Charles Leclerc swept in at the death to take pole position from Red Bull rival Max Verstappen in qualifying at the Miami Grand Prix on Saturday.
The Ferrari driver - the current championship leader - had set what looked to be the fastest time of the day at 1:29.055 despite contending with porpoising, as the phenomenon raised criticism from various drivers over the first two days’ action due to the rough surface of the street circuit.
However it was Verstappen, last year’s champion, who was the first to break into the 1:28s and with only a few minutes remaining in the last round of qualifying, it appeared to have been enough to secure first place on the grid for the season’s first US Grand Prix.
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It is a testament to the narrow gap in performance between both drivers so far this season that Leclerc was able to pull out a time of 1:28.796 with his final run.
That set him up for what could be the most relaxed start of the season for him, with teammate Carlos Sainz Jr able to also displace Verstappen.
Earlier in the session it had appeared that Mercedes would continue their woeful form from FP3, when Lewis Hamilton was 15th fastest and teammate George Russell in 17th, and with only a few minutes left in the first runout, Hamilton was in danger of being cut off before a late dash moved him up into a provisional fifth place.
That left Kevin Magnussen, Zhou Guanyu, Alex Albon, Nicolas Latifi and the non-runner Esteban Ocon as the bottom five drivers.
In Q2, Russell complained explicitly of problems with ‘bouncing’ as he liaised with the pit team, and had to hold off on his pace, and it prevented him from setting a time with four minutes remaining, and with those difficulties he was one of the drivers left out of the final effort, along with Fernando Alonso, Sebastian Vettel, Daniel Ricciardo and Mick Schumacher.
That teed up the battle between the two most prominent racers of the season so far to battle it out, before the Ferrari pair took one-two on the grid.
That left Verstappen third, stablemate Sergio Perez fourth, and Hamilton ended the day in sixth, a place behind former teammate Valtteri Bottas.
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