LAS VEGAS GP – Charles Leclerc fastest by half a second practice ahead of Carlos Sainz, following heavy delays
Charles Leclerc was fastest in a heavily delayed second practice for the Las Vegas Grand Prix, the Ferrari driver set a 35.265 going half a second faster than Ferrari teammate Carlos Sainz. Practice two was delayed for over two hours and didn’t start until 02:30 local time following damage to the circuit and Sainz’s car very early on in FP1.
Eight minutes into the first session, the Spaniard ran over a drain cover which caused extensive damage to his car and gives him a ten-place grid penalty, though the FIA accepts the incident was caused by the circuit and wasn’t a team or driver issue they ruled that the regulations didn’t give them the power to override the regulation. Sainz will start Saturday’s Grand Prix from no higher than eleventh.
It is not the first time a drain cover has caused problems on an F1 track, the 2019 Azerbaijan Grand Prix, the first practice was cancelled when George Russell’s Williams hit a drain cover and was badly damaged. Similar incidents have also happened in Monaco, another street race.
Their was also huge damage caused to Esteban Ocon’s Alpine during FP1. However, the second session which took place behind closed doors, passed without major drama, with the extended ninety-minute session seeing a lot of track evolution. Leclerc’s fastest time was eight and a half seconds faster than Oscar Piastri’s first lap.
However, despite the long delays, FP2 in the early hours of Friday morning was largely trouble-free baring the odd lock up which led to brief yellow flags but no stoppages or crashes despite the middle of the night running behind closed doors. This could make qualifying interesting.
Las Vegas, the city which never sleeps, lived up to its name with one of the latest or earliest practice sessions in the sports history, starting at 02:30am local / 10:30am GMT. Conditions were not as cold as expected as night turned to the early hours of Friday morning.
Ferrari won on F1’s last visit to a street track, in Singapore in September, the only race-day defeat Red Bull have suffered all season, and showed promising early form here. The Monacan looking very competitive going half a second faster than Sainz. while the pace was impressive a full half second faster than Verstappen, the team will be hoping to remain competitive and beat Red Bull like they did in Singapore.
Fernando Alonso was third, the Aston Martin driver a hundredth behind his fellow Spaniard and almost three-tenths faster than the Red Bull of Sergio Perez. Valtteri Bottas split the two Red Bulls, he was nearly half a tenth behind Perez and was half a tenth ahead of Max Verstappen.
The Dutchman was nearly a second off Leclerc’s session-topping time but only a brave person would bet against Red Bull being in the mix on Friday night/Saturday morning for pole and victory given the way they have dominated this season. But could the issues similar to Singapore be preventing Red Bull from continuing dominance.
Nico Hulkenberg was seventh the Haas driver six hundredths behind the three-time champion and ahead of Lance Stroll by just over a tenth and a half. Lewis Hamilton put his Mercedes ninth going ahead of the three other Brits, he was three hundredths faster than British-Thai driver Alex Albon.
Lando Norris was eight hundredths behind Albon, putting his McLaren eleventh going a quarter of a second faster than George Russell. Norris making a late improvement jumping from last to eleventh after a cooling sensor issue caused him to miss the early part of FP2.
Kevin Magnussen put his Haas thirteenth the Dane going three hundredths behind Russell, and ahead of Oscar Piastri by just under a tenth and a half. Pierre Gasly was seven thousandths faster than his Alpine teammate Esteban Ocon. Yuki Tsunoda was seventeenth, Guanyu Zhou split the two Alpha Tauri’s with Logan Sargeant completing the field.