A near perfect weekend on pole ended with a close won second place in Las Vegas for Ferrari driver Charles Leclerc, who lauded the controversial new track and its atmosphere in his post-race comments.
After dominating the practice sessions and qualifying in Las Vegas, Monegasque driver Charles Leclerc secured his fifth pole position of the year and the 23rd of his career.
It was quickly whipped out from beneath him – as early as Turn 1 of the 50-lap race on Sunday 19th November – following an incident with Red Bull’s Max Verstappen, who ran Scuderia Ferrari’s frontrunner off the track.
The 2023 Drivers’ Championship winner was handed a five-second penalty for the move, but while that initially appeared to impede him, Verstappen quickly made his way back up the grid.
Meanwhile, Leclerc and Red Bull’s Sergio Pérez jostled for the first place and were well-matched until Verstappen broke through the pack and solidified his position in third. From there, it was up and up again for the Dutch driver, who took Pérez on the 36th lap and then Leclerc on the 37th.
In Lap 43, Leclerc outbraked on Turn 12, a spot that commanded perhaps the most airtime of all sections of the track, and Pérez shot past him. The order looked set, with the 26-year-old Monegasque running significantly older tyres than the two Red Bulls.
But the avowed fan of street racing had more up his sleeve. On the final lap, having dogged Mexican Pérez persistently, Leclerc took a brave inside on Turn 14 and retook second position.
“What a race!” Leclerc said in post-race comments to former F1 driver David Coulthard. “I enjoyed it so much. We got a bit unlucky with the safety car… But second place, with a lot of fight, I really enjoyed it. I think we needed it. There was no better race for a first race in Vegas.”
Cityscape racing in Vegas
This most recent race marked the third US-based race of the 2023 F1 calendar, after Miami in the spring and Austin in October. The last F1 race to be held there was in 1982, before many of today’s grid were even born.
“Vegas is going to be crazy, one of the most exciting races of the season,” said Leclerc in the run-up. “Personally, my favourite tracks are city tracks… And Vegas is a city track.”
Speaking after the race, the Monegasque shared, “I didn’t leave anything on the table today and the team executed the race perfectly, so I am satisfied with our performance… It was an exciting race with really good battles and a lot of adrenaline. I’m glad that the weekend came together well and that the inaugural Grand Prix in Las Vegas was exciting for drivers and fans. I look forward to coming back next year!”
The eventual winner of the race, however, drew criticism from F1 bosses prior to the race after calling it “99% show, 1% sporting event” in the run-up.
“I think Monaco is like the Champions League, this is National League,” Verstappen replied to a question about how the Las Vegas circuit compared to the Principality’s own street-style race.
The final round of the year will take place in Abu Dhabi between 24th and 26th November.
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Main photo credit: Scuderia Ferrari Media Centre