Motor Racing-Frustrated Verstappen in the hunt despite 'messy' practice

MIAMI, May 7 (Reuters) - Formula One world champion Max Verstappen took third place on the grid for Sunday's Miami Grand Prix but made no attempt to hide his frustration.

Hydraulic problems and an issue with a rear brake limited the Red Bull driver to a handful of laps in Friday's opening practice sessions, leaving him with little information on the track before Saturday's qualifying.

"It's just been incredibly messy... we just make it super difficult for ourselves, you know, basically know what, four or five laps yesterday," he told reporters after finishing behind the Ferrari pair of Charles Leclerc in pole and Carlos Sainz.

"You start today still learning the track, trying to find a setup because yesterday, you have no clue what worked or not really, not a lot of data to look at," added the Dutchman.

"Of course (I am) still pleased to be in third position and to actually be very close to the (Ferrari) guys but I think we can do so much better. Just actually operate a bit cleaner and smoother," he said.

Verstappen had looked like he would take the top slot with the fastest first flying lap, with Mexican team mate Sergio Perez fourth.

But in the end he was 0.195 off the pole -- and 0.005 off the front row -- after having to slow on his final attempt when he pushed a bit too hard.

Despite his annoyance at the lack of practice time, Verstappen said he was confident in the performance of the car.

"I think overall the car is competitive. We have good top speed again, I hope that is something which can help us tomorrow," he said.

Red Bull team principal Christian Horner said it would be key for his team to try to stop Ferrari from using Sainz to block Red Bull and let Leclerc pull away early in the race.

"For us its important to split them as quickly as we can. I'm sure there will be an element of team play there, to try and protect the lead car. Why wouldn't they? I think the start is going to be crucial, the first couple of laps will be crucial and then we'll get into it from there," he said.

But Horner suggested there could be plenty of surprises in what will be the first race on the Miami track with teams having to think on their feet.

"Ferrari are very, very strong around here. (It will take) strategy, a bit of luck. (Let's) see what the weather does. There's a bit of rain around tomorrow as well so it could be a chaotic race.

"The pitstop is going to be crucial because nobody has really done a long run so we don't know how the degradation is on these tyres. Is a two stop quicker than a one stop? It's going to be working it out on the fly."

Horner suggested the race may come down to whether Red Bull can make the most of their pace on the straights or if Ferrari's advantage in the corners pays off.

"We've got a very different race car to Ferrari tomorrow, they are carrying a bit more downforce, they are quicker in some of the corners," he said.

"We're definitely going to be a bit easier through the corners but we'll be much quicker on the straight tomorrow so it will be a fascinating contest."

Reporting by Simon Evans, additional reporting by Alan Baldwin. Editing by Toby Davis

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