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In Miami, Verstappen faces motivated Ferrari and “all or nothing” fate – 05/08/2022

In the front row, an ecstatic team. Leclerc in pole position, Sainz in second, Ferrari’s first one-two on a starting grid since 2019. In the row immediately behind, a worried driver, with that feeling of being in a trap he can’t escape.

Third on the grid at the Miami GP, Verstappen criticized Red Bull after the qualifying session. His main complaint is the lack of reliability of the RB18, which already marks an uncomfortable mark in its season: all or nothing.

It has been like this in 2022: either the Dutch win or leave. There hasn’t been a middle ground yet. At the opening of the World Cup, in Bahrain, he suffered a problem with a fuel pump three laps from the flag. In the next race, in Saudi Arabia, victory. In Melbourne, another breakdown in the fuel system. At Imola, another victory.

Meanwhile, Leclerc scored in all stages of the championship, taking the podium in three of those four grands prix. The result is in the Drivers’ Championship table: the Monegasque is the leader, with 86 points, while the current world champion is in second, with 59.

max1 - Peter Fox/Getty Images/Red Bull - Peter Fox/Getty Images/Red Bull

Dutchman Max Verstappen of Red Bull during the qualifying session for the Miami GP

Image: Peter Fox/Getty Images/Red Bull

In Miami, so far, the mood in the Red Bull pits is one of fear. And Verstappen was keen to make that clear in the interviews he gave in the paddock after the grid was defined.

“I only did four or five laps on sixth, which is unthinkable on a new street track. In situations like this, it’s essential to complete a lot of laps and understand the car,” he said. “On a regular circuit, it’s easier to find the rhythm. On a street circuit it’s different, and we fail at this point. It’s chaotic. We’re making things harder for ourselves.”

The Dutchman’s Friday was indeed chaotic.

In the first free practice, he was the second driver to complete the fewest laps, 14, as a result of an overheating problem that required a gearbox replacement. The work took a long time, and he missed the start of the second session. When he went to the track, another crash: a hydraulic failure forced him to return to the pits after just one lap.

Meanwhile, his title challenger was accumulating mileage and experience on the new circuit. Leclerc completed 57 laps on Friday.

For Verstappen, this made all the difference in the fight for pole position.

“I just started learning the track today [sábado], trying to collect data and find a hit. Until then I had no clue what to do,” he stated. “We can’t suffer that kind of situation when we’re fighting such a strong team. We were close, but I could have done a better job in qualifying if I had a clean Friday. In Q3 I was still trying to figure out some braking points to go faster.”

The mood at Ferrari is just the opposite.

The one-two in Miami is the team’s first since the 2019 Mexican GP – at the time, with Leclerc and Vettel. It is also confirmation of the exuberant phase of the Monegasque in the rankings this season: it has won a front row seat in all five GPs. Finally, there is an extra motivation in the team’s pits this Sunday: today marks the 40th anniversary of the death of Gilles Villeneuve, the pilot who best synthesized the Ferrari soul.

Verstappen has the heavy arm and foot to get through it all. From 16:30 (from Brasilia) we will know if he will also have a car and engine.

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