The Thursday in F1 Las Vegas GP was dramatic after early end to FP1 but there was some recovery in an extended FP2 session.
It wasn’t the smooth start to Thursday in F1 Las Vegas GP where FP1 was cut short due to drain cover getting pulled up and damaging Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz’s car. It also affected Alpine’s Esteban Ocon as both needed chassis change along with other things.
Additionally, Sainz has grid penalty due to third Energy Store which will certainly drop him to at least 10th if he secures pole. Ferrari is looking good on one lap pace as Charles Leclerc topped both the sessions, but they are still not certain about race pace.
They had Aston Martin’s Fernando Alonso in the Top 3 with the likes of Red Bull, Mercedes and McLaren not in the top frame. Max Verstappen felt good on one lap but not for the long run as he reckoned the degradation a bit on the higher side for his liking.
Lewis Hamilton felt good enough in the fast flowing Las Vegas circuit, but knows qualifying will be key to good points scoring outing. Lando Norris, on the other hand, expected to be a bit behind considering the type of circuit it is in Las Vegas.
Leclerc: “It looks good for now. I like the track, it’s fun to drive. I always liked street tracks but this one is a good one. We look quite strong for now. It’s difficult to understand exactly where we are in race pace, but in quali pace we seem strong. We still have to work and try to do a step forward for tomorrow, but it’s a good start. I don’t know. I think in qualifying as always we’ll be there, but in race pace I think they’re still too strong. Max has done a really good race sim, so as always, for sure they will be strong on [race day], but in qualifying tomorrow we’ll be close.”
Sainz: “Unfortunately, obviously the chassis, the power unit, the battery, even my seat was damaged after the incident, which involved a huge effort from all the mechanics and the team to put together a completely brand-new car for FP2. It allowed me to complete the session, which was in my opinion a heroic effort by the team and the mechanics, and I could take [my] place in the session. We managed to do it, recover the time and focus on tomorrow.”
Hamilton: “We’re travelling at some serious speeds out there. It’s incredibly fast and it’s a lot of fun – I had so much fun today. I’m so glad we did get to run again. They did a great job to fix it and it was an interesting session. It’s going to be interesting. Qualifying position will be really important and then obviously tyre degradation is going to be key. I had a blast. Everyone’s struggling with jet lag and all that stuff and I feel really great. I just watched a movie in the break between FP1 and FP2 and I feel great and ready to go again.”
Verstappen: “It’s slippery. Of course we didn’t really run a lot in FP1 so it took a bit of time to rubber in a little bit more. I think at the end it was a little bit better. We managed to do the whole programme, which I guess was the most important [thing] for today. I think the soft over one lap is good. The long run was a bit more difficult. It seemed like the soft tyre was struggling quite a lot out there, so we very quickly went onto the medium, but it seems even the medium is not a straightforward tyre as well in the long run. Still a bit of things that we have to look into to see how we can improve our deg [degradation] on the long. I think we still look very good compared to others as well, but I feel like maybe we can still do a better job. Not straightforward to pick your tyres, I think, for the race.”
Norris: “Today was a tricky day on a tricky circuit. The grip was poor and it’s easy to go through the tyres quite quickly, which is what we were doing. I think we’re a long way off where we’ve been the last few weekends, but probably where we expected. It’s similar to where we were in Monza and other low downforce circuits. It’s a struggle at the minute but I’m sure we can make progress into tomorrow.”
Alonso: “It is an interesting circuit for sure. With a lot of very different corners and these long straights, which at night the tyres, they lose temperature a little bit. So, the braking zones are interesting and [it is] a little bit random what grip you will get. I think the race is going to be fun, a lot of opportunities to overtake as well, so let’s see tomorrow if we can optimise things. It should not be too bad. I think qualifying eventually you put the temperature in the tyre. I think [there] could be a little bit more adrenaline if there are any Safety Cars or things like that where the tyres can lose the temperature. That will be a little bit more tricky, but it will be the same for everybody and we should be ready. Let’s see. We had a decent first day. I think we still need to optimise a few things in the car as everyone else. Let’s see tomorrow when we put the full potential. We will have a couple of tenths in the pocket, but everybody does. I think it’s going to be very tight. We saw today within two-tenths there are like 10 cars, so you need to optimise everything in quali.”
