Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz have proved Ferrari will be a force in Sunday’s Las Vegas Grand Prix, with the former topping all three sessions to claim his 23rd career pole in this evening’s qualifying session.
Sainz qualified second fastest but controversially receives a 10-place grid penalty for changing a power unit after running over a loose drain cover in FP1, an incident that saw the weekend’s opening practice called off after just nine minutes.
Sainz’s relegation lifts world champion Max Verstappen to the front row, as the Red Bull struggled to match the Italian team’s pace on the fast-flowing Las Vegas Street Circuit.
A rapidly evolving track produced a few qualifying surprises and a mixed grid for the race. Most notably, Sergio Perez and Lewis Hamilton were eliminated in Q2, while both McLaren’s were eliminated in Q1.
Several others benefitted from this, including Pierre Gasly, who starts fourth, next to Mercedes’ George Russell.
Williams also showed great pace to lock out the third row, with Alex Albon starting fifth, one spot ahead of Logan Sargeant, who impressed in the final of three home Grand Prix in 2023.
Valtteri Bottas, Kevin Magnussen and Fernando Alonso rounded out the top ten in qualifying and start seventh, eighth and ninth, respectively. Hamilton jumps from 11th to 10th when Sainz’s penalty is applied.
Rapid track evolution in Q1 saw times continue to tumble throughout the session, with the Ferrari duo of Leclerc and Sainz setting the pace and topping the run.
It was to be a nightmare run for McLaren, who had both Oscar Piatri eliminated in 19th, and Lando Norris knocked out in 16th following a late Lance Stroll lap that was quick enough for the Aston Martin driver to progress.
Stroll will, however, face a visit to the stewards for potentially ignoring yellows for the second time this weekend as Q1 drew to an end. The caution came as a result of Yuki Tsunoda overshooting into a runoff, which saw him unable to improve his time and leaves him starting from the rear of the field.
Also eliminated was Esteban Ocon, in 17th, and Guanyu Zhou, in 18th.
Ferrari again set the pace in Q2 as the track continued to evolve, with Leclerc topping the session with a 1:32.775, over half a second faster than second-quickest Sainz.
Red Bull decided not to send Perez out for a final run, returning the car to the garage with over four minutes remaining in the session while sitting precariously in seventh.
Times continued to tumble, relegating Perez to 12th, which may change as he faces investigation for potentially impeding Norris in Q1.
Lewis Hamilton was also a surprise elimination in 11th.
Hulkenberg’s qualifying run also came to an end with the 13th best time, ahead of Daniel Ricciardo, who was 15th fastest but inherits a spot after Stroll, who qualified 14th, drops five places on the grid as a penalty for ignoring double-waved yellows in FP3.
Verstappen took the challenge to Ferrari in Q3, moving to within a tenth of the provisional pole with his early lap, but Leclerc would improve to a 1:32.726, nearly four-tenths faster than his Red Bull rival, who could not improve and aborted his final lap.
Sainz fell just 0.044 seconds short of his teammate’s best lap to go second fastest before Sargeant jumped to fourth but was quickly topped by Russell, Gasly and Albon, respectively, to qualify seventh fastest. Bottas, Magnussen and Alonso rounded out the top ten.
The Las Vegas Grand Prix begins at 7.00 pm on Sunday (NZ time).
Las Vegas Grand Prix Provisional Starting Grid
Header Image: Scuderia Ferrari