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Hamilton and Perez fold miserably in Las Vegas qualy

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - NOVEMBER 17: Sergio Perez of Mexico and Oracle Red Bull Racing looks on in the garage during practice ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Las Vegas at Las Vegas Strip Circuit on November 17, 2023 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)

Two of the three most experienced Formula 1 drivers – Lewis Hamilton and Sergio Perez – endured a miserable Qualifying session for the Las Vegas Grand Prix, neither making it into Q3.

Meanwhile, their teammates did so, relatively comfortably too. Hamilton was P11 on the timesheets, when Q2 ended, and simply could not extract what his Mercedes teammate George Russell, who did progress to Q3 with P4 for his effort.

Perez’s Q2 ‘curse’ continued as again he fell short with P12 in the second stanza of Qualifying, ending his session short. In the other Red Bull, Max Verstappen found enough in the RB19 to take P3 when the chequered waved to end a fast freezing night on the streets of Vegas.

This weekend, 38-year-old Hamilton is contesting his 330th GP, with 33-year-old Perez on 255 F1 starts. Aston Martin’s Fernando Alonso on 376 GP starts is the most experienced and at 42 the oldest driver on the current F1 grid.

The Red Bull and Mercedes pair are also embroiled in the battle for P2 in the 2023 F1 World Championship standings, Lewis trailing Checo by 22 points with two rounds to go.

Ironically, the Mercedes seven-time F1 World Champ was pipped to P10 by former teammate Valtteri Bottas in the Alfa Romeo; while the Red Bull veteran was fractionally shy of the Briton. But, in a field of tiny margins, enough for an early shower for the pair.

Hamilton: It’s not ideal but it’s an issue I’ve been dealing with for a while

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In the Mercedes review of Las Vegas F1 Qualifying, Hamilton reported: “That wasn’t a great Qualifying session, but it is what it is. I really struggled for grip out there and we didn’t manage to get the tyres working throughout the whole session. It’s not ideal but it’s an issue I’ve been dealing with for a while.”

“We saw a decent amount of track evolution. Not a crazy amount, but it was still enough to knock me out as I failed to improve on my final lap in Q2. We’ve seen a lot of graining on the tyres up and down the field in practice, so it will be interesting to see if that continues in the Grand Prix.

“I think tyre management, how you bring the tyres in and how you progress in addition to where you push and don’t push will be key. We made a few changes to the car ahead of FP3 and we’re hoping that they will help us in the race,” added Hamilton.

After another poor Qualifying session, Perez lamented in the Red Bull Qualy report: “It
was an unfortunate qualifying. The gaps were super close, and we just didn’t maximize the full potential of our car today, we had some more pace in it and could have been a little bit faster – it’s something we need to understand.”

Perez: I think we should be able to come through the field

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - NOVEMBER 17: Sergio Perez of Mexico and Oracle Red Bull Racing fans show their support at the F1 Fan Stage after final practice ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Las Vegas at Las Vegas Strip Circuit on November 17, 2023 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)

The Mexican continued: “I also think our run programme wasn’t quite the right one, we finished a little too early, with four minutes left of Q2 and people just kept improving, there was a little more track evolution there.

“We will analyse it but on the other hand there is nothing we can do now, so let’s focus on Sunday. I think we should be able to come through the field, we have a fast race car. I think the DRS on the Strip should help the racing.

“We’ll see what we are able to do, we just need to be patient and I believe in our pace. I think tomorrow is going to be a very interesting race,” predicted Perez.

Both Hamilton (now P10) and Perez (to P11) move up a slot on the grid for the Las Vegas Grand Prix on Sunday, thanks to the 10-place grid penalty imposed on Ferrari driver Carlos Sainz who ended the session P2 behind teammate Charles Leclerc.

This is how the 2023 F1 Championship stands for Ferrari ahead of Round 21, the Las Vegas Grand Prix:

2023 F1 standings after RD20 Sao Paulo GP-003