MIAMI GARDENS, FL. – World Champion Max Verstappen set the pace on the opening day of practice at the Miami International Autodrome, recording the fastest-ever lap around the 3.36-mile track. The Red Bull driver topped the timesheets after two hours of busy on-track action ahead of Sunday’s race. In hot and sunny conditions, Verstappen set his best time in the afternoon, recording a time of 1m27.930s around the 19-turn venue, which was 1.54 seconds quicker than Charles Leclerc’s pole position time last year.
The action began at 2pm local time when Free Practice 1 got underway and drivers were able to get to grips with the new track surface. It was a busy hour-long session and the first racer to encounter problems was Nyck de Vries who spun his AlphaTauri backwards into the wall at Turn 12. One of the first drivers to switch to the soft tyres was Haas’ Nico Hülkenberg and he leapt to the top of the timesheets. Unfortunately he was responsible for causing the first red flag stoppage of the weekend when he hit the wall exiting Turn 3.
After a short break, the session resumed with 18 minutes to go and among the spectators was American film director Joseph Kosinski. The Top Gun: Maverick director was taking a special interest in practice as research for his eagerly-anticipated Formula 1 movie which will start filming later this year. Right at the end of the session, both Mercedes drivers emerged onto the track on the soft compound Pirelli and George Russell finished in P1, just 0.212 seconds ahead of his team-mate Lewis Hamilton.
Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc finished FP1 in third place and he was once again on the pace when the second session got underway at 5.30pm local time. But sadly his day ended early when he struck the wall on the outside of Turn 8 with just ten minutes of FP2 remaining. Entering the fast left-hander, the rear of his Ferrari stepped out of line and after correcting his car, he couldn’t stop his scarlet machine from lightly hitting the barriers.
Another brief red flag meant a frantic final few minutes of FP2 and every driver rushed out of the pits to try and improve their lap time on their final run. In the final classification, Verstappen finished quickest ahead of the two Ferraris of Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc, followed by the second Red Bull of Sergio Perez. It was another good day for Aston Martin as both of their drivers finished in the top ten. Local hero Logan Sargeant was the slowest of the runners in his Williams in FP2 and 19th in the earlier session.
Prior to practice beginning, Miami Dolphins wide receiver Tyreek Hill enjoyed a once-in-a-lifetime experience by sitting in the cockpit of Pierre Gasly’s Alpine as the team were performing pitstop practice. Wearing bespoke fire-proof overalls, the ‘Cheetah’ was also enrolled as the Frenchman’s Performance Engineer for the day and helped Gasly warm-up with his tennis ball reaction challenge prior to him getting into the car.
Tyreek then watched the action in FP1 unfold from the Alpine garage and gave his friend a good luck message over team radio while he out on-track. He said: “Good luck brother. Be fast like the cheetah, baby.” On hearing the Miami Dolphins star’s message, the Frenchman replied: “Copy champ, thanks.”
The track action continues tomorrow with FP3 at 12.30pm followed by qualifying at 4.00pm local time.
Paola Argueta – Miami Dolphins communications contributed to this column