Formula 1 Las Vegas Friday Practice Review

Published on 17 November 2023 at 16:00

Formula 1 revs up the engines for the first around the City of Lights and with Friday Practice concluded the streets of Las Vegas have already some high and lows 


Practice 1

Unfortunately, Practice 1 stopped after eight minutes with Carlos Sainz hitting a drain covering. So, for the drivers to understand the track they would have to wait until Practice 2.


Practice 2

Charles Leclerc delivered an outstanding performance during the second practice session at the Las Vegas Grand Prix, leading the pack with Ferrari's rapid pace, a stark turnaround after the day's earlier session was abruptly suspended due to a malfunctioning drain cover. This mishap had caused significant damage to Carlos Sainz's vehicle, leading to the session's premature end only eight minutes post commencement at 8:30 pm local time.


The interruption necessitated thorough inspections and extensive repair work, delaying the subsequent practice which was initially scheduled for an hour but was later extended by an additional 30 minutes to compensate for lost time. Despite the hiccup, the session eventually began at 2:30 am local time, much to the relief of the event organizers and fans, ensuring that one of the season's most anticipated weekends did not face further setbacks.


Nevertheless, the extensive delays led to the unusual situation of a practice session extending into the early hours, surpassing the usual working hours of circuit staff as per Sky Sports News' understanding. As a result, the practice unfolded in the absence of spectators, with the grandstands and surrounding fan zones conspicuously empty, adhering to the decision made by Las Vegas Grand Prix officials. They cited the advanced hour and logistical challenges in safely managing the crowds as reasons for the closure of fan zones ahead of Practice Two. The statement released by the Las Vegas Grand Prix highlighted the emphasis on safety and logistical feasibility given the circumstances.


Embodying the vibrant spirit of Las Vegas, a city renowned for its ceaseless energy, Formula 1's Practice Two session unfolded into the early hours, culminating at 4 am. This session, unique in its nocturnal timing, allowed drivers to navigate the newly minted 3.8-mile circuit that traces the iconic Strip, under the city’s shimmering lights.


Ferrari, recalling their triumphant performance on the streets of Singapore, where they handed Red Bull their sole race-day defeat of the season, once again showed formidable pace, hinting at a strong contention for the top positions in Las Vegas. Charles Leclerc, in particular, shone brightly, outpacing his teammate Carlos Sainz by a significant half-second margin, clocking a best lap time of 1:35.265, and securing the second-fastest time in the session.


Meanwhile, reigning champion Max Verstappen, who is often seen battling at the sharp end of the grid, found himself in an unusual sixth place, trailing the pacesetters by nine-tenths of a second, while his Red Bull teammate Sergio Perez clinched the fourth spot. Despite not topping the timesheets, Verstappen remained optimistic about his team's performance, advocating for further improvements while also offering a candid critique of the new circuit and its surrounding fanfare.


The resilience of the Ferrari team was put to the test as they rallied to repair Sainz's car, which had sustained considerable damage from a high-speed encounter with a dislodged drain cover during the first practice session. The swift and meticulous work by the mechanics, carried out in the interlude between sessions, was a testament to their dedication and expertise, enabling Sainz to return to the track against the odds.


Team principal Fred Vasseur voiced his dissatisfaction with the incident, condemning the oversight as "unacceptable." The repercussions were significant, necessitating a replacement of multiple engine components and the chassis survival cell, a testament to the severity of the impact and the remarkable turnaround achieved by the team to remain in the fray.


In a team principal news conference, Frederic Vasseur's frustration was palpable as he addressed the media, his ire directed at the unfortunate incident that caused significant damage to Carlos Sainz's car during practice. Vasseur's reaction highlighted the severity of the situation, emphasizing the financial implications with a stark assertion that the repairs would incur substantial costs, hinting at the ripple effect this would have on the team's resources and budgeting.


The repercussions of the incident were further compounded by the necessity for a new power unit energy store for Sainz's car. This replacement pushed the team beyond the allocated quota of penalty-free components for the season, triggering a setback in the form of a grid penalty. Despite Ferrari's appeal to the stewards for leniency, citing the extraordinary circumstances as force majeure, the stewards were bound by the stringent regulations of Formula 1, which left no room for such exemptions. As a result, Sainz faced a ten-place grid penalty, relegating him to start Sunday's grand prix from no higher than the 11th position, a significant disadvantage in the high-stakes race.


The qualifying results also saw a mix of fortunes for other teams. Fernando Alonso, driving for Aston Martin, delivered an impressive performance to secure the third spot on the grid, with Alfa Romeo's Valtteri Bottas not far behind, clinching fifth place behind Sergio Perez. In contrast, the Mercedes team, typically frontrunners in the sport, found themselves in an uncharacteristic position with Lewis Hamilton and George Russell securing ninth and twelfth places, respectively. The McLaren team, which had been enjoying a run of form, faced a challenging qualifying, with both of their cars finishing outside the top ten, setting the stage for a race day where strategic acumen would be as crucial as outright pace.


Practice Two Timesheet

  1. Charles Leclerc     Ferrari          1:35.265
  2. Carlos Sainz          Ferrari          +0.517
  3. Fernando Alonso   Aston Martin +0.528
  4. Sergio Perez         Red Bull        +0.820
  5. Valtteri Bottas        Alfa Romeo   +0.864
  6. Max Verstappen    Red Bull        +0.918
  7. Nico Hulkenberg   Haas              +1.224
  8. Lance Stroll           Aston Martin  +1.231
  9. Lewis Hamilton     Mercedes       +1.398
  10. Alex Albon             Williams         +1.423
  11. Lando Norris         McLaren         +1.599
  12. George Russell     Mercedes       +1.625
  13. Kevin Magnussen Haas              +1.652
  14. Oscar Piastri         McLaren         +1.722
  15. Pierre Gasly          Alpine             +1.869
  16. Esteban Ocon       Alpine             +1.976
  17. Yuki Tsunoda         AlphaTauri      +2.147
  18. Zhou Guanyu        Alfa Romeo     +2.391
  19. Daniel Ricciardo    AlphaTauri      +2.415
  20. Logan Sargeant     Williams         +2.875


Aaron Teasdale

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