Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc took a historic pole position for the inaugural Las Vegas Grand Prix.
A day after the farce of practice being halted, the Ferrari man set the pace during the latest staged qualifying session in memory, which ran between midnight and 1am local time on Saturday morning.
Although the evening’s fare was bland, it did avoid the chaos of the previous night when fans were sent home having only watched eight minutes of action. Manhole covers needed to be mended and the first session was cancelled. The delayed second session ran from 2.30am to 4am – a ludicrous schedule that damaged Formula One’s hopes of cracking the traditionally reluctant American market.
In this weekend for the owls, Leclerc finished 0.44sec ahead of team-mate Carlos Sainz, with world champion Max Verstappen third in front of an estimated 90,000 fans enjoying the action on Sin City’s famous Strip with its famous hotel landmarks such as the Bellagio, Caesars Palace and MGM Grand.
Lewis Hamilton suffered a bad evening, qualifying 11th, having finished a crushing eighth, 63 seconds off winner Verstappen, last time out in Brazil. The Briton’s Mercedes team-mate George Russell was fourth best over the 3.8-mile circuit.
Charles Leclerc finished in pole position, setting the fastest time on a crazy weekend
Carlos Sainz finished second in qualifying but will start 12th after his ten-place grid penalty
Lewis Hamilton was knocked out in Q2 with the 11th-fastest time, though team-mate George Russell eventually recorded the fourth-best time
Sergio Perez’s woes continued as he failed to reach Q3 for the ninth occasion this season
Lando Norris was eliminated in Q1, only 16th fastest on a disappointing day for McLaren, who also saw their Australian rookie Oscar Piastri qualify last but one.
The team in orange have been impressive over recent weeks but clearly the new street track, with its three long straights and slow corners not favouring the composition of their cars.
‘Very disappointed,’ admitted McLaren team principal 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.’