Charles Leclerc shares Las Vegas GP tyre verdict amid Pirelli concern

Charles Leclerc topped FP1 and FP2 at the 2023 Las Vegas GP

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Charles Leclerc admitted his tyres were awful initially in free practice at the 2023 Las Vegas Grand Prix, but were much better after a few laps as Ferrari look the team to beat heading into FP3 and qualifying.

Leclerc topped both practice sessions averaging a 1.5-second gap to the next-quickest driver, though that’s not as impressive it looks given the curtailed FP1 session.

However, he was still dominant in FP2 as he cleared runner-up Carlos Sainz by half a second in 12°C conditions that should mirror tomorrow’s qualifying, where Pirelli have voiced major concerns about tyre temperature.

“The first two laps were very poor but very quickly, once the dust was out then it was reasonable grip, so it was all good,” Leclerc told F1TV. “It looks good for now. I like the track, it’s fun to drive.

“I always like street tracks but this is a good one. We look quite strong for now, difficult to understand where we are in race pace but in terms of qualifying pace we seem strong. We still have to work and try and do a step forward for tomorrow but it’s a good start.”

Can Leclerc beat Verstappen and Red Bull?

Max Verstappen of Red Bull Racing ahead of 2023 Las Vegas Grand Prix | Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool

However, Leclerc predicted Red Bull are still the favourites to take race victory, after Max Verstappen produced a strong long run.

The pair even battled on-track in FP2 with the Las Vegas Strip Circuit appearing to encourage overtaking, luckily for Sainz as he suffered a controversial 10-place grid penalty.

Sergio Perez could also be a contender for Ferrari to deal with – five of his six grand prix wins have come street circuits, most recently at the 2023 Azerbaijan GP in April where he impressively fought off Verstappen.

“I think in qualifying, as always, we will be there. But in race pace, they are still too strong,” Leclerc added. “Max has done a really good race simulation. For sure, they will be strong on Sunday but qualifying will be close.”

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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