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