Las Vegas GP 2023

NOVEMBER 18, 2023

Qualifying Report - Leclerc on pole

Charles Leclerc, Las Vegas GP 2023
© Ferrari

By Peter Habicht

Charles Leclerc took pole position for the inaugural Las Vegas Grand prix as teammate Carlos Sainz qualified second fastest for Ferrari. Sainz will serve a 10 grid place penalty for using his third energy store following damage sustained in yesterday’s opening practice incident, but Team Principal Frédéric Vasseur has his eyes on tomorrow: “We know the penalty is unfair but he has had strong and consistent pace all weekend, as has Charles. So we have to look ahead and no longer think about it, because the points are given out in the race and now we have to focus on ourselves.”

Max Verstappen was next fastest for Red Bull and will start from second on the grid as a result.

George Russell will start third for Mercedes, ahead of Alpine’s Pierre Gasly and the Williams of Alex Albon and Logan Sargeant, who earned the team’s best qualifying result this season. It’s a home soil triumph for Sargeant and his best qualifying performance in Formula 1 as well as his second top ten grid place this season.

The American was elated afterwards: “Today felt really good from FP3 onwards. I’m very happy to execute over three separate sessions and finally extract the potential that we’ve had. To do it here in Vegas is extra special which is highlighted by the fact we have a great car here. It’s not easy to deliver on that performance, so the fact we’re able to continuously do that throughout the session is awesome. It’s been a great day for the team and congrats to everyone. We’ve worked hard and knew this weekend was a good opportunity and we’re off to the right start. Most importantly we have two cars near the front of the grid.”

Alfa’s Valtteri Bottas will start from seventh on the grid next to the Haas of Kevin Magnussen, while Aston’s Fernando Alonso will start from ninth alongside Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton.

Hamilton shared: “I really struggled for grip out there and we didn't manage to get the tires working throughout the whole session. It's not ideal but it's an issue I've been dealing with for a while. We saw a decent amount of track evolution. Not a crazy amount, but it was still enough to knock me out as I failed to improve on my final lap in Q2.”

Red Bull’s Sergio Perez leads the back half of the grid, starting next to Sainz and ahead of Haas’ Nico Hulkenberg. Aston’s Lance Stroll starts from 14th, followed by AlphaTauri’s Daniel Ricciardo. McLaren, which has been improving steadily this season, failed to make it out of Q1 and Lando Norris will be starting from 16th and Oscar Piastri 19th.

McLaren team Principal Andrea Stella explained: “… Las Vegas has been a bit of a struggle, both in terms of putting the car in a decent operating performance window, and also dealing with the behavior of the tires, which are difficult in terms of warm up but at the same time can also get damaged very easily with graining. Despite that, we had enough performance to progress from Q1, but we were not able because the single set of tires we were going to use was degrading too rapidly and was not enough to beat cars that used two sets.”

Alpine’s Esteban Ocon and Alfa’s Guanyu Zhou qualified 17th and 18th between the McLarens and AlphaTauri’s Yuki Tsunoda will start at the back of the grid.

Saturday’s race starts at 10pm.