Charles Leclerc lights up Las Vegas to claim pole position for Ferrari

By Sports Desk November 18, 2023

Charles Leclerc danced his way to pole position with an emphatic performance for Ferrari under the Las Vegas lights.

At just after 1am local time – the latest conclusion to a qualifying session in Formula One history – Leclerc finished just 0.044 seconds clear of team-mate Carlos Sainz.

However, Sainz will start down in 12th after a loose drain cover destroyed his Ferrari in practice and triggered a 10-place grid penalty.

Triple world champion Max Verstappen, a winner in 17 of the 20 rounds so far, took third spot for Red Bull, but will move up to second following Sainz’s demotion. Lewis Hamilton was eliminated in Q2, leaving him only 10th on the grid.

Hamilton finished half-a-second behind team-mate George Russell, who hauled his Mercedes into Q3 before taking advantage of Sainz’s penalty to secure third on the grid for Saturday’s 50-lap race.

Following the shambolic start to F1’s Sin City comeback here on Thursday night, qualifying passed off without significant incident – much to the relief of the sport’s under-fire bosses.

F1 CEO Stefano Domenicali stopped short of issuing an apology to the furious spectators, who saw just eight minutes of practice before they were ejected from the stands.

However, in the early hours of Saturday morning, the estimated 90,000 fans who filled the 3.8-mile street venue – 30,000 down on capacity – were treated to an uninterrupted session which saw Leclerc romp to top spot in his scarlet machine.

“I am happy,” said Leclerc. “To have first place in Las Vegas is great.

“I was a bit disappointed because my lap was not great but it was all we needed. In the race we usually lack pace but hopefully we can put it all together in the race.”

Against the backdrop of Caesars Palace, the MGM Grand and Bellagio hotels, Ferrari delivered, but it was another underwhelming showing for Hamilton.

A fortnight after the seven-time world champion finished eighth in Brazil – 63 seconds behind winner Verstappen – he struggled for pace in his underperforming Mercedes.

“Couldn’t go faster, mate,” said Hamilton following his elimination. Behind Hamilton, Sergio Perez qualified one place back.

Lando Norris arrived in Nevada as the grid’s in-form driver after scoring more points across the last three rounds than anyone else.

But the British driver failed to make it out of Q2 with his McLaren machinery not suited to the three long straights here coupled with slow corners.

He qualified only 16th, three places ahead of team-mate Oscar Piastri who also fell at the first hurdle.

“Very disappointed,” said McLaren CEO Zak Brown. “We thought we’d struggle this weekend but I didn’t think either car would be out in Q1.

“Not a good start to the weekend and now all we can do is focus on the race tomorrow.”

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  • Second morning of F1 testing in Bahrain cut short due to loose drain cover Second morning of F1 testing in Bahrain cut short due to loose drain cover

    Formula One’s second morning of testing was cancelled after a loose drain cover struck Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes and the Ferrari of Charles Leclerc.

    Both Hamilton and Leclerc hit the debris at Turn 11 in Bahrain, and the running was red-flagged with one hour and 40 minutes remaining.

    Circuit officials attempted to repair the track, but after a delay of nearly 40 minutes, it was announced that the running would not resume.

    The one-hour lunch break, was brought forward by an hour. The afternoon session will now run for five hours, instead of four, starting one hour earlier than planned at 2pm local time (11am GMT).

    Ferrari said the impact caused damage to the floor of Leclerc’s Ferrari, which has since been replaced.

    It is unclear at this stage how extensive the damage was to Hamilton’s Mercedes.

    Both Hamilton and Leclerc were unharmed in the incidents.

    Last November, a water valve cover broke free from the newly-laid tarmac of the Las Vegas street circuit and tore into the underbelly of Carlos Sainz’s Ferrari at 210mph.

    Speaking at the time, Ferrari team principal Fred Vasseur called the incident “unacceptable”.

    Hamilton, competing in his final season for Mercedes ahead of his switch to Ferrari, is scheduled to be behind the wheel of his new machine all day. He was sixth when the red flag was deployed.

    Max Verstappen finished fastest on Wednesday. The test concludes on Friday ahead of next Saturday’s first round of the season, also in the Gulf kingdom.

  • Second morning of testing in Bahrain cancelled due to loose drain cover Second morning of testing in Bahrain cancelled due to loose drain cover

    Formula One’s second morning of testing was cancelled after a loose drain cover struck Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes and the Ferrari of Charles Leclerc.

    Both Hamilton and Leclerc hit the debris at Turn 11 in Bahrain, and the running was red-flagged with one hour and 40 minutes remaining.

    Circuit officials attempted to repair the track, but after a delay of nearly 40 minutes, it was announced that the running would not resume.

    The one-hour lunch break, was brought forward by an hour. The afternoon session will now run for five hours, instead of four, starting one hour earlier than planned at 2pm local time (11am GMT).

    Ferrari said the impact caused damage to the floor of Leclerc’s Ferrari, which has since been replaced.

    It is unclear at this stage how extensive the damage was to Hamilton’s Mercedes.

    Both Hamilton and Leclerc were unharmed in the incidents.

    Last November, a water valve cover broke free from the newly-laid tarmac of the Las Vegas street circuit and tore into the underbelly of Carlos Sainz’s Ferrari at 210mph.

    Speaking at the time, Ferrari team principal Fred Vasseur called the incident “unacceptable”.

    Hamilton, competing in his final season for Mercedes ahead of his switch to Ferrari, is scheduled to be behind the wheel of his new machine all day. He was sixth when the red flag was deployed.

    Max Verstappen finished fastest on Wednesday. The test concludes on Friday ahead of next Saturday’s first round of the season, also in the Gulf kingdom.

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