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LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - NOVEMBER 16: Sergio Perez of Mexico driving the (11) Oracle Red Bull Racing RB19 on track during practice ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Las Vegas at Las Vegas Strip Circuit on November 16, 2023 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)

Las Vegas Day 1: Driver quotes from F1’s strangest night

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - NOVEMBER 16: Sergio Perez of Mexico driving the (11) Oracle Red Bull Racing RB19 on track during practice ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Las Vegas at Las Vegas Strip Circuit on November 16, 2023 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)

Never has Formula 1 run so late at night and so early in the morning as it did on the opening day of the much anticipated 2023 Las Vegas Grand Prix weekend, it was a strange one at the sport’s latest venue.

Less than ten minutes into FP1 the track was red-flagged and closed as a drain cover worked loose to cause considerable damage to the Ferrari of Carlos Sainz and the Alpine of Esteban Ocon. What followed was a lengthy delay before cars were let out for the FP2 session. An extra half hour for lost running in FP1 to make it 90 minutes.

In the end, F1 drivers got a decent running, with all doing 30 or more laps. This is how they finished FP2 in Las Vegas on Friday:

This is what drivers had to say at the end of F1’s strangest night/morning show in Las Vegas:

P1. Ferrari, Charles Leclerc: It was a bit of a different day

“With FP1 being stopped after just four laps, we didn’t get much mileage in, so we did our best to make up for it in FP2, with 90 minutes and 4 tyre compounds available to us. The session was productive, we put in a solid number of laps and I really enjoyed driving on this track. For now, we look quite competitive, but there is still a long way to go. We have a limited amount of time left to prepare for tomorrow, so we will work hard to keep this momentum.

P2. Ferrari, Carlos Sainz: We seem to be on the competitive side this weekend

“An eventful day for us after the problem in FP1 with the manhole cover. Our guys however did an amazing job. They basically had to rebuild the entire car ahead of FP2 and thanks to them we managed to complete our programme in the second session, so a big thank you to all the mechanics. We seem to be on the competitive side this weekend and I’m looking forward to tomorrow. On the negative side, we have been given a 10-place penalty for Sunday after the manhole cover damaged, amongst other things, my battery and we had to replace it. I honestly cannot understand it and I think an exemption to the rule should have been considered given what happened, but we’ll have to deal with it.”

las vegas practice ferrari leclerc

P6. Red Bull, Max Verstappen: We still look very good compared to the others

“The track was quite slippery, it took a bit of extra time to rubber in due to the minimal running in FP1, but it was evolving and was a bit better towards the end of FP2. We managed to do our whole run programme which was the most important thing today with the disruption. From what we learnt, it won’t be super straightforward to pick the tyres for the race. The soft was good over one lap, but it was struggling quite a lot on the long run. Even the medium didn’t perform as expected, so there’s still a few things we have to look into to improve our degradation. I think we still look very good compared to the others, but there’s more lap time and management to find.”

P4. Red Bull Sergio Perez: I am happy with our performance so far

“It’s a shame that FP1 ended the way it did, and I feel very sorry for the fans. However, I’m sure we will have a good weekend of racing ahead of us. It’s a brand-new track and the grip level is quite low, which does make things a lot more challenging in the car. We have made good progress, which is important, so I am happy with our performance so far. Ferrari have a strong race pace, but we will see what tomorrow brings; come race day I think we will be there.”

las vegas gp practice f1 red bull

P3. Aston Martin, Fernando Alonso: It’s going to be very tight in Qualifying and Race

“This is a really interesting circuit with a lot of very different corners and long straights. At night, the tyres lose temperature a little bit so it’s interesting going into the hard braking zones. This could make for a fun race with overtaking opportunities. Let’s see tomorrow if we can optimise things. We had a decent first day but we still need to work on a few things, as does everybody. Let’s see tomorrow when we extract more potential from the car. I think it’s going to be very tight in Qualifying and the race.”

P9. Aston Martin, Lance Stroll: This is a fun, fast circuit. It’s really cool to be in Vegas

“The cooler temperatures are a bit of a challenge, for sure, with getting the tyres up to temperature – we’ll see how it goes tomorrow. The field is tight but I think we were pretty competitive today, so I’m looking forward to tomorrow.”

las vegas gp practice f1 aston martin

P8. Mercedes, Lewis Hamilton: An incredibly fast circuit and I had a lot of fun out there.

