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The Art of the Overtake: Decoding Leclerc’s Stunning Dive-bomb on Sergio Perez at Vegas

Written by Vyas Ponnuri

This new series, ‘The Art of the Overtake’, attempts to decode some iconic overtakes across motorsport, giving you an overview of the weekend, and an insight into the moments leading up to the overtake. The series also looks at why the overtake is famous, and how people reacted to the overtake. So, brace yourselves in for this series, taking a trip down the halls of fame, reliving some truly iconic motorsport moments!

The first overtake on our list is Ferrari driver Charles Leclerc’s heart-stopping last-lap lunge on Sergio Perez at Las Vegas. The move had already garnered praise and plaudits from all corners of the sport. So impressed were the fans, they even voted for the dive-bomb as the Overtake of the Year! An impressive feat, worthy of such an accolade, indeed.  

Leclerc started the race from pole position; Image Credits - Scuderia Ferrari

Diving into the Race itself

After an eventful Thursday featuring a broken drain cover and late-night free practice, it was time for qualifying at the dead of Friday night around Vegas — the city that never sleeps. As expected, Leclerc extracted the maximum out of his low downforce oriented Ferrari, taking pole position for the race. Perez, on the other hand, suffered yet another Q2 exit, lining up 11th on the grid, promoted one spot after Sainz’s penalty. 

The race proved to be chaotic right from the outset, with Verstappen taking the lead from Leclerc, albeit off the track, for which he would be slapped a five-second penalty. Meanwhile, Perez damaged his front wing in the lap one melee, putting his recovery drive on the backfoot, an early stop for repairs ensuing.  

Despite two safety car periods (one virtual), Verstappen looked to be struggling, as for the first time, Leclerc came speeding past along the Strip, to take the race lead on lap 16, eyeing a rare non-Red Bull win in 2023. 

It was clear to be a two-way battle for victory, as Verstappen had to recover from the five-second penalty served at his pit stop. Leclerc pitted on lap 22, rejoining behind Perez, running on much older hards, and most certainly looking to stop again. However, all this was about to be thrown out of gear in the next few laps. 

Verstappen went for an unorthodox overtake on George Russell on lap 25, catching the Mercedes driver by surprise at turn 12. Russell turned into the path of Verstappen, who was alongside at the corner, breaking the Red Bull’s front wing end plate. 

The resultant debris brought out the safety car, and Perez into the fray for victory, now making it a three-way fight. Leclerc stayed out, while Verstappen pitted onto another set of hard tyres, making for a fascinating fight to the finish. 

The Moments Leading up to the Overtake

As expected, Perez’s newer hard tyres warmed up, and on lap 32, four laps into green flag running, he slipped past Leclerc to take the race lead. However, his Red Bull was carrying more downforce than required for the track’s speedy traits. 

This kept Leclerc in the fight, and the Monegasque kept within the DRS range of the Red Bull, surprising Perez with an overtake only three laps later, a trailer of what was to come. 

Perez looked to fight back, but was passed by the recovering Verstappen, who then displaced Leclerc’s Ferrari from the lead on lap 37, gapping the duo fighting earlier for the lead in typical Verstappen-like fashion. It would be a straight fight between Leclerc and Perez for the runners-up spot. 

As Leclerc soldiered on in defence, he made a crucial error on lap 43, locking up at turn 12, allowing Perez past, as his 21-lap old hard tyres were now losing grip. 

However, the Ferrari driver recomposed himself, and closed back towards Perez, inching into DRS range in the closing stages of the race. 

Recapping the Overtake

It was now the final lap of the race. Leclerc chased down Perez for second on the road. Perez, carrying more downforce on his RB19, radioed to the team, for his teammate ahead to slow down and give him a slipstream or DRS along the 1.9 km-long Las Vegas Strip, thereby giving him a chance to keep second ahead of the speedy Ferrari. 

