World champion Max Verstappen of Red Bull set the fastest time in practice for the Miami Grand Prix while Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc suffered a crash into a barrier.
After Mercedes enjoyed a 1-2 effort in the opening session, with George Russell leading the way from Lewis Hamilton, Verstappen, the current championship leader, responded with an impressive best lap time of 1:27.930.
Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz was 0.385 seconds behind closely followed by his teammate Leclerc, whose session ended early after he went nose first into the barrier at Turn eight.
Leclerc left the track on a moped and showed no signs of any side-effects from the incident, which caused a red flag and five-minute delay, frustrating teams who were putting in some longer runs.
Verstappen’s second practice was accompanied by regular complaints from the drive about his headrest but the discomfort appeared to have little impact on his performance.
The Dutchman’s teammate Sergio Perez, who is just six points behind him in the standings after his win in Baku last week, was fourth fastest ahead of Aston Martin’s Fernando Alonso.
Red Bull drivers have dominated the opening four races of the season with Verstappen and teammate Sergio Perez claiming two victories each.
The lack of over-taking in a largely processional Azerbaijan Grand Prix, combined with the Red Bull cars’ superior speed, has led to fears of a season lacking drama and excitement.
After Russell posted a time of 1:30.125 in the earlier session, with his fellow Briton Hamilton second quickest, 0.212 behind, there was at least some indication that Red Bull might not have it all their own way this weekend.
But even before the second session, Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff was quick to caution against reading too much into their times.
“The car has some goodness. It is just very tricky to unlock it,” said Wolff.
“When the drivers have confidence, they can go quick. It is on a razor’s edge. This morning we seemed to be in a sweet spot. I don’t think we can extrapolate from this, ran later than everybody else but at least it looked more encouraging than Baku.”
Hamilton finished seventh in the second session while Russell was down in 15th, 1.286 off Verstappen’s pace.
McLaren’s Lando Norris finished sixth in the second session while Australian Oscar Piastri was back in 16th.
“A reasonable day,” Piastri said.
“A bit of time to find after P2 but it’s been a reasonable day at a new circuit for me. FP1 was incredibly slippery. A new track surface and really hot as well. It was tricky out there.
“It seems to be really dirty off the line and it’s really tricky if you miss the apex by a little bit, it costs a lot. P2 the grip was a bit better with the cooler track.
“I think sector one was where I was losing a bit of time, the rest of the lap seemed to be OK. Even on my second lap I was improving quite a lot and just made a mistake. It’s there in bits and pieces, I’ve just go to put it all together.
“I think he can try get into Q3 again, it’s really close at the moment. We could be anywhere from just scraping into Q3 to going out in Q1 again.”
The first practice also saw a red flag after Haas’ Nico Hulkenberg lost control of his car entering turn three, spinning into the wall and leaving debris on the track from his front end.