Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc topped an extended and delayed Practice Two at the Las Vegas Grand Prix after F1’s arrival on the Strip had earlier been dramatically halted by a faulty drain cover and led to a long delay between the new showpiece event’s opening two track sessions.
First practice, which began at 8.30pm local time on Thursday, ran for little more than eight minutes before Carlos Sainz’s Ferrari was damaged after hitting the drain cover, with a red flag soon followed by a full cancellation of the session.
Extensive checks and repairs were carried out before Practice Two, which was extended from 60 to 90 minutes, was finally able to get under way at 2.30am local time, two and a half hours later than scheduled.
In what will be a big relief for local organisers and the sport itself on what is the biggest weekend of the season at F1’s huge new event, there was no further repeat of the earlier problems, with the session running to its extended time without incident.
However, with the delays having run on into the middle of the night and local time having gone beyond what Sky Sports News understands was the contractual obligation of circuit staff, the session played out without fans in the grandstand and the expansive spectator areas located around the venue.
“Given the lateness of the hour and logistical concerns regarding the safe movement of fans and employees out of the circuit, LVGP made the difficult decision to close the fan zones prior to the beginning of Free Practice Two,” said the Las Vegas Grand Prix in a statement.
Spectators will return to the circuit for Saturday’s action, which begins at 4.30am UK time for final practice.
Qualifying starts at 8am, with build-up from 7am, live on Sky Sports F1 and Sky Showcase.
Ferrari impress on pace but suffer Sainz penalty blow; Verstappen sixth, Hamilton ninth
With F1 unexpectedly living up to Las Vegas’ billing as a city that never sleeps, the delayed Practice Two – which finished at 4am local time – turned out to be the only representative session of the extended opening day/night around the new 3.8-mile Strip circuit.
Ferrari won on F1’s last visit to a street track, in Singapore in September – the only race-day defeat Red Bull have suffered all season – and again suggested they would be in the hunt for top honours here.
Leclerc was particularly fast and set the P2 pace from team-mate Sainz by a full half a second with a best lap of 1:35.265.
“I am pretty confident they are going to be competitive,” said Sky F1’s Jenson Button of Ferrari.
Max Verstappen was only sixth, nine tenths of a second behind, with Sergio Perez instead the lead Red Bull in fourth.
“I think we still look very good compared to others but I feel like we can do a better job,” said Verstappen, who has been critical of the circuit and the spectacle around the event.
For Sainz to even be on circuit in the second session was testament to the work completed by Ferrari’s mechanics in the extended gap between sessions.
The car had suffered major damage in the high-speed P1 drain incident – something a raging Fred Vasseur, the team’s boss, called “unacceptable” – and left the team needing to change three different engine elements as well as the car’s chassis survival cell.
However, the sting in the tail to the damage was significant: the need for a new power unit energy store took Sainz over the limit for penalty-free parts this season for that area of the engine. Although Ferrari requested dispensation on grounds of force majeure, stewards said they were unable to grant such a wish – as they made clear they would have liked to do – as F1’s regulations do not allow it.
It means Sainz instead takes a 10-place grid penalty into Sunday’s race and will start the 50-lap grand prix no higher than 11th place.
“I’m disappointed and in disbelief with the situation,” said a stunned Sainz. “You will not see me very happy this weekend.”
Fernando Alonso took third for Aston Martin, with Valtteri Bottas up in fifth for Alfa Romeo behind Perez.
Mercedes were only ninth and 12th with Lewis Hamilton and George Russell respectively, while in-form McLaren finished outside the top 10 with both their cars.
The drivers’ verdict after F1’s longest night in Vegas
Charles Leclerc, Ferrari: “I think in qualifying, as always, we will be there. But in race pace, they are still too strong. Max has done a really good race simulation. For sure, they will be strong on Sunday but qualifying will be close.”
Max Verstappen, Red Bull: “We didn’t really run a lot in FP1, so it took a bit of time to rubber in more and at the end it was a bit better. We managed to do the whole programme which is the most important thing today.”
On whether the track was fun to drive: “No. I’ve had better tracks in my life. I already said that on Thursday. There was nothing new that I discovered or whatever, so I just get on with it.”
Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes: “It’s incredibly fast and a lot of fun. I had so much fun today, I’m so glad we got to run again. Not a good FP1 but they did a good job to fix it.
“The car is OK. When we are all out on similar tyres we are not too far off. Everyone is having graining and people are running out of tyres but everyone is on a similar boat.