“I’m so glad we got to run again today. The circuit did a great job to fix the issue we saw in FP1, and we had an interesting FP2. The balance of the car wasn’t too bad and on similar tyres, I don’t feel that we’re too far off compared to our competitors. It looks like everyone is suffering from graining and we were running out of tyres; I think everyone was in a similar boat. That’s likely due to a combination of a new track surface and the temperature. We are also running a low downforce set-up, so you are sliding through a lot of the slow-speed corners, and some of the high-speed corners too. The rest of the weekend is going to be interesting, and I think Qualifying is going to be hugely important. Managing degradation is going to be key on Saturday night in the race too. Overall though, I had a blast out there, I feel great and I’m ready to go again later today.”

P12. Mercedes, George Russell: It’s going to be an interesting weekend

“It was good to finally get going after quite a long day! It was great to take to the track properly in FP2 and it’s a very fast circuit. It’s some of the highest speeds of the year and racing at night is spectacular. It’s going to be an interesting weekend. The session was dominated by trying to get the tyres working, and then managing graining too. I think that could hinder everyone come Saturday night.

The track was evolving very quickly; the early laps were like driving on ice. However, as the dirt and the dust cleared you were learning, and your braking points were changing. That’s tricky, especially with a low downforce set-up, but I had good fun out there. Overall though, it’s all about pace. It was hard to get a true idea of where we are relative to others given we only took one new set of Soft tyres, where others took two. Ultimately, race pace will be key. I’m looking forward to getting some sleep now and coming back for FP3 later today!”

las vegas gp practice mercedes

P11. Lando Norris: A tricky day on a tricky circuit

“The grip was poor and it’s easy to go through the tyres quite quickly, which is what we were doing. “I think we’re a long way off where we’ve been the last few weekends, but probably where we expected. It’s similar to where we were in Monza and other low-downforce circuits. It’s a struggle at the minute but I’m sure we can make progress into tomorrow.”

P14. McLaren, Oscar Piastri: It was very, very slippery and quite bumpy

“It was interesting to get out on track for my first laps in Las Vegas. It was very, very slippery and it’s a difficult track which is quite bumpy, but it was nice to get out there. The tyres were pretty difficult with a lot of graining, which is something we need to try to look at for tomorrow. We’ll have to see what we can do, hopefully it’s a better day all around for everyone involved and hopefully we can have the crowd back tomorrow. It’s a shame they didn’t get to see any action today.”

las vegas gp practice f1 norris mclaren

P13. Haas, Kevin Magnussen: There weren’t many surprises

“We’ve done our first laps in Vegas now, and it’s not a bad track, I had fun out there. As always, we need to find more speed but at least after all the waiting, we got some laps in and have data to look at for tomorrow. There weren’t many surprises from the simulator to the track, it is very low-grip, but it is also very fun.”

P7. Haas, Nico Hulkenberg: It was obviously an interesting day

“In unique circumstances for everyone involved with the Las Vegas GP. I think having FP2 start at 02:30 will be a record that will stand for a long time, I don’t think that will be beaten easily. Building up to it and learning the circuit, we found that okay and we’re obviously still exploring. We’ll have to see overnight what we can do with our set-up but it didn’t feel bad today, at least over one lap. Thanks to the fans who came out and stayed with us for so long, we’ll make sure to bring you more entertainment tomorrow.”

las vegas gp practice f1 Nico Hulkenberg, MoneyGram Haas F1 Team

P10. Williams, Alex Albon: It’s a tricky track but it wasn’t too bad

“However it’s going to be all about the braking. As soon as you get confident on the brakes, you’re going to be quite quick. Being a new track, the evolution is extremely high, but I do think we’re in good shape and the car is in a good place. We’re going to have to do a bit of fine tuning which is expected but the pace was good. I think the long run is a little more difficult because of the cold temperatures but otherwise I feel good.

