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Pole position set for Las Vegas Grand Prix — FULL STARTING ORDER

Updated November 18, 2023 - 3:27 am

A wild and slightly chaotic qualifying session under the Las Vegas lights ended early in the morning Saturday with Charles Leclerc and his Ferrari as the first pole position winners in Las Vegas Grand Prix history.

Lerclerc’s 1:33.726 lap time just edged out his Ferrari teammate Carlos Sainz Jr. by 0.044 seconds, handing the Monegasque driver the 23rd pole position of his Formula One career.

“We looked quite good, stronger than in other races,” said Leclerc, who led all three phases of qualifying.

Leclerc will start first in the inaugural Las Vegas Grand Prix at 10 p.m. Saturday, next to Red Bull’s Max Verstappen in second.

Sainz was demoted to 12th because of a 10-place grid penalty he received for taking on extra power unit parts after his car was heavily damaged by a loose manhole cover in practice Thursday.

Four of Leclerc’s five career wins have been from pole position, but Verstappen has won 10 times when Leclerc starts the race in the lead. Leclerc hasn’t won from pole position since the Australia Grand Prix in April 2022.

“I think we are closer than other races,” Leclerc said. “So if there is one race to win since Singapore, it’s this one. I’ll obviously give it my all.”

All three phases of qualifying featured surprises. Both McLarens — Lando Norris and Oscar Piastri — were knocked out in the first session.

Norris was the runner-up in the Sao Paulo Grand Prix two weeks ago, F1’s most recent race, but mentioned he felt the Las Vegas Street Circuit didn’t play into the McLaren car’s strengths during driver availability Wednesday.

Seven-time champion Lewis Hamilton and his Mercedes, along with six-time race winner and Red Bull driver Sergio Perez, a known street-circuit specialist, failed to escape the second round of qualifying. Hamilton has three wins in races where Leclerc starts on pole position, and Perez has four.

Hamilton and Perez missed out in large part to a big day for Williams duo Alex Albon and Logan Sargeant, who made it to the third qualifying session right as time expired. It’s only the second time this season both Williams cars have qualified for Q3.

The cars’ strong performance on the long straights made Williams one of just two teams with both cars in the final qualifying round, along with Ferrari.

Albon and Sargeant, the lone American driver, also benefited from Sainz’s penalty, moving up to fifth and sixth, respectively.

The Ferrari driver made his frustrations known after qualifying, saying he was “disappointed, at the same time not surprised.”

“There’s been many cases this year that I think the sport has proven it can do things a lot better,” Sainz said.

The Spanish Ferrari driver wasn’t the only one to pick up a grid penalty. Aston Martin’s Lance Stroll was handed a five-spot punishment for passing Sainz under yellow flags during free practice three earlier in the evening, bumping him from 14th to 19th.

Mercedes’ George Russell led the practice session with a 1:34.093 lap time, ahead of Piastri and Sargeant. It ended about five minutes early after Albon clipped a wall and lost his back left tire.

Las Vegas Grand Prix starting grid

1. Charles Leclerc (Ferrari)

2. Max Verstappen (Red Bull)

3. George Russell (Mercedes)

4. Pierre Gasly (Alpine)

5. Alex Albon (Williams)

6. Logan Sargeant (Williams)

7. Valtteri Bottas (Alfa Romeo)

8. Kevin Magnussen (Haas)

9. Fernando Alonso (Aston Martin)

10. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes)

11. Sergio Perez (Red Bull)

12. Carlos Sainz Jr. (Ferrari)

13. Nico Hulkenberg (Haas)

14. Daniel Ricciardo (AlphaTauri)

15. Lando Norris (McLaren)

16. Esteban Ocon (Alpine)

17. Zhou Guanyu (Alfa Romeo)

18. Oscar Piastri (McLaren)

19. Lance Stroll (Aston Martin)

20. Yuki Tsunoda (AlphaTauri)

Contact reporter Andy Yamashita at ayamashita@reviewjournal.com. Follow @ANYamashita on X.

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