The Friday/Saturday in F1 Las Vegas GP was smoother than the first day as qualifying saw Ferrari reign supreme but had many casualties too.
It was a smooth Friday/Saturday in F1 Las Vegas GP where Ferrari took a 1-2 finish with Charles Leclerc on pole from teammate Carlos Sainz, who will be forced to start from 12th due to the grid penalty. This promotes Red Bull’s Max Verstappen to front row.
Usually the Ferrari pair are not too confident about challenging Red Bull but this weekend, Leclerc feels that they do have good pace and may put up a fight against Verstappen. The Dutchman reckons it could be interesting indeed with the Monegasque.
For Sainz, though, he was still disappointed with the situation but he is controlling himself and waiting for a fight back from outside the Top 10. Verstappen’s teammate Sergio Perez was left a bit high and dry by Red Bull as he was caught out by the situation in Q2.
The Mexican was not alone to drop out in Q2 as Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton too lost out as he did not have enough pace towards the end. He is hopeful of a better outing in the race after some set-up changes that they did to position themselves better for the race.
The situation at McLaren wasn’t good too after they couldn’t make it out in Q1 due to strategy error. They felt the tyres will last long like they did so in practice but it didn’t and so they ended up being knocked out in a disaster of a qualifying for them.
Leclerc: “To be honest, I felt confident from the first lap in FP1. So the car has been great. Having said that, we are always very strong in quali. But then we obviously know what our weaknesses are in the race. And this is still to be seen tomorrow. But the car has felt great overall until now. So I really hope we can, we can have a good race. I’m not happy with Q3, but at the same time, you can only be happy when you’re on pole. So I think in Q2, it was probably the best laps I’ve done in a while. Both of them were really, really good. Then in Q3 I didn’t put things together and I was always losing a tenth here and there. But at the end, I managed to do more or less the same lap time as Q2, but I think there was quite a bit of track improvement. So I should have gone faster. The car felt great again. But yeah, it’s the way it is. It’s always tricky on street tracks, but I enjoyed this qualifying session. I mean, how can you not enjoy when it’s going all well like this and the car felt really good again. So it was a good session for us.
“The confidence is high because we are starting first. So it’s the best position to start from. On the other hand, we know that Red Bull is going to be very strong, and Max obviously is going to be very strong in race pace. But I feel like we’ve had positive signs this weekend on the high fuel, more than other races. So I hope we can convert that pole position into a win. I think in Singapore, in some places, you can drive one-and-a-half – two seconds off the pace and the cars behind cannot overtake. Here it’s going to be very, very different and pace will have a much more important role in the race. So, we have to do a good job on that but until now, honestly, we looked quite good. Stronger than other races. Not to say that we are stronger in race pace compared to Max – but I think we are closer than other races, so if there’s one race to win since Singapore, it’s this one, and I’ll obviously give it all.”
Sainz: “I think it’s fair to say Charles maybe was a step ahead in confidence this weekend. But coming into Q3 I felt like I did a good step. I think, as a team, we didn’t, I think, deliver maybe the maximum lap time that the car had available today. I think if I put my all my corners together definitely a 32.5 or something like that was available in the car… Thirty-three or 32? Thirty-two is too much. Thirty-three. What lap time did we do? Something like that. But yeah, look, we’re not going to complain. We’re first and second in qualifying. We’ve been flying all weekend, we’ve dominated every session and yeah, I just wish I could fight for a win tomorrow but unfortunately I’m starting 12th. we all expected maybe overtaking to be a bit easier, I think the track itself has been very tricky, you know, to follow people just because of the walls, the confidence you lose under the braking with a car in front, you cannot see the braking markers as well. And it’s a bit more difficult to follow the cursor. So, yeah, I think I’m expecting to move forward for sure tomorrow, how much or at what rate will I move forward? I don’t know. Let’s see also the strategy, the graining on the tyres is quite bad. So let’s see how that affects the racing and if it can give me a chance to get to the front tomorrow.”
Verstappen: “The whole weekend I think already we were not strong enough over one lap, so no real surprises there. I think also in Qualifying, I tried to do the best I can. I dropped the rear wing also, so it took probably a little bit of time to get into a nicer rhythm. But yeah, we were just too slow. My lap in Q3, I was actually quite happy with it. I improved quite a bit from Q2 and, honestly, yeah, there was not much more in it. I mean, I don’t think there was any corner where I lost time to my Q2 lap. I improved almost on every corner, a little bit, and yeah, felt OK. Not good enough but it felt OK. Of course, tomorrow is again very different. It’s not about the one-lap performance, it’s about keeping your tyres alive. There’s a lot of graining on the tyres, so yeah, hopefully of course we might have a little advantage there – or at least, we have a chance to fight them. I think it’s a bit like Austin, when it was the first race, it was also very bad on the inside. So that’s not ideal. I mean, I was actually hoping maybe to be P4 because I would have been promoted to P3. But that’s how it goes. I mean, we’ll just deal with it. Luckily, the run to one is not too bad. But if you have a bad start, you can still lose a lot of positions. So we’ll work with that tomorrow.”
Perez: “We had a strategy before qualifying with the team. And obviously we don’t know this place, and we were thinking what was the best programme, and we went this route. Obviously after that, it’s easier to know that it was the wrong call. Already in Q1 we were a bit lucky to get through because we didn’t get our final lap coming back to the pits. And then Q2 just finishing the session a little bit too early meant that there was some evolution still on track, and we were in the pits. I wasn’t aware that much that we were going to finish that early. But also, we didn’t seem to have the ultimate tenth in it today. So we were lacking a bit of pace out there. As I say this is a new place for us, so I wasn’t expecting it, but it’s how it is. I think that deg could be potentially really high out there. So plenty of things to look at tomorrow, and we will see what we are able to come out with. I think we should be able to have a lot faster race pace than qualifying pace, so hopefully that will bring us forward tomorrow.”
