As for Sergio Pérez, he unsurprisingly displayed a broad smile when he got out of his single-seater. “It was the worst of my weekends until qualifying,” he said. I reset everything and made changes before qualifying. »

“I savor these moments, I love the race. I congratulate my team, and [this Sunday], it will be another chance to go for the victory. »

These results at Red Bull are particularly interesting considering the battle at the top between the two drivers, who each have two wins in four Grands Prix this season.

At Aston Martin, feelings were divided on Saturday evening. On the one hand, veteran and crowd favorite Fernando Alonso achieved his best result of 2023 in qualifying, a second-place finish.

“The result gives us a lot of confidence for tomorrow,” said the Spaniard. Sunday is usually our day; we take care of the tires and have a good race pace. »

“We managed to get the car back into a good window in qualifying and we’ll see what we can do tomorrow. Slow turns here are tricky. We are very close to the walls. »

Things went a little less well for his teammate, Quebecer Lance Stroll, who will start at the back of the grid, in 18th place. This is the first time he has started past 9th place since the start of the season.

“Had we done a better job, [Lance] would have comfortably qualified for the next two sessions,” he said in a statement. We will learn lessons for the future. »

“It’s easy to blame yourself in hindsight, but it could have worked and it would have given us an extra set of tires for session two, which is always helpful,” Stroll said. .

“It’s going to be difficult to start 18th, but we’re going to do what we can,” the Quebecer told La Presse before walking away.

At Ferrari, Charles Leclerc made the same mistake as the day before, in the same corner, which sent him off the track in the third session. The Monegasque, who will start 7th on Sunday, was very harsh on himself in front of the written media.

“I’m very disappointed in myself,” he blurted out. “I take more risks in Q3 and it pays off nine times out of ten, but this weekend I hit the wall twice and that’s not the level I want to be at. »

When asked if he saw himself somehow getting the win despite everything, the Scuderia driver didn’t put his head in the sand: “The Red Bulls are a lot too strong in terms of tire degradation, so I think they will be in their own league. If we can finish behind them, I think it will be a great achievement because Aston looks very strong too. »

Otherwise, in terms of surprises, we also find the Dane Kevin Magnussen in fourth place. So far this season, his best result in qualifying was 13th place… Nice way to mark this Grand Prix at home for the Haas team!

Pierre Gasly (Alpine) and George Russell (Mercedes) will follow him in 5th and 6th place, while Esteban Ocon (Alpine) will start 8th. Valtteri Bottas (Alfa Romeo) will complete the top 10. Lewis Hamilton, surprisingly, will be 13th on the starting grid.

It’s an understatement to say that Sunday’s race will be exciting!