Leclerc scores big with pole at Las Vegas

Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc scored big at Sin City by taking pole position for the Las Vegas Grand Prix, edging out his teammate Carlos Sainz and two-time world champion Max Verstappen.

Leclerc led all three segments of qualifying, which featured Lewis Hamilton, Sergio Perez and both McLarens being knocked out≠.

In the first two segments, the cars completed multiple runs on the same set of softs to build temperature and gain grip on the slippery, and cold track surface, but in Q3 the frontrunners completed typical single-lap efforts.

After Leclerc had established provisional pole with a time of one minute, 33.021 seconds first lap in Q3, Sainz went in a different direction with two warm-up laps for his second go, which meant Leclerc and Verstappen would set their laps ahead of him even as they left the pits late on to try and catch the best of the dramatic track evolution factor here.

But the one-lap efforts did not produce the usual excitement as the tyres did not fire up – as widely expected – with Leclerc able to improve best being slower than his personal best in sector one and Verstappen aborting his second Q3 attempt as he was unable to gain any time in the opening two sectors.

Leclerc stayed on it and eventually found enough tyre temperature to improve to a one minute, 32.726 seconds, which was still barely quicker than he went in Q2.

Sainz’s alternative approach also paid off as he went faster and maintained the second position he had taken on the first Q3 attempts, but he will drop to P12 for the race as a result of his controversial penalty for taking a new battery following his FP1 water valve cover strike.

Behind Verstappen, efforts coming in during Q3’s final moments put Pierre Gasly and Williams pair Alex Albon and Logan Sargeant into sixth and seventh – Gasly and Albon unable to displace George Russell from fourth after he had completed his final Q3 run just ahead of them.

Valtteri Bottas took eighth ahead of Kevin Magnussen and Fernando Alonso.

In Q2, which the Ferrari drivers started on used softs before switching to a fresh tyres, while Verstappen waited to just complete a later stint on new softs, ended with late improvements for Albon and Gasly knocking out Hamilton.

These gains also eliminated Sergio Perez, the Red Bull having been wheeled back into its garage with over two minutes of the session remaining and Perez already sitting down in sixth and with just a 0.4 seconds margin to P11.

Also knocked out in Q2 were Nico Hulkenberg, Lance Stroll and Daniel Ricciardo.

In Q1, Stroll’s last-gasp improvement knocked out Lando Norris in P16, ahead of Esteban Ocon, Zhou Guanyu, Oscar Piastri and AlphaTauri’s Yuki Tsunoda.

Stroll faces a post-qualifying investigation for possibly failing to slow under yellow flags brought out to cover Tsunoda’s Turn 5 off late in Q1, with the Aston Martin driver already set to drop five positions for the race overtaking under yellows in FP3.

Hamilton, Russell, Albon, Zhou, Gasly and Bottas also have to explain to the stewards why they were clocked going too slowly at stages in Q1 – part of the attempt brought in since Monza to reduce traffic issues in qualifying but has typically always ended with drivers in question only being handed warnings.

So congratulations to Charles Leclerc on scoring big at Las Vegas with this pole. The Ferrari looked quick around the street circuit. Lets see if Charles can win a race on Sunday.

Las Vegas Grand Prix, qualifying positions:
1 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 1:32.726
2 Max Verstappen Red Bull 1:33.104
3 George Russell Mercedes 1:33.112
4 Pierre Gasly Alpine 1:33.239
5 Alexander Albon Williams 1:33.323
6 Logan Sargeant Williams 1:33.513
7 Valtteri Bottas Alfa Romeo 1:33.525
8 Kevin Magnussen Haas 1:33.537
9 Fernando Alonso Aston Martin 1:33.555
10 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:33.837
11 Sergio Perez Red Bull 1:33.855
12 Carlos Sainz Ferrari 1:32.770*
13 Nico Hulkenberg Haas 1:33.979
14 Lance Stroll Aston Martin 1:34.504
15 Daniel Ricciardo AlphaTauri 1:34.308
16 Lando Norris McLaren 1:34.703
17 Esteban Ocon Alpine 1:34.834
18 Zhou Guanyu Alfa Romeo 1:34.849
19 Oscar Piastri McLaren 1:34.850
20 Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri 1:36.447
*Ten-place grid penalty for battery change

3 thoughts to “Leclerc scores big with pole at Las Vegas”

  1. Charles Leclerc converted his strong practice pace into pole position for the Las Vegas Grand Prix during a thrilling qualifying session around the all-new Strip Circuit, with the Ferrari man getting the better of team mate Carlos Sainz and Red Bull’s Max Verstappen.

    Leclerc was consistently quick throughout Saturday morning’s running and delivered a 1m 32.726s in the decisive pole shootout to finish half a tenth clear of Sainz, who will drop 10 places on the grid due to an engine penalty.

    While both Leclerc and Sainz improved on their second Q3 runs, Verstappen could not find any more pace and returned to the pits, leaving him third from George Russell, who was the sole remaining Mercedes after Lewis Hamilton dropped out in Q2.

    Several drivers starred in the tricky, cool conditions, with Pierre Gasly putting his Alpine an incredible fifth, Williams team mates Alex Albon and Logan Sargeant taking P6 and P7 and Valtteri Bottas ending eighth fastest for Alfa Romeo.

    In a Q3 session that also lacked the Red Bull of Sergio Perez, who joined Hamilton in the list of Q2 eliminees, Kevin Magnussen claimed ninth for Haas, with Aston Martin’s Fernando Alonso rounding out the top 10.

  2. Ferrari Formula 1 driver Charles Leclerc believes he “didn’t do a good enough job” in qualifying despite landing the first-ever pole position for the Las Vegas Grand Prix.

    In a somewhat anti-climactic end to the shootout, Leclerc was guaranteed a 23rd F1 pole when Carlos Sainz failed to jump his team-mate and Red Bull’s Max Verstappen abandoned his final flying lap.

    That ensured Leclerc’s 1min32.726s effort was sufficient to cement top spot, having pipped Sainz by 0.044s – although the Spaniard will drop to 12th owing to a 10-place grid penalty for taking new power unit components after his Ferrari was damaged from hitting a loose water valve cover in FP1.

    Leclerc said: “Obviously, it’s an incredible event and to be starting from pole tomorrow is great.

    “However, a bit disappointed with my laps in Q3. I didn’t do a good enough job, but it was enough for P1. So that’s all we need.”

  3. Carlos Sainz remains in a “very bad mood” as he faces a “comeback race” in the 2023 Las Vegas Grand Prix after the Ferrari Formula 1 driver was controversially penalised.

    Sainz ran second quickest in the pole position shootout, falling only 0.044sec short of team-mate Charles Leclerc as Max Verstappen abandoned his final flying lap to end up third.

    But Sainz must fight back from 12th on the grid as a legacy of taking a third control electronics package of the season to exceed the allocated two. For this, the stewards reluctantly handed out a 10-place grid penalty.

    “To get a front-row lock-out, I think it’s incredible. Obviously, I would love to be on pole because it would mean I start 11th instead of 12. But I think that we did the maximum that we could today.

    “Obviously still disappointed with yesterday. I’m not going to lie. I’m still in a very bad mood but I’m trying not to show it too much. But it is what it is.”

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