Leclerc takes Las Vegas GP pole

STREETS OF LAS VEGAS, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA - NOVEMBER 17: Charles Leclerc, Scuderia Ferrari recieves Pirelli Pole Award from Patrick Dempsey American actor and racing driver during the Las Vegas GP at Streets of Las Vegas on Friday November 17, 2023, United States of America. (Photo by Andrew Ferraro / LAT Images)

The F1 Las Vegas Grand Prix may have stubbed its tow at the start but qualifying certainly provided an unconventional grid with Ferrari locking out the front row ahead of Max Verstappen’s Red Bull.

There’s no doubt the loose water valve cover destroying the underside of two cars was not a good look for the LVGP group and the long delay to repair the circuit as well as frog marching fans out of the grandstands just before the FP2 session started was an even worse look.

F1 spent the last two days taking heat for their overblown opening performance, pomp, hype and glitz and then that was all compounded by accusations of a boring circuit that was not fit for purpose and the perceived mistreatment of the fans who were ushered out before FP1 started. The consolation being a $200 credit for the F1 online store for single-day ticket holders.

Despite that unfortunate situation, qualifying presented a more realistic look at what the actual circuit might produce. Cool temps, slippery track surfaces, cold asphalt all led to a mixed up grid and it showed a few corners that might play an interesting role in the race.

Ferrari’s penchant for over-heating their tires actually played to their strength in Qualifying with Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz locking out the front row ahead of Max Verstappen. Max’s teammate, Sergio Perez, was out in Q1 and while that seemed like it may be very damaging in his bid to secure second in the Driver’s Championship against Lewis Hamilton, Lewis himself was also knocked out in Q1 so Sergio had to have a big sigh of relief with that one.

As good as Carlos Sainz did to secure P2, it is actually P12 as he faces a 10-spot grid penalty for having to change his ERS system. That is normal but what isn’t normal is that he had to change it due to the valve cover incident back in Fp1 and that is a track issue, not a team or car issue. Despite that, the stewards say there is no margin for incidents such as these so the law is the law.

How great is it to see both Williams cars in the top 10 with Alex Alton in P6 and Logan Sergeant in P7. Both will move up one spot due to the Sainz penalty. Pierre Gasly had an amazing P5 effort that will now be P4 for the race.

Valtteri Bottas and Kevin Magnussen in P8 and P9 respectively is also a great result.

On paper, the track doesn’t look amazing and I think Max is right, it’s not a driver favorite when compared to other circuits but that doesn’t mean it won’t be tricky and have some challenges during a race. Time will tell but there are few key areas I am watching and let’s hope we have a good grand prix.

Las Vegas GP Qualifying Results:

POSNODRIVERCARQ1Q2Q3LAPS
116Charles LeclercFERRARI1:33.6171:32.7751:32.72623
255Carlos SainzFERRARI1:33.8511:33.3381:32.77023
31Max VerstappenRED BULL RACING HONDA RBPT1:34.1901:33.5721:33.10419
463George RussellMERCEDES1:34.1371:33.3511:33.11222
510Pierre GaslyALPINE RENAULT1:34.2721:33.4941:33.23925
623Alexander AlbonWILLIAMS MERCEDES1:34.6341:33.5881:33.32321
72Logan SargeantWILLIAMS MERCEDES1:34.5251:33.7331:33.51323
877Valtteri BottasALFA ROMEO FERRARI1:34.3051:33.8091:33.52519
920Kevin MagnussenHAAS FERRARI1:34.3371:33.6641:33.53723
1014Fernando AlonsoASTON MARTIN ARAMCO MERCEDES1:34.4221:33.6171:33.55524
1144Lewis HamiltonMERCEDES1:34.3071:33.83715
1211Sergio PerezRED BULL RACING HONDA RBPT1:34.5741:33.85514
1327Nico HulkenbergHAAS FERRARI1:34.2651:33.97917
1418Lance StrollASTON MARTIN ARAMCO MERCEDES1:34.5041:34.19918
153Daniel RicciardoALPHATAURI HONDA RBPT1:34.6831:34.30818
164Lando NorrisMCLAREN MERCEDES1:34.7039
1731Esteban OconALPINE RENAULT1:34.83410
1824Zhou GuanyuALFA ROMEO FERRARI1:34.84910
1981Oscar PiastriMCLAREN MERCEDES1:34.85010
2022Yuki TsunodaALPHATAURI HONDA RBPT1:36.4479
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Fuzzy St John

One thing I don’t like is that here is a west coast race and I still have to watch it at odd hours. Actually I fell asleep before the end. Such is being old.

MIE

The track looks as featureless as Valencia did, just in the dark. It was only in the occasional wide shots that it was apparent where the race was. Add to that the cars look slow through the corners (low downforce and low grip), it’s not a good showcase for F1.

speedinian

It was refreshing to see every team out on track turning lap after lap. Mining info instead of stacked up 10 mins of every session.