Charles Leclerc had no answer for Max Verstappen during the 2023 Las Vegas Grand Prix, but leaves Sin City with his head held high knowing he did not leave anything on the table.
The tables turned between from qualifying to the race, as Verstappen couldn’t deny Leclerc pole position, the latter showing imperious one-lap pace, but the former during the race was on another level.
Verstappen was rightfully deemed at fault after pushing Leclerc off the track at Turn 1 on Lap 1 trying to take the lead, which he did but at the price of a five-second time penalty, but with the pace reserve in the Red Bull RB19, the triple Formula 1 Champion just had to work a bit harder for the win.
With two Safety Car periods, Leclerc in the end also came after pressure from Verstappen’s teammate, Sergio Perez in the other Red Bull, as the three delivered some really exciting racing as they decided the podium order.
Leclerc was impressive, not backing down after Perez overtook him, and mugged him out of second in the final lap, a move the Mexican did not see coming.
In Ferrari‘s post race media brief, Leclerc reflected: “I didn’t leave anything on the table today and the team executed the race perfectly, so I am satisfied with our performance.
“Unfortunately, we had just pitted 5 laps before the Safety Car and I struggled to get our used Hards back up to temperature at the restart. That’s where Max (Verstappen) and Checo (Perez) gained an advantage on fresh tyres and unfortunately, that cost us the win.
“That said, it was an exciting race with really good battles and a lot of adrenaline. I’m glad that the weekend came together well and that the inaugural Grand Prix in Las Vegas was exciting for drivers and fans.
“I look forward to coming back next year!” the Monegasque concluded.
In the other Ferrari, Carlos Sainz’s misery continued after his penalty, caused by the drain cover incident, meant he had to start from 12th on the grid, as he got tangled up in the first lap mess.
After racing to sixth at the flag, Sainz said: “It’s been a good weekend for the team even though it was a tough race for me. We struggled with engine temperatures because we were racing in the middle of the pack and it was difficult to make up positions quickly.
“However, we nailed the strategy switching to a two-stop and the second part of the race was better, making up a few places to finish P6. It was a case of damage limitation after the penalty and scoring very important points for the Constructors’ championship.
“I can’t wait to race in Abu Dhabi next week. The fight for second is still on and we’ll do everything we can to take it,” the Spaniard concluded.
Vasseur: Vegas one of the best races of the season
Ferrari Team Principal, Frédéric Vasseur, gave a more positive vibe, after Friday’s incident with Sainz that left him furious, and hailed F1’s return to Las Vegas.
He said: “This first race in Las Vegas delivered the show that everybody was expecting, so well done to Formula 1 as this was one of the best races of the season.
“From our side, there were several positives aspects, even if it wasn’t a straightforward race with Safety Cars, thrilling duels and amazing overtakes,” he added. “We scored good points and were not far off a win with Charles who would have deserved that result. I think we overtook a Red Bull three times in the race”
“Our performance was good with both cars considering Carlos staged a great comeback after what had been a tough weekend with what happened in FP1, the penalty and the spin at the start,” Vasseur pointed out.
“With Charles we had put everything in place to bring home the win as we had looked after the tyres at the beginning and then we overtook Max on track. The Safety Car didn’t help him, as he struggled with graining after the restart but was able to manage it and in the closing stages, he was again very competitive, to the point of overtaking Perez for P2.
“I think Charles delivered one of the best drives of his career today, while Carlos also had a very strong second part of the race,” the Frenchman maintained.
Ferrari now head to Abu Dhabi only four points behind Mercedes in the 2023 F1 Constructors’ Championship, the fight for P2 between the two teams very much on.
Vasseur commented: “We must keep the momentum going into Abu Dhabi, both drivers are doing a fantastic job and I believe we can catch Mercedes in Abu Dhabi.
“We won in Singapore when Red Bull was off the pace but this time we were fighting them right up to the final corner,” he concluded.