F1 Las Vegas Grand Prix Qualifying: Verstappen Doubles Down on Criticism of Vegas Hype

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Verstappen Doubles Down on Las Vegas CriticismIcon Sportswire - Getty Images

Charles Leclerc of Ferrari claimed pole position for the Formula 1 Las Vegas Grand Prix while Logan Sargeant captured the highest grid spot of his career.

After Thursday’s practice sessions were hampered by loose drains and subsequent delays, Friday’s track activity went off without a hitch around the 3.8-mile Las Vegas Strip Circuit.

Leclerc set a time of 1:32.726 seconds in chilly conditions in Q3 to finish 0.044 clear of Ferrari teammate Carlos Sainz, with Max Verstappen third fastest.

It was the 22rd pole position of Leclerc’s career and he will be chasing a sixth career victory, and first since mid-2022, from the front of the pack.

“It’s always tricky on street tracks, but I enjoyed it—how can you not enjoy when it goes well, like this, and the session went well for us,” said Leclerc.

“The confidence is high because we are starting first, but on the other hand we know Max and Red Bull will be very strong in race pace, but we’ve had positive signs on high fuel, so hopefully we can convert pole position into a race win.”

Sainz will drop to 12th place on the grid on account of a 10-position penalty for taking fresh power unit components after his original parts were damaged in the drain strike.

“We’re first and second in quali, we’ve been flying all weekend, dominated every session, I just wish I could fight for the win tomorrow but unfortunately I’m starting 12th,” said Sainz.

That will elevate World Champion Verstappen to the front row of the grid, alongside Leclerc, with Mercedes’ George Russell third.

“The whole weekend we were not strong enough over one lap so no real surprises there, also in quali I tried to do the best I can, we were just too slow,” said Verstappen.

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Max Verstappen sounds like a driver who can’t wait to get out of Las Vegas.Icon Sportswire - Getty Images

Verstappen also doubled down on his criticism of the hype and show around events such as Las Vegas:

“I could go on for a long time, but I feel like a kind of show element is important, but I like emotion,” said Verstappen. “For me, when I was a little kid, it was the emotion of the sport I fell in love with and not the show of the sport around it. I think as a real racer that shouldn’t really matter. I mean, a racing car, a Formula 1 car, doesn’t really come alive and is not that exciting. I think it is more about proper race tracks. When you go to Spa and Monza, these places have a lot of emotion and passion.

“For me, seeing the fans there, is incredible and when I jump in the car there I am fired up and I love driving around these kinds of places. Of course I understand that fans maybe need something to do as well around a track, but I think it’s more important that you make them understand what we do as a sport.

"Most of them just come to have a party, drink, see a DJ play or a performance act—I mean I can do that all over the world, I can go to Ibiza and get completely shitfaced, you know? But that’s what happens, they come and they become a fan of what? They come and see their favorite artist and have a few drinks with their mates and have a crazy night out, but they don’t understand actually what we are doing and what we are putting on the line to perform.

"And I think if you would actually put more time into the actual sport and what we are actually trying to achieve here, because as a little kid we grew up to be a world champion, if the sport would put more focus onto these kinds of things and also what a team is doing, what they are achieving and what they are working for then these kinds of things are way more important to look at than having all these random shows all over the place.”

Williams rookie Sargeant turned around a dismal string of qualifying performances to score the highest starting position of his career.

Sargeant, who qualified slowest at each of the last five Grands Prix, made it into Q3 and set the seventh-fastest time.

Sainz’s penalty will mean Sargeant will move up to sixth on the grid for Saturday night’s race.

“Definitely a very happy boy—just feel like to execute over three separate sessions, finally extract the potential we’ve had, and to do it here in Vegas is extra special,” said Sargeant. “We have a great car here, it’s not easy to delver on that performance, so to do that through qualifying is awesome.

“We’ve had great race pace, the last three or four races, so we need to keep that up tomorrow. I think we have a very annoying car down the straight for others so we’ll try and use that to our advantage.”

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Charles Leclerc races past the Sphere in Las Vegas on his way to winning the pole position.Icon Sportswire - Getty Images

Starting Lineup

F1 Las Vegas Grand Prix

  1. Charles Leclerc, Ferrari

  2. Carlos Sainz, Ferrari

  3. Max Verstappen, Red Bull

  4. George Russell, Mercedes

  5. Pierre Gasly, Alpine

  6. Alex Albon, Williams

  7. Logan Sargeant, Williams

  8. Valtteri Bottas, Alfa Romeo

  9. Kevin Magnussen, Haas

  10. Fernando Alonso, Aston Martin

  11. Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes

  12. Sergio Perez, Red Bull

  13. Nico Hulkenberg, Haas

  14. Lance Stroll, Aston Martin

  15. Daniel Ricciardo, AlphaTauri

  16. Lando Norris, McLaren

  17. Esteban Ocon, Alpine

  18. Zhou Guanyu, Alfa Romeo

  19. Oscar Piastri, McLaren

  20. Yuki Tsunoda, AlphaTauri