Charles Leclerc tops the timing sheets in qualifying for the inaugural Las Vegas Grand Prix, where he will be joined by Max Verstappen on the front row.
With this being the first qualifying session to be done on the streets of Las Vegas, track rubber was incredibly low, allowing for a very high level of track evolution, and times falling very quickly throughout Q1. Leclerc had been able to improve by 1.2 seconds in just Q1 alone, and would find another 9 tenths throughout the rest of qualifying.
McLaren found themselves in a surprising predicament as both drivers were eliminated from Q1 in a result reminiscent of their early season form. Both drivers attempted to make it through on just the one set of softs, though neither were able to make it work.
Esteban Ocon’s evening ended early following a moment that occurred between himself and Max Verstappen. Both had began their final laps quite close to one another, with Ocon having enough overspeed to overtake Verstappen just before the lap had begun. However, the reigning world champion would retake the position going into turn 1, compromising Ocon’s lap to the point where he couldn’t improve, and would ultimately be eliminated in 17th.
16. Lando Norris – McLaren +0.020
17. Esteban Ocon – Alpine +0.151
18. Zhou Guanyu – Alfa Romeo +0.166
19. Oscar Piastri– McLaren +0.167
20. Yuki Tsunoda – Alpha Tauri +1.764
With the rapid track evolution on display, Red Bull’s decision to not send Sergio Perez out for one more lap rather bizarre. Perhaps thinking he was safe, Perez had been 6th before everyone had completed their final laps. He would fall to 12th and get eliminated.
Perez however would not be the only unconventional exit from qualifying in Las Vegas. Lewis Hamilton simply was unable to find enough pace and would only find himself in 11th, saying over team radio that was as fast as he could go.
Lance Stroll’s fortune has turned for the worse compared to his 3rd place start in Brazil. Having already been given a 5 place grid penalty for overtaking under yellow flags in FP3, Stroll was only quick enough to go 14th, meaning he’ll start the race in 19th.
11. Lewis Hamilton – Mercedes +0.028
12. Sergio Perez – Red Bull +0.046
13. Nico Hulkenberg – Haas +0.170
14. Lance Stroll – Aston Martin +0.390 (5 PLACE GRID PENALTY)
15. Daniel Ricciardo – Alpha Tauri +0.499
Leclerc had topped both of the previous two sessions, and his form would continue as he set the early benchmark to go onto provisional pole. Sainz would only be 22 thousandths slower, whilst Verstappen was 8 hundredths behind.
However, everyone would get one more attempt, and Leclerc would push the bar even higher and would improve by just under 3 tenths. Verstappen’s final lap was poor, and he abandoned it before even finishing. Sainz had gotten awfully close to going fastest, but was 44 thousandths off. He wouldn’t have gotten pole position anyway, due to the 10 place grid penalty he received due to parts of his power unit needing replacements that fell out of Ferrari’s allocation for the season.
This qualifying session was able to throw up a few surprises, such as there being 8 different teams represented Q3. Sainz’s penalty means that some drivers will be starting even higher than they usually do, such as Gasly in 4th, both Williams cars in 5th and 6th, as well as Bottas starting from 7th.
1. Charles Leclerc – Ferrari 1:32.726
2. Carlos Sainz – Ferrari +0.044 (10 PLACE GRID PENALTY)
3. Max Verstappen – Red Bull +0.378
4. George Russell – Mercedes +0.386
5. Pierre Gasly – Alpine +0.513
6. Alex Albon – Williams +0.597
7. Logan Sargeant – Williams +0.787
8. Valtteri Bottas – Alfa Romeo +0.799
9. Kevin Magnussen – Haas +0.811
10. Fernando Alonso – Aston Martin +0.829