Las Vegas GP Qualifying: Charles Leclerc takes pole position as Ferrari seal dominant one-two

by 24britishtvNov. 18, 2023, 1 p.m. 21

Charles Leclerc took pole position on Formula 1's return to Las Vegas by leading a dominant Ferrari one-two from Carlos Sainz in qualifying.

After a chaotic start to F1's return to Vegas saw major disruption on Thursday, a smooth Friday on the spectacular circuit that has brought the sport to the city's stunning Strip for the first time ended with Leclerc edging out Sainz by 0.044s.

World champion Max Verstappen was third for Red Bull, but will start alongside Leclerc on the front row with Sainz being controversially demoted by a 10-place grid penalty incurred for exceeding his allowance of car parts after an incident caused by a faulty water valve cover during first practice.
• Carlos Sainz in 'disbelief' over 10-place grid penalty for drain damaged car
• When to watch the Las Vegas Grand Prix live on Sky Sports F1
• Stream every F1 race and more with NOW | Get Sky Sports

While Ferrari showed stunning pace throughout the session to dominate, the contest for the places behind them was hugely unpredictable.

George Russell was fourth for Mercedes but his team-mate Lewis Hamilton and Red Bull's Sergio Perez were knocked out in Q2 after McLaren duo Lando Norris and Oscar Piastri had exited in Q1.

Those surprise eliminations opened opportunities for others as Alpine's Pierre Gasly took fifth ahead of Williams duo Alex Albon and Logan Sargeant, with the American's seventh place the best qualifying result of his rookie F1 campaign.

Valtteri Bottas claimed eighth for Alfa Romeo ahead of Haas' Kevin Magnussen, while Fernando Alonso rounded out the top 10 for Aston Martin.

*Sainz will be demoted by 10-place grid penalty

Ferrari had shown impressive pace throughout practice but extenuating circumstances meant that qualifying began with a lack of clarity on just how strong the Italian team's one-lap performance was.

A bizarre first day of track action saw first practice cancelled after just eight minutes - and an extended second practice significantly delayed - to allow for repairs to the surface.

Leclerc topped the second session but both Ferraris were unable to complete flying laps on soft tyres in final practice as the session was brought to a premature end by a red flag.

Any doubt over their pace was dispelled as soon as qualifying began, with only Sainz able to get anywhere near his team-mate.

Leclerc topped all three parts of the session, with a 1:32.726 sealing pole as the track continued to improve right up until the final seconds.

The Monegasque's focus now turns to ending a streak of 11 races in which he has failed to convert pole position to victory.

The driver most likely to deny him will be Verstappen, with the Dutchman seeking a record-extending 18th win of his historically dominant campaign.

Ferrari's significant qualifying advantage provides Leclerc with hope that the result could be different to those on the four previous occasions he has claimed pole this season.

"I'm happy. To take the first pole in Las Vegas, it's an incredible event," Leclerc said.

"Now it's full focus to try and put everything together for the race. Normally, that's where we lack most performance so I hope we can put it all together and win here."

The all-new circuit was always likely to throw up some surprises, particularly after the interruptions to the practice schedule.

McLaren had arrived at several circuits in recent weeks with doubts over their potential, but were finally proven right on this occasion.

Even Norris, who has finished on the podium in five of the last six races, was unable to find the performance to advance from Q1 as he finished 16th, with rookie team-mate Piastri faring even worse in P19.

The shocks didn't end there as Hamilton, who has also been enjoying a strong run of form, was caught out at the end of Q2.

The Brit started his final push lap significantly earlier than others fighting to advance, and paid the price as he was pushed down the order in the final seconds.

While Hamilton said over radio that he simply didn't have the speed, Red Bull were left slightly red-faced as Perez sat in the pits while the other 14 cars were out on track at the end of the session, with the Mexican later admitting his team had been "caught out".

Behind them, Lance Stroll was also eliminated from Q2 in 14th, but is set to start from 19th after receiving a five-place grid penalty for overtaking under double waved yellow flags in final practice.

When to watch the Las Vegas GP live on Sky Sports
• 6am: THE LAS VEGAS GRAND PRIX (also on Sky Showcase)

Get ready for the big one: Formula 1 in Las Vegas! See drivers race down the Strip, and past landmarks like Caesars Palace and the Bellagio, on F1's newest street track. Watch the Las Vegas GP weekend live on Sky Sports F1 and Sky Showcase, with lights out on Sunday at 6am. Stream F1 on Sky Sports with NOW


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