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Qualifying In Las Vegas: Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc On Pole

Written by Maria Fashchevskaya, Edited by Vyas Ponnuri


It was one of the coldest sessions of Formula One so far, around 15 degrees Celsius at the track. As the drivers came out to set timed laps at the Las Vegas strip, the famous Las Vegas Sphere illuminated with bright, F1-themed animations.


And of course, yesterday’s events at the track, and around it, still cast a shadow over proceedings. The big headlines were about Carlos Sainz’s start position for the Saturday night race, and whose car played to the strengths of this tight, speedy, street circuit, not least deciding the first pole-sitter around the new Las Vegas track.

Ferrari is leading around Las Vegas; Image Credit: F1.com

Qualifying started around midnight (track time), as the Vegas lights illuminated the track. As the first session started, all the drivers went out to set a time on the Las Vegas strip, using the soft tyres. The Haas and the Alfa Romeo drivers were the first to have timed laps on the track, with Magnussen leading the pack temporarily, having a 1:35.968s on the clock.


Despite yesterday’s incident with Carlos Sainz, Ferrari seemed to have a good car for the track in Las Vegas. Charles Leclerc went fastest in Q1 right away, with a 1:34.898s to pole position, while his teammate beat him with a 1:33.851 to the end of the session.


The surprises began right from Q1 this time. Usually strong in the last races, both McLarens found themselves out of Q1, with Lando Norris set to start 16th, and Oscar Piastri 19th for the race. “I've been struggling with this car on this circuit. It's painful, we didn't do a lot wrong”, explained Norris, after his qualifying in Las Vegas ended.


However, Norris did wait at first for an answer from the stewards, before coming out of the car, as Lance Stroll — who put in a last-gasp effort and usurped Norris on the timing page — was under investigation. He would be investigated post-session for not slowing down under yellow flags at the end of Q1.


Stroll has already picked up a penalty for the Grand Prix, having overtaken under yellow flags in FP3 earlier in the day.

McLaren experienced a nightmare qualifying session; Image Credits: McLarenF1 on X.

Out in Q1, too, were Esteban Ocon, Zhou Guanyu, and Yuki Tsunoda, the latter angrily throwing his headrest at the mechanics. Both Tsunoda and Esteban Ocon had to deal with traffic on their flying laps, leaving them out of the session, the latter having a scuffle with Verstappen down at turn one. The traffic incidents were noted by the stewards.


Ferraris Paving Their Way

Q2 got underway with Carlos Sainz leading the pack. A couple of minutes into the session, he set a time of 1:34.146s, however, his teammate Charles Leclerc eclipsed this figure, by a margin of 0.181s almost immediately.


Another surprise came when Sergio Perez set a time of 1:33.965s, surpassing Leclerc by one-thousandth of a second. Both Ferrari drivers set their laps on used tyres, though.


As of ten minutes until the end of Q2, five drivers had not set a time yet, including World Champion Max Verstappen, and both Mercedes drivers. That changed soon as George Russell and Lewis Hamilton set the track record for the time being, the latter having a 1:33.837s on the clock. Max Verstappen followed, beating the Mercedes with a time-margin of 0.230s.


As the session came to a close, most drivers were on laps to improve their time. Lance Stroll tried to get out of the drop-out zone, but was knocked out when Logan Sargeant crossed the chequered flag, to stay for Q3 with a 1:33.733s on the clock. His teammate Alex Albon improved soon after, making it a double appearance in Q3 for Williams.

Logan Sargeant showed great pace around Las Vegas; Image Credits: Williams Racing on X.

It was a sad story for Lewis Hamilton and Sergio Perez, who could not escape Q2, and were knocked out in 11th and 12th place, respectively. “Couldn't go faster mate…”, Hamilton apologised to his team over the radio. Nico Hulkenberg and Daniel Ricciardo — in 13th and 15th position – completed the elimination zone of Q2, with Aston Martin’s Lance Stroll splitting the two in 14th place, before his five-place grid drop.


Can Charles Leclerc Win Infront Of Verstappen?

The dominance of the Ferraris was evident throughout qualifying, as either Carlos Sainz or Charles Leclerc were on provisional pole in the sessions. It did not change in Q3, as Leclerc clocked a 1:33.021s, three minutes into the session.


Two minutes from the chequered flag, three cars had still to set times to have a good grid position in tomorrow’s race. Logan Sargeant was the first to complete his flying lap, and crossed the chequered flag with an impressive 1:33.513s, for his most impressive qualifying so far.


Alex Albon in the other Williams followed his teammate to set the third row straight for the team. They will start from the 5th and 6th position tomorrow, promoted one spot each after second-placed Sainz’s grid penalty.

The track around the city that never sleeps; Image Credits: Scuderia Ferrari on X.

George Russell completed his last — and only — flying lap in Q3, coming home in fourth, and would be elevated one slot after Sainz’s impending grid drop.


He was followed by Pierre Gasly in the Alpine who showed a strong performance throughout qualifying. Starting from eighth will be Valtteri Bottas, followed by Kevin Magnussen and Fernando Alonso.


Charles Leclerc will start the inaugural Las Vegas Grand Prix from pole position, and had felt seemingly good in the car, around the Las Vegas Strip circuit. “Of course, I'm happy - first in Las Vegas, to be starting from pole is great. But I'm disappointed with my laps in Q3, I didn't do a good job but it was enough”, the pole-sitter said after the session.

Charles Leclerc starts from pole tomorrow; Image Credits: F1.com

Max Verstappen — starting second tomorrow — had a slippery experience at the Las Vegas strip: “It's quite cold, quite slippery. It was enjoyable out there, but I think we maximised it today. We've been lacking one-lap performance so I hope for more from the race.”


It was undoubtedly a dominant performance of the Ferraris, but Carlos Sainz didn’t have as much to celebrate, despite finishing second in Q3: “Still disappointed from yesterday I'm not going to lie, I'm still in a very bad mood but it is what it is”, he said after the session.


Who is going to win in Las Vegas? Tell us your prediction in the comments.


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