Verstappen narrowed the gap to nearly a second and a half, as the trailing Red Bull and the charging Ferrari made their way down to turn 12, for one last blast down the Las Vegas Strip. The gap stood at 0.6 seconds as Leclerc sped along the straight, in hot pursuit. It would still be a long shot to get an overtake done from that far back, though. 

The gap narrowed by half as Leclerc opened the DRS flap in his rear wing, giving him even more top speed, before pulling off an audacious lunge down the inside of Perez, who was caught by surprise — such was the nature of the move. 

The Ferrari driver then defended the inside line of the track, holding off the Red Bull driver by only a tenth and a half, securing second place behind Verstappen, only his second runners-up finish of the season back then. 

What Made This Overtake Special?

The overtake in itself proved to be a spectacular one, coupled with the timing of the move, drawing plaudits and applause in equal measure from all corners of the sport. 

Last-lap overtakes are known to be a thriller for fans and pundits alike, as evidenced by the Interlagos’ last-lap heroics involving Perez and Fernando Alonso a week earlier, with the podium place being decided by a mere 0.053 seconds. It was even more enjoyable for fans, given the sheer dominance displayed by the Milton Keynes-outfit earlier in the year. 

Coming back to the overtake, it was yet another last-lap overtake, and the manner in which Leclerc pulled off the overtake caught Perez off-guard. Staying in the slipstream of the Red Bull until the last moment allowed him to close right up to Perez, before the dive-bomb up the inside of turn 14 was chef’s kiss. 

You would normally expect the driver ahead to defend into the corner, but Perez surprisingly offered no defence, providing Leclerc an opportunity to snatch second right at the death. 

And Leclerc did this with aplomb. He lunged to the inside from over two car-lengths behind, daring on the brakes, as he had been all race, took the apex of the corner, and covered off the racing line at turn 15, preventing Perez from fighting back. 

The statistics tell you a story: Leclerc approached the corner 23 kph quicker than the Mexican, and experienced an estimated 7G of force under braking, approximately double compared to the Red Bull ahead. This was as a result of decelerating from 354 kph to 75 kph, braking later than his rival. Even more impressive was Leclerc’s tyres being six laps older than Perez’s hard tyres, having lesser grip and traction. 

At such speeds, you have to be pin-perfect with your inputs, with high chances of locking up on older, hard tyres, and going into the barrier at turn 15. You are risking 15 valuable points for your team in pursuit of three more, and the odds of pulling such a risky overtake are certainly minimal. 

It was also easy to misjudge the position of the rival alongside at the corner — just like Lewis Hamilton and Oscar Piastri earlier. 

But Leclerc, who had been brave on the brakes against Perez earlier, and had overtaken the Red Bulls thrice during the race, knew a thing or two about overtaking at the corner. 

His judgement was on point, and he managed to keep his composure — and his steering straight, preventing any snaps or worse still, an incident costing both drivers, making a lunge that would go down into the history books as one of the sport’s finest. It was the sight of a talented young star giving us a glimpse of his capabilities, and one who handled pressure like a pro, something he had done numerous times across his career. 

His crucial move helped narrow Ferrari’s gap to Mercedes even further, to only four points, heading into the season finale at Abu Dhabi — firmly in contention for a spot higher up the standings. 

How People Reacted to the Overtake

“What a move, Charles Leclerc, absolutely brilliant, at the last real chance that he had to make the pass!” - Alex Jacques, F1 TV commentator. 

“I didn’t leave anything on the table today and the team executed the race perfectly, so I am satisfied with our performance.” - Leclerc on his Las Vegas Grand Prix drive. 

“He was again very competitive, to the point of overtaking Perez for P2. I think Charles delivered one of the best drives of his career today” - Frederic Vasseur, Ferrari team principal. 

Fans were understandably excited across social media too, with many fans cheering their voices out as Leclerc made the overtake, and many even dubbing him a "future world champion", highlighting his talent. 

All in all, Leclerc’s overtake on Perez was a masterpiece, and true to the Vegas nature of going all-in, and deserves every bit of applause and accolades it has received so far, and will continue to receive, long into the future.


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