Miami Grand Prix: Charles Leclerc top as Mercedes show signs of pace

George Russell
The Miami Grand Prix is live on 5 Live and BBC Sport website

Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc set the pace in first practice at the Miami Grand Prix as Mercedes showed signs of increasing competitiveness.

Leclerc was fastest by 0.071 seconds, with Mercedes’ George Russell second, an unfamiliar place for the world champions in a difficult start to 2022.

Red Bull’s Max Verstappen, Leclerc’s title rival, was third, 0.179secs away.

Lewis Hamilton was eighth, struggling with traffic on his best laps and apparent understeer in the car.

A number of drivers made errors as they got to grips with the new street track around the Miami Dolphins’ Hard Rock Stadium, but none were bigger than that of Valtteri Bottas, who crashed his Alfa Romeo at Turn Eight.

The accident was bad news for his team, who are short of spare parts after problems at the previous race at Imola in Italy.

Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz also had a big spin, at Turns Four and Five, wrecking his set of soft tyres and causing a front-right puncture.

Leclerc had a lower-speed spin while learning the track early in the session, and Verstappen brushed the wall coming out of Turn 16, with no damage to his car.

The Ferrari, which has a new rear wing as an upgrade, on balance appeared the quickest car in the session, although Verstappen was struggling with his car overheating in the Florida heat.

There were two striking elements of the session – the pace of the Mercedes car and Alexander Albon managing to put the Williams seventh.

Mercedes have some significant upgrades for the first time this season, with a new lower-drag rear wing.

They hoped this would help reduce the problems they were having with high-speed “porpoising”, where the car bounces because of under-body airflow disruption.

It is early days but the first indications are that the experiment has been a success. Mercedes have never looked so convincingly quick through a session so far this season, at least as far as Russell is concerned.

Hamilton appeared to be struggling with his car, though, front-end grip appearing to be a problem.

Red Bull’s Sergio Perez was fourth quickest, ahead of Alpha Tauri’s Pierre Gasly, and Sainz, whose best time was set on the medium tyres because of his spin.

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