“I had a blast. Everyone is struggling with jet lag and all that stuff and I feel great! I just watched a move in between the break and I feel great, ready to go again.”
George Russell, Mercedes: “I think it’s going to be an interesting race weekend. It was a session dominated by getting the tyres working and graining and I think that’s going to hinder everybody come Sunday.”
Las Vegas GP on ‘difficult decision’ to send fans away
Race organisers issued a statement on social media after the event’s problematic first day and said it had been a “difficult decision” to instruct ticket holders to depart the circuit before the second session had started. The message to head home was given to fans at 1.30am local time.
“There is no higher priority at a Formula 1 race than the safety and security of drivers, fans and staff alike,” read the statement from the Las Vegas Grand Prix.
“Following last night’s incident involving a water valve cover, the Las Vegas Grand Prix, F1 and the FIA decided to take extra precautions to ensure the integrity of the track prior to the resumption of racing.
“These additional measures required multiple hours to fully complete, which led to a significant delay in the race schedule.
“Given the lateness of the hour and logistical concerns regarding the safe movement of fans and employees out of the circuit, LVGP made the difficult decision to close the fan zones prior to the beginning of Free Practice Two.
“With a full round of practice successfully completed, LVGP looks forward to providing a safe and entertaining race weekend for all.”
Alpine’s Esteban Ocon, whose car underwent substantial repairs before second practice after it had hit debris from Sainz’s incident, said: “Feeling sorry for all the fans out there though. Hopefully we catch up on the show and have a good show for them tomorrow because they haven’t seen a car run today. That is not acceptable.”
Reflecting on the disrupted nature of the day as a whole, Sky F1’s Karun Chandhok said: “Not been a great day. We never want to see drivers have those issues on track. It’s a safety concern.
“The shock that would have gone through Carlos’ spine and two cracked chassis after Esteban Ocon’s car was also damaged. A ridiculous situation of getting the penalty for Sainz.
“Then we had FP2, which ran without a red flag. it’s a shame for the fans, the ones that are here.”
Las Vegas GP Practice Two Timesheet
|1. Charles Leclerc||Ferrari||1:35.265|
|2. Carlos Sainz||Ferrari||+0.517|
|3. Fernando Alonso||Aston Martin||+0.528|
|4. Sergio Perez||Red Bull||+0.820|
|5. Valtteri Bottas||Alfa Romeo||+0.864|
|6. Max Verstappen||Red Bull||+0.918|
|7. Nico Hulkenberg||Haas||+1.224|
|8. Lance Stroll||Aston Martin||+1.231|
|9. Lewis Hamilton||Mercedes||+1.398|
|10. Alex Albon||Williams||+1.423|
|11. Lando Norris||McLaren||+1.599|
|12. George Russell||Mercedes||+1.625|
|13. Kevin Magnussen||Haas||+1.652|
|14. Oscar Piastri||McLaren||+1.722|
|15. Pierre Gasly||Alpine||+1.869|
|16. Esteban Ocon||Alpine||+1.976|
|17. Yuki Tsunoda||AlphaTauri||+2.147|
|18. Zhou Guanyu||Alfa Romeo||+2.391|
|19. Daniel Ricciardo||AlphaTauri||+2.415|
|20. Logan Sargeant||Williams||+2.875|
When to watch the Las Vegas GP live on Sky Sports
Saturday November 18
- 4:15am: Las Vegas GP Practice Three (session starts at 4.30am)
- 7am: Las Vegas Grand Prix Qualifying build-up (also on Sky Showcase)
- 8am: Las Vegas GP Qualifying (also on Sky Showcase)
- 10am: Ted’s Qualifying Notebook
Sunday November 19
- 4:30am: Grand Prix Sunday: Las Vegas GP build-up (also on Sky Showcase)
- 6am: THE LAS VEGAS GRAND PRIX (also on Sky Showcase)
- 8am: Chequered Flag: Las Vegas GP reaction (also on Sky Showcase)
- 9am: Ted’s Notebook (also on Sky Showcase)
Get ready for the big one: Formula 1 in Las Vegas! See drivers race down the Strip, and past landmarks like Caesars Palace and the Bellagio, on F1’s newest street track. Watch the whole Las Vegas GP weekend live on Sky Sports F1, starting this Friday with lights out on Sunday at 6am. Stream F1 on Sky Sports with NOW