P22, Williams, Logan Sargeant: It was a tricky session with extremely low grip

“Obviously with the temperatures as well it’s taking a long time for the tyres to come in. The long run at the end wasn’t too bad but we need to figure out the low fuel stuff for tomorrow. There’s a lot of data to get through from that session. It’s really about switching the tyre on as quick as we can as that makes a huge difference for both me and the car and we’ll figure out the best way to do that.”

las vegas gp practice f1 Alex’s FW45 on track

P16. Alpine, Esteban Ocon: It’s been a busy night with a lot of emotions to say the least!

“On one side, it was very cool to drive around the iconic Las Vegas streets for the first time today, and on the other, an unfortunate and premature end to the first practice session. I sustained heavy damage on my car after hitting a loose drain cover on the track during the first laps and, consequently, we had to change the chassis. Huge credit to the team for patching it all up in such a tight timeframe just in time for the delayed second session. Free Practice 2 was straightforward, testing different things and getting to grips with the tyres and track conditions. I enjoy this track and it should make for an exciting Qualifying and Race. Let’s see what we can do later today after a few hours of well-deserved sleep for everyone.”

P15. Alpine, Pierre Gasly: “That was quite a crazy night in Las Vegas

“I don’t think we will ever experience driving a Formula 1 car at 3am in the morning ever again! Firstly, it was good to drive the circuit for the first time and, I must say, it is quite an impressive spectacle with all the lights and iconic sights. It was a pity to lose the time in Free Practice 1, so it was important to maximise the full 90 minutes in Free Practice 2 in order to be prepared for the rest of the weekend. We have learned a lot from that session and it is important now we take the time to run through the data and aim to improve the car ahead of Qualifying.”

las vegas gp practice f1 alpine f1 team

P5. Alfa Romeo, Valtteri Bottas: Finishing in the top five is always nice

“It’s still very early days and we can’t get too carried away. Everyone will improve massively tomorrow, and we will need to do the same, but as far as today is concerned, we looked good. We have a clear direction to follow with the setup to improve the balance of the car, as it’s still a bit understeery in the slow-speed corners, and there is a lot of time to be gained if we fix that. The track is just as we expected: really fast, with long straights and very slippery at the beginning of the session. The grip kept getting better with every lap, and we expect more evolution tomorrow. Now, we need to focus on finding some more performance ahead of qualifying: it will be an even longer night than it has been already, but we’re motivated to continue at this level.”

P18. Alfa Romeo, Zhou Guanyu: Discovering the track was a bit challenging

“It was definitely an interesting session, for the time and the track conditions. I don’t think the final classification shows our true pace: to explore more options, we chose a different setup from Valtteri, which didn’t work as well as his, and I locked up and went straight on my final lap, so we know there’s more that we can extract from the car. Discovering the track was a bit challenging: the surface was very slippery, which was not surprising given the new tarmac and yesterday’s rain, but it improved a lot as the session progressed and I expect it to continue doing so tomorrow, and lap times to keep tumbling. This track seems to reward confidence under braking, and getting temperature into the tyres will be crucial. We’ll need to figure out the best plan to do so in qualifying, especially keeping in mind the cooler temperatures we could be facing tomorrow.”

las vegas gp practice f1 alphatauri

P17. AlphaTauri, Yuki Tsunoda: I enjoy the track layout itself

“It’s a shame for the fans that FP1 wasn’t restarted, but safety comes first. It took some time for FP2 to start, but in the end, we got to drive for 90 minutes and were able to collect valuable data. The track surface is quite slippery, but I enjoy the track layout itself, especially the kerbs because they’re drivable and you can be quite aggressive, which is fun. Our performance doesn’t seem great so far, but we gathered a lot of data today, so I’m sure we can make some positive steps forward. We have an idea of some limitations and have already tried ways to improve them, particularly in the long run, and it definitely feels better already. We’ll work together and do our best to extract the maximum performance from our package.”

P19. AlphaTauri,  Daniel Ricciardo: “It was a long day on a very low-grip track

“FP2 started later than originally scheduled, but these things happen sometimes. We had a fairly smooth session and learnt a lot of things throughout it. As it’s a new track, especially a street circuit, it took more time to feel comfortable, so you always need to take a bit more margin as mistakes can be more costly. After some changes to the long run, it looks stronger, and after we refine some limitations tonight, I don’t think we’ll be far off the pace for qualifying tomorrow, so I’m sure if we put it all together, we can aim to make it to Q3.”