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Max Verstappen chasing third straight Miami GP title

Verstappen -- who led Friday's opening practice and won pole position for Saturday's Sprint Race -- was optimistic about both situations, the race and the team's future sans Newey.
Last Updated : 04 May 2024, 02:56 IST
Last Updated : 04 May 2024, 02:56 IST

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The third annual running of Formula One's CRYPTO.com Miami Grand Prix is officially underway with practice Friday around the 3.363-mile Miami International Autodrome constructed around Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Fla.

Even before the cars took the track for the first of three United States grand prix weekends, it had already been a busy time in the paddock. Drivers participated in news conferences on Thursday, answering questions that had as much to do with activity off-track as they did expectations of this race.

Two-time defending Miami Grand Prix winner and reigning F1 champion Max Verstappen took it all in with a calm, business-like disposition -- answering as many questions about his Oracle Red Bull Racing team losing one of its key personnel members -- technical director Adrian Newey next season -- as questions about whether he can win three in a row in South Florida.

Verstappen -- who led Friday's opening practice and won pole position for Saturday's Sprint Race -- was optimistic about both situations, the race and the team's future sans Newey.

"I don't need to convince anyone (to stay) because at the end of the day, if someone really wants to leave, they should leave," said Verstappen, who added that he spoke with Newey before the talented engineer announced he was leaving the team on Wednesday.

"If you think that is the right decision for yourself, your family or you seek a different challenge, you have to do it."

As for the race, last year's polesitter, Verstappen's Red Bull teammate Sergio Perez, said he was equally confident in the team's expectations at Miami in 2024. He finished runner-up to Verstappen in 2023 -- the Dutch world champion claiming the victory even with a ninth-place start on the grid.

"I think the last few weekends have been good," said Perez, who is second to Verstappen in the championship by 25 points.

"I think the upgrade we introduced in Suzuka (Japan) should perform better in these sort of places. It will also be quite interesting to see on a very different circuit to the ones we've been. We're still in the early stages of the season so it will be interesting to see where we are relative to everyone else in this place. Last year, qualifying went all right, so I believe that we can be all right here."

The Scuderia Ferrari team has certainly been a topic of conversation in Miami. The car is carrying blue on the traditional red livery for the first time in decades and both drivers, Charles LeClerc and Carlos Sainz Jr., are wearing blue driver's suits instead of the traditional red. The pair certainly has had some success on the Miami circuit.

LeClerc won pole position and finished runner-up to Verstappen in the 2022 inaugural race. Sainz was just behind in third place. Coming to Miami this week, LeClerc is third in the championship, 34 points off Verstappen. And Sainz, whose victory in Australia makes him the only other driver than Verstappen to win this season, is fourth in the championship points, 41 behind the lead.

The two split the scoring screen in Friday's opening practice with Sainz's fast lap third best and LeClerc spinning out only minutes into the session -- he officially scored 20th among the 20 drivers in that round with only three laps in a busy practice.

For the first time, this weekend's Miami Grand Prix features a 19-lap Sprint Race on Saturday at noon with extra points on the line for the top-eight finishers. Verstappen will start the Sprint alongside LeClerc, who rebounded from that tough opening practice.

Final qualifying to officially set the grand prix grid will be Saturday afternoon. The pole sitter has never won the race.

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Published 04 May 2024, 02:56 IST

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