Charles Leclerc lands irresistible Las Vegas GP pole as Red Bull gaffe condemns Perez

Five different teams will start in the top five at the 2023 Las Vegas GP led by Ferrari's Charles Leclerc

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Charles Leclerc led an irrestible Ferrari front-row lockout ahead of Max Verstappen at the 2023 Las Vegas Grand Prix, in a vicious qualifying session that produced plenty of big-name casualties before Q3 and resulted in a jumbled grid for the race.

Carlos Sainz was just four-hundredths behind Leclerc but will start 12th thanks to his grid penalty, as Verstappen abandoned his final run having looked off the pace all weekend compared to Ferrari.

But his teammate Sergio Perez – who’s taken five of his six grand prix wins on street circuits – never got chance to challenge as he was eliminated ahead of the final session.

Three drivers had times of 1:33.8 seconds counting down to the final few minutes in Q2, but Perez was the only one to remain in his garage and could only watch as Valtteri Bottas claimed tenth.

And it could get even worse for the Mexican, as he appeared to impede Lando Norris in Q1 before both McLarens failed to make it out of the first session.

Lewis Hamilton also missed out on Q3, three-hundredths behind Bottas, but admitted he gave it all he could with Russell looking the stronger Mercedes throughout Friday running on the Las Vegas Strip circuit.

“Couldn’t go faster mate”

Lewis Hamilton over team radio to the Mercedes pitwall at the end of Q2

Russell proved a worthy standard-bearer for Mercedes though, he finished fourth and only 0.008s away from a front-row start.

Eight teams feature in the top 10 but Williams had both cars in play – Logan Sargeant went a heady fourth in the dying seconds but slipped to seventh in the final standings – just behind teammate Alex Albon and fifth-placed Pierre Gasly.

Bottas, Kevin Magnussen and Fernando Alonso completed the top 10, all around eight-tenths behind Leclerc.

Behind the big names in Q2, Nico Hulkenberg, Lance Stroll and Daniel Ricciardo were also eliminated.

Esteban Ocon joined the McLarens in the bottom five after Verstappen overtook him into turn 1 and compromised the Alpine‘s final run, with Zhou Guanyu and Yuki Tsunoda 18th and 20th.

McLaren woe opens door to Aston Martin

Oscar Piastri passes the Sphere at the 2023 Las Vegas GP | McLaren F1 Team

McLaren struggled with tyre temperature throughout Q1, and Oscar Piastri never looked like avoiding elimination – especially when McLaren were the only team not to send their drivers out on new tyres – as he limps towards the end of his rookie season.

The Australian has enjoyed one of the best debut F1 campaigns in recent memory, but has struggled since taking his first win at the 2023 Qatar Sprint and appears in ever more desperate need of the offseason to reset.

Piastri‘s also got no championship fight to speak of sat 24 points ahead of Stroll and mathematically unable to catch Russell for eighth, in Las Vegas he was 19th and over a tenth away from safety.

“It doesn’t make much sense that we went from top five to out of qualifying”

Oscar Piastri speaks to Sky Sports after his Q1 elimination at the 2023 Las Vegas GP

Norris was the bigger shock though, he slipped into the drop zone late in Q1 and couldn’t produce the necessary improvement so agonisingly missed out on 15th-place Ricciardo by just two-hundredths.

Despite picking up just 12 points in the first eight races of the season, Norris‘ splendid resurgence since Austria means he’s hauled himself into the incredibly tight battle for fourth, with three drivers separated by just six points.

Splitting Alonso and Sainz by three points each way, Norris‘ only saving grace is the latter’s 10-place grid penalty meaning they’ll be just four places apart at the start of the Las Vegas GP.

However, McLaren are a slim 21 points ahead of Aston Martin in the constructors’ standings – a position that could be under threat if Alonso can repeat his Interlagos heroics from a fortnight ago.

“Very disappointed, we thought we’d struggle this weekend but didn’t think either car would be out in Q1,” CEO Zak Brown told Sky Sports F1. “So not a good start to the weekend all we can now do is focus on the race tomorrow.

“We know the slow-speed corners aren’t our strength and we’re not bad but not great on the long straights and where we are strong are the high-speed, medium-speed corners which this circuit doesn’t have many of.

“Our low-downforce setup’s been a struggle over the course of the season so not a great time to have both cars out in Q1 with how close we are in the championship, but let’s see what happens tomorrow, the race could be a bit dramatic.”

Adam Dickinson
Adam Dickinson
An international multi-award-winning journalist, Adam Dickinson has written for Total-Motorsport.com since June 2022 and also contributes to TNT Sports, Eurosport and the Rugby Paper. He's also had articles published in the Daily Telegraph and several local newspapers, previously worked for Last-Lap.co.uk and FeederSeries.net in motorsport, and graduated with a First-Class Journalism Degree from the University of Sheffield having also studied in Oklahoma. Adam started watching F1 by accident in 2007, catching the last race in Indianapolis, and attended his first race as a journalist at the 2023 British Grand Prix.
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