Norris: “Not great because I got knocked out! But yeah, the pace of the car was where we are to be honest. It’s where we’ve been all weekend. We’ve been a long way off the pace, but I’d say where we expected to be, honestly. It’s been a tough weekend, just the car’s not been performing where we’ve been the last few weeks of course, so I guess that’s disappointing. But at the same time, since our first few laps we knew we were not going to be very quick. In a way I’d say – not that I’d say it’s a great thing – but it’s a good thing that it’s kept us… a bit of a reality check, I’d say. I’d rather have that this year than next year, if that makes sense. Not what we wanted but it’s kind of what we were expecting.
“We’ve seen everyone going up and down a lot. I think we’ve said that we have strengths and weaknesses, we know where we’re very good, we know where we’ll be. Like we saw Mercedes struggling so much in Brazil, and Ferrari struggled a lot more in Brazil, and suddenly they look like the quickest car [here]. So it’s just up and down a little bit for everyone, and it’s about time we had a little bit of a down just to make us realise that we still have weaknesses and some big struggles, and I think a day like today, as much as it hurts inside, is sometimes a good thing too.”
Hamilton: “Pretty terrible, but it is what it is. It’s impressive to see the Williams so high up. I just didn’t have any grip out there. I don’t think the tyres were working the whole session. Not ideal, it’s been a problem I’ve had for a long time. We started the weekend with a lot of degradation, as a lot of people did, a lot of graining, so it’ll be really interesting to see… I made some changes to the car, and I’m hoping that it works in the races. It’s going to be super-tough. It’s short down to turn one and I’m in the thick of it, so that’s not the best place to be. We’re all on low wing, there’s going to be a lot of deg[radation]. There may be more deg than we know, no one’s driven the hard tyre yet. But Max [Verstappen] has two hards [tyre sets], two mediums, we have one medium and two hards. So it’s going to be a long race. It’s going to be about managing degradation, I would say.”
The troubles for others allowed the likes of Williams, Haas and Alfa Romeo to make it in the Top 10 along with Alpine. In fact, Williams were the only team to have both cars in Q3 along with Ferrari as the British team secured their best qualifying result.
Even though Alexander Albon did not feel 100% in the car, he still made it in considering the strengths of the car with Logan Sargeant securing his best result. Alpine saw Esteban Ocon getting knocked out in Q1, while Pierre Gasly ended up in Q3.
It was a good show from Gasly, which was the same with Alfa Romeo where Zhou Guanyu was knocked out in Q1 while Valtteri Bottas made it in Q3. For Haas, Kevin Magnussen got into the Top 10 while Nico Hulkenberg was knocked out in Q2.
Aston Martin’s Fernando Alonso was surprised with a Top 10 result and hope for points in the race, but for AlphaTauri it wasn’t a solid day as they couldn’t get the car working in the conditions since practice.
Alonso: “We are quite happy to be in Q3 and we will see what we can do from ninth tomorrow. I was happy with both of my laps in Q3 and we finished about half a tenth from seventh position, so it was all very tight. Coming here we thought this circuit might not suit our package as much, especially with the high straight-line speeds. The venue here is impressive and they have done a good job with that. I think the only issue for us has been the asphalt, which doesn’t have that much grip, so perhaps that can be looked at for the future. But, so far, it’s been fun racing in Vegas.”
Gasly: “I’m very pleased with the team effort today especially as our expectation was much lower than what we have achieved. We proved the predictions wrong and hopefully we can do the same tomorrow where we start fourth because of Carlos’s [Sainz] penalty. The car felt really good, I felt comfortable and that is so important, especially at a street track where you need to feel in sync with everything. I was able to push to the limit and the laps today were probably my best of the season. We will see what we can do tomorrow. We have to stay focused as it’s a new track, conditions will be cool and tricky and we just have to be ready. The target is to score some big points.”
Sargeant: “I’m a happy boy, for sure. It’s just nice to see what we’ve been working on come together. I feel like we’ve had that potential for a while, but finally I was able to get it all together over three qualifying sessions, which is nice. It was tight there at the end, so I’m glad I was a few hundredths quicker than P10. It’s a great day for the team and I think we have a good race car as well.”
Bottas: “I am really pleased for our performance tonight, it’s a great result for us and it gives us a good opportunity to score some points tomorrow. It’s a shame Zhou had a tricky Q1, otherwise we could have been up there with both cars; in any case, we can be happy about our pace, especially as we couldn’t really be sure about where we’d be coming into this race. We were able to find the right window to operate our car, and we were able to extract more performance in every segment of qualifying. There’s never a single silver bullet, but we executed every element well: it’s a lot of small margins that worked for us and made a big difference in the end result.”
Magnussen: “It’s good to be in the mix up there and I’m really happy with that. In terms of qualifying, we’ve been good before and have fallen back on race day so that’s what we’ll try to avoid tomorrow. Yesterday there was a lot of graining with the tyres, so we’ll see how we manage that as it’s going to be key for the race. We’ll do our best and see what we can do.”
Ricciardo: “I think, as a team, we’re struggling to extract the grip on this low-grip and new asphalt this weekend, which is shiny and open to the public during the day. We made some fairly big changes and steps forward overnight, but today, we couldn’t do much more. I’m happy with the improvements we made that allowed me to get into Q2, as we’re definitely struggling more with one-lap pace and getting the tyres to really work. I’m more optimistic for tomorrow because I think we’re stronger in the long run. I don’t know what to expect for the race, but I think it’s going to be very close.”
Here’s how F1 Las Vegas GP qualifying panned out