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Leclerc On A Roll With Ferrari Pole In Las Vegas

  • SPORT
  • 4 min read

Charles Leclerc put Ferrari on pole position for the inaugural Las Vegas Grand Prix on Saturday with Red Bull’s triple Formula One world champion Max Verstappen stepping up to join him on the front row.

Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz was second fastest in qualifying, with Verstappen third, but the Spaniard has a 10-place grid penalty after repairs to his car following damage from a practice incident.

Leclerc was fastest in all three qualifying phases down the floodlit Strip, with its neon backdrop of landmark hotels and casinos, for his third pole in the last four races.

The Monaco driver was still disappointed with his laps, and a pole time of one minute 32.726 seconds only half a tenth faster than Sainz.

“I didn’t do a good enough job but it was enough for P1 so that’s all we need and now full focus on tomorrow to try to put everything together in the race,” he said.

“Normally that’s where we lack the most performance so I hope we can put it all together and win here.”

George Russell will move up to third for Mercedes with Pierre Gasly fourth on the grid for Alpine in the first race in Sin City since the 1980s.

The Williams pair of Alex Albon and U.S. rookie Logan Sargeant qualified an impressive, and surprising, fifth and sixth.

Verstappen abandoned his final lap, knowing he did not have to beat Sainz on track for a front row slot in his chase for a record-extending 18th win of a season whose titles were decided long ago.

“I think we maximised today. I think the whole weekend so far we have been lacking a bit of one lap performance and that was quite clear,” said the Dutch driver.

Valtteri Bottas will start seventh for Alfa Romeo with Kevin Magnussen lining up eighth for U.S.-owned Haas and Fernando Alonso ninth for Aston Martin.

Mercedes’ seven times world champion Lewis Hamilton failed to make it through to the top 10 shootout, qualifying 11th, but will move up to 10th due to Sainz’s penalty.

Red Bull’s Sergio Perez, who can clinch second place overall in the championship this weekend, will start 11th as Sainz drops to 12th.

MCLARENS OUT EARLY

Both McLarens failed to make it through the first phase, with Britain’s Lando Norris 16th fastest and Australian rookie team mate Oscar Piastri on the back row in 19th, in a setback to their bid to consolidate fourth overall in the standings.

Both move up one place, however, after Aston Martin’s Lance Stroll, who qualified 14th, was handed a five-place grid penalty for overtaking while double yellow flags were being waved in final practice.

“Very disappointed. We thought we’d struggle this weekend but I didn’t think either car would be out in Q1,” McLaren’s American boss Zak Brown told Sky Sports television.

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

“Not a great time with how close we are in the championship (to Aston Martin) to have both cars out in Q1 but let’s see what happens tomorrow.”

Alpine’s Esteban Ocon will also have his work cut out in the race from 17th place on the grid after nearly colliding with Verstappen at the end.

Verstappen called the Frenchman an “idiot” over the team radio while Ocon complained that: “It’s a joke, honestly – Verstappen diving into turn one like crazy.”

Qualifying started at midnight on Friday, making Las Vegas the first grand prix since Japan in 2019 where the pole position was decided on the same day as the race.

The 10 p.m. (0600GMT) start will be the latest in F1 history.

Reuters