F1 declines to apologize after controversy, while Charles Leclerc secures pole position in Las Vegas.
Charles Leclerc took pole for the inaugural Las Vegas Grand Prix, delivering a superb lap on the streets of the circuit that winds through the heart of the city. He beat his Ferrari teammate, Carlos Sainz, into second, but the Spaniard will take a 10-place grid penalty after he had to fit a new battery because of the damage he sustained when his car was struck by a drain cover on Thursday. World champion Max Verstappen was third for Red Bull.
Lewis Hamilton underperformed, being eliminated in the second round of qualifying and finishing in 10th place. In contrast, his teammate George Russell secured fourth place for Mercedes. Pierre Gasly claimed fifth place for Alpine.
As the session progressed and the track surface became more worn on a street circuit, lap times were improving as the clock ticked down, setting the stage for a final lap showdown. Leclerc initially set the fastest lap time with a 1 minute and 33.021 second run, narrowly beating Sainz by two-hundredths of a second, with Verstappen in third place. Leclerc showed great confidence and was one of the first to begin his final lap. While he was slightly slower in the first third of the lap, his performance in the middle sector was outstanding, securing him pole position with a time of 1 minute and 32.726 seconds.
Sainz narrowly missed the top spot, trailing by only four-hundredths of a second. Despite his dislike for the track, Verstappen was unable to catch up during the race and finished three-tenths behind.
Leclerc is now the third racer to achieve the top starting position in Las Vegas. The city was home to two races known as the Caesars Palace Grand Prix in 1981 and 1982, where Carlos Reutemann and Alain Prost secured pole position respectively.
Leclerc secured his fifth pole position of the season. He achieved pole in Baku and was granted the top spot in Spa due to Verstappen’s grid penalty. He also topped the qualifying sessions in the US and Mexico, but has not been able to turn those into a victory. He will aim for a strong performance once again, although Ferrari has shown strong speed in qualifying, Red Bull is expected to have the edge in race pace.
This is his 23rd pole position in his career, which is a respectable number. However, he has only converted five of those poles into wins, highlighting Ferrari’s ongoing struggle to provide a competitive car for racing.
Hamilton seemed to be struggling to extract any more performance from his car, informing his team that he was unable to increase his speed.
Prior to the start of the session, there were criticisms surrounding F1’s response to the issues that arose during Thursday’s practice sessions. Spectators who were present for the practice were only able to see the cars in action for eight minutes before the first session was halted due to a water-valve cover hitting Sainz’s Ferrari with force. As a result, the FIA had to conduct an inspection of the remaining 30 covers on the Strip to ensure their safety and reliability.
The start of FP2 was delayed by five hours until 2:30am. However, one hour prior, spectators were instructed to vacate the premises due to contractual and transportation issues faced by F1, the organizers of the race, in managing their staff at the circuit. This left many disappointed fans, who had paid significant amounts, with no choice but to leave as the second session continued without any audience.
The F1 head, Stefano Domenicali, and Las Vegas GP CEO, Renee Wilm, addressed the reasons for asking fans to leave on Friday morning. They mainly cited safety and security concerns.
“We have all attended events such as concerts, games, and other Formula One races that have been canceled due to factors like weather or technical difficulties,” they stated. “These things happen, and we hope that people will be understanding.”
The 650-word statement did not include any apology, which many believe was a strategic move to protect the organization from potential lawsuits. This decision has faced significant criticism for being a disrespectful gesture towards those who were unable to witness the event.
Fans who held three-day tickets did not receive any compensation, while those with Thursday-only tickets were guaranteed a $200 voucher for the Las Vegas GP official store. However, some fans felt this was inadequate since the vouchers were only applicable online and did not cover shipping expenses.
After the race resumed, Williams’ Alex Albon and Logan Sargeant performed admirably, securing sixth and seventh place respectively. Alfa Romeo’s Valtteri Bottas finished in eighth, followed by Haas’ Kevin Magnussen in ninth and Aston Martin’s Fernando Alonso in tenth.
Sergio Pérez finished 11th for Red Bull due to the team’s misjudgment of his runs in Q2. Nico Hülkenberg took 13th place for Haas, while Lance Stroll claimed 14th place for Aston Martin. However, Stroll will face a five-place grid penalty for passing under yellow flags during practice. Daniel Ricciardo advanced to 14th place for AlphaTauri.
The two McLaren racers had a disappointing performance, as Lando Norris placed 15th and Oscar Piastri finished 18th. Esteban Ocon came in 16th for Alpine, while Guanyu Zhou and Yuki Tsunoda took 17th and 20th places for Alfa Romeo and AlphaTauri respectively.