The Top 10 featured Alfa Romeo’s Valtteri Bottas too who felt good but is being cautious of his position for now. He still wants to find performance as he knows qualifying will be a different ball game. He had Williams’ Alexander Albon to company in the Top 10.
The team is expecting Q3 finish and points seeing the layout and seemingly held back on showing his pace. The likes of Haas’ Nico Hulkenberg and AlphaTauri’s Yuki Tsunoda were a bit 50-50 as they feel they need to find performance to be make it in Q3. For Alpine, it was hard work on Ocon’s side but they managed to fix and get him running.
Bottas: “Finishing in the top five is always nice, but it’s still very early days and we can’t get too carried away. Everyone will improve massively tomorrow, and we will need to do the same, but as far as today is concerned, we looked good. We have a clear direction to follow with the setup to improve the balance of the car, as it’s still a bit understeery in the slow-speed corners, and there is a lot of time to be gained if we fix that. The track is just as we expected: really fast, with long straights and very slippery at the beginning of the session. The grip kept getting better with every lap, and we expect more evolution tomorrow. Now, we need to focus on finding some more performance ahead of qualifying: it will be an even longer night than it has been already, but we’re motivated to continue at this level.”
Hulkenberg: “It was obviously an interesting day, in unique circumstances for everyone involved. I think having FP2 start at 02:30 will be a record that will stand for a long time, I don’t think that will be beaten easily. Building up to it and learning the circuit, we found that okay and we’re obviously still exploring. We’ll have to see overnight what we can do with our set-up but it didn’t feel bad today, at least over one lap. Thanks to the fans who came out and stayed with us for so long, we’ll make sure to bring you more entertainment tomorrow.”
Albon: “It’s a tricky track but it wasn’t too bad, however it’s going to be all about the braking. As soon as you get confident on the brakes, you’re going to be quite quick. Being a new track, the evolution is extremely high, but I do think we’re in good shape and the car is in a good place. We’re going to have to do a bit of fine tuning which is expected but the pace was good. I think the long run is a little more difficult because of the cold temperatures but otherwise I feel good.”
Ocon: “It’s been a busy night with a lot of emotions to say the least! On one side, it was very cool to drive around the iconic Las Vegas streets for the first time today, and on the other, an unfortunate and premature end to the first practice session. I sustained heavy damage on my car after hitting a loose drain cover on the track during the first laps and, consequently, we had to change the chassis. Huge credit to the team for patching it all up in such a tight timeframe just in time for the delayed second session. Free Practice 2 was straightforward, testing different things and getting to grips with the tyres and track conditions. I enjoy this track and it should make for an exciting Qualifying and Race. Let’s see what we can do later today after a few hours of well-deserved sleep for everyone.”
Tsunoda: “It’s a shame for the fans that FP1 wasn’t restarted, but safety comes first. It took some time for FP2 to start, but in the end, we got to drive for 90 minutes and were able to collect valuable data. The track surface is quite slippery, but I enjoy the track layout itself, especially the kerbs because they’re drivable and you can be quite aggressive, which is fun. Our performance doesn’t seem great so far, but we gathered a lot of data today, so I’m sure we can make some positive steps forward. We have an idea of some limitations and have already tried ways to improve them, particularly in the long run, and it definitely feels better already. We’ll work together and do our best to extract the maximum performance from our package.”
Here’s F1 team bosses on Las Vegas GP situation
Here’s what happened in FP1 in F1 Las Vegas GP
Here’s what happened in FP2 in F1 Las Vegas GP