Leclerc sets the pace in trouble-free second session


As work continues following the drain cover issue that caused the opening session to be abandoned, it is hoped the session will go ahead albeit a couple of hours later than scheduled.

While this session was scheduled to get underway at midnight, the green light was eventually given for a 02:00 start. The session will be 90 minutes... assuming there are no further mishaps.

While the team representatives went ahead during the break, with Toto Wolff, Zak Brown and James Vowles leaping to the defence of the event, the drivers' meeting was postponed.

Ferrari has replaced the tub on Carlos Sainz' car, as have Alpine with Esteban Ocon's car. The Spaniard has also changed his ICE, energy store and control electronics.

Despite the fact that Sainz was the innocent victim the Spaniard will be hit with a grid penalty for taking on the new components.

It's understood that the stewards were considering a derogation but this would no doubt have raised an objection from an unnamed team... thought by many to be Mercedes.

In the minutes before the start of the session there is a further delay on 15 minutes.

At 02:00 (local time) a further delay of 15 minutes in announced.

Air temperature is 14 degrees C, while the track temperature is 15 degrees.

As a reminder, in terms of updates, Alpine has a new Beam Wing, Front Wing and Rear Corner, while McLaren has a new Beam Wing and Rear Wing and Aston Martin a new Front Wing and Coke/Engine Cover, all of which are circuit specific.

As if the weekend hasn't already got off to the worst possible start, following concern over staffing levels in terms of grandstand security and safety, fans in the various stands have been ejected... including the Paddock Club.

Could F1 be seeing some class action suits winging their way over in the coming days?

"Due to logistical considerations for our fans and our staff we have made the determination that we will be closing all Las Vegas Grand Prix fans areas at 1:30 am," said the organisers in a brief statement.

"We look forward to welcoming fans back later today for exciting FP3 and qualifying sessions".

The light go green... again and Norris leads the way, followed by teammate Piastri.

Next out is Ocon, followed by Verstappen, Tsunoda and the hapless Sainz.

As more drivers head out it is a mixture of softs and mediums.

Ocon posts a 43.382, Ocon a 46.419 and Verstappen a 41.905.

Norris pits after reporting that his car went into limp mode. We know the feeling, Lando, we know the feeling.

In quick succession, Perez and Magnussen are off at Turn 12.

Sainz (soft) goes quickest with a 39.891 as Hamilton (soft) goes second and Perez (medium) third.

A 40.007 sees Leclerc (soft) go second as Alonso (soft) goes fourth.

"Still sliding a lot," reports Russell.

A 38.876 sees Hamilton go top, as Magnussen goes seventh ahead of Russell and Sargeant.

A 38.625 sees Verstappen retake the top spot, as Perez consolidates fourth with a 39.107.

Sainz reclaims the top spot with a 38.537, but is leapfrogged by his teammate who crosses the line at 38.325.

Stroll spins at Turn 14 but is able to continue.

Verstappen posts a 38.209.

Magnussen goes sixth (39.442), ahead of Albon, Sargeant, Ocon and Alonso.

As Gasly is shown the black and white flag for crossing the line at the pitlane entrance, the stewards confirm that Sainz has a 10-place grid penalty.

After 25 minutes, as most of the drivers head back to the pits, Norris heads out to join Bottas and Stroll.

Like Gasly, Sargeant is shown the black and white flag for crossing the line at the pit entrance.

"I'm getting some front graining," reports Norris.

"Max is racing already," says Leclerc as he is passed by the world champion on the main straight.

Sainz raises the bar with a 36.984, while his teammate posts a 37.229.

Verstappen locks-up and goes off at Turn 12.

Bottas improves to sixth with a 38.629.

Verstappen improves with a 37.132 but remains 0.148s off Sainz' pace.

Make that 0.390s as Sainz improves with a 36.742.

Alonso goes sixth with a 38.503, ahead of Albon, Russell, Ricciardo and Magnussen.

A 36.660 sees Leclerc go top.

Hamilton goes second with a 36.663 as Albon goes third (36.688), the Thai driver always feeling that the Williams would go well here.

Norris remains 15th, while his teammate is 19th, just ahead of Hulkenberg.

"The tyres are pretty much gone," says Russell when asked if he wants to do another lap.

Alonso goes quickest with a 36.657, having gone quickest of all in S1. The top three, Alonso, Leclerc and Hamilton, are covered by 0.006s. Indeed, the top six are covered by 0.085s.

Zhou goes tenth with a 38.010, as Sainz - on fresh softs - posts a 36.354, only to be leapfrogged by Verstappen (36.307), who is also on fresh rubber.

Quickest in the first two sectors, Leclerc crosses the line at 35.696 as Albon is the first to try the hards.

Russell is off at Turn 5 but continues as Sargeant goes off at Turn 12.

Piastri (37.173) improves to 12th, ahead of countryman Ricciardo.

Bottas improves to fourth with a 36.129, as a 36.864 sees Norris go tenth.

Alonso splits the Ferraris with a 35.793.

As Leclerc switches to mediums, as do the majority of other drivers, Sainz goes second with a 35.782.

"Why are the brakes so bad to turn on," asks Albon.

Russell is the latest to get it wrong in Turn 14. The Briton is currently 12th.

Check out our Friday gallery from Las Vegas here.

"Oh, come on Zhou, wake up," shots Leclerc as a slow Alfa driver, "Oh, my God, it's too late for him!"

Sargeant is off at Turn 5 but continues. "Sorry, it's been a bit messy," says the American.

Shortly after Verstappen gets it wrong at Turn 5, as Piastri pulls a nice move on Albon.

The session ends. Leclerc is quickest, ahead of Sainz, Alonso, Perez, Bottas, Verstappen, Hulkenberg, Stroll, Hamilton and Albon.

Norris is eleventh, ahead of Russell, Magnussen, Piastri, Gasly, Ocon, Tsunoda, Zhou, Ricciardo and Sargeant.

Thankfully, after the earlier shambles, we managed to get through this session pretty much unscathed, and while there will be much going on behind the scenes, and rightly so, we do at least appear able to move forward.

The cold conditions don't appear to be the problem we had anticipated, though drivers are still struggling for grip.

The penalty meted out to Sainz is grossly unfair but Mercedes has said that it would not have raised any objections.

On the other hand it is going to be interesting to see the fall-out from earlier, particularly in terms of the forced removal of the fans.

Not the best of starts to F1's return to Vegas.

Check out our Friday gallery from Las Vegas here.

Article from Pitpass (

Published: 17/11/2023
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