Advertisement

Leclerc tops delayed second Las Vegas GP practice

Charles Leclerc topped a long-delayed second practice session at the inaugural Las Vegas Grand Prix ahead of teammate Carlos Sainz in his repaired Ferrari.

FP2 got underway 2.5 hours behind schedule after a lengthy inspection of the 3.9-mile circuit to ensure all in-road manholes and other openings were secure. First practice had been called off after only nine minutes when a loose water valve cover freed itself from the road and ripped through Sainz’s car, causing massive damage to his SF-23.

Civil engineering work had originally been forecast to end at 2am local time, but the pit lane opening time was delayed by another 30 minutes to allow for a final inspection of the circuit by the safety car.

ADVERTISEMENT

In a final twist to a chaotic night and early morning in Las Vegas, fans and VIP guests who had waited almost six hours to see cars return to the circuit were told to leave by race organizers before the session started, apparently owing to a lack of security guards following the end of shift.

Cars finally returned to the closed-doors Las Vegas Strip Circuit at 2:30am for an extended 90-minute session, partially making up for lost time and ensuring the sound of Formula 1 cars rung through the city until 4am.

Teams and drivers were eager to make use of the longer session as much for their sakes as for that of the track, which was dusty and greasy for being a newly surfaced public road.

Times tumbled by a little less than four seconds during the 90 minutes, with Leclerc setting the benchmark early and progressively improving to his session-topping time of 1m35.265s.

Sainz followed him up the time sheet but was 0.517s off the pace. However, the Spaniard was lucky to enter the session at all, with Ferrari having pulled out all the stops to build up the spare chassis after his original tub was destroyed in FP1.

He also benefited from a loophole in the rule that ordinarily disallows a driver from using two different chassis on the same day — the long delay meant FP2 started on Friday morning, technically circumventing the regulation.

No rule could prevent him from earning a 10-place grid penalty for using a third battery, however, his power unit also having sustained significant damage in his FP1 accident on the damaged track. The stewards unusually admitted to searching for a regulation that might allow them to let the Ferrari driver off the hook given the “highly unusual external circumstances” but to no avail.

Fernando Alonso finished a close third behind the Ferrari teammates just 0.011s behind Sainz, with Sergio Perez following a further 0.3s adrift.

Most drivers spent most of their time on the chilly 59-degree F circuit on the soft tire, but Valtteri Bottas was one of the few to experiment with the hard tire for his long-run simulation, the Alfa Romeo driver finishing fifth.

The differing combination of tires and programs generated an unpredictable order, with Max Verstappen only sixth and 0.9s off the pace. Nico Hulkenberg was seventh ahead of Lance Stroll, Lewis Hamilton and Alex Albon to complete the top 10.

Lando Norris recovered from an early systems fault to head George Russell, Kevin Magnussen, Oscar Piastri and Pierre Gasly down to 15th.

Esteban Ocon was 16th after Alpine completed frantic work to replace his chassis, having also been caught up in the water valve cover incident of FP1 and having capitalized on the rules loophole that allowed him to take part in FP2.

Yuki Tsunoda was 17th ahead of Zhou Guanyu — the Chinese driver needed a new floor after picking up damage in FP1 — Daniel Ricciardo and Logan Sargeant.

POS # DRIVER CAR TIME GAP LAPS:

Story originally appeared on Racer