Max on P6 after first day in Vegas: 'Managed to do the whole program'
Published on 17 November 2023 by Johan Peeters
After Max Verstappen ended his first practice in Las Vegas in fourth after its premature end because of track problems, he ended his second practice in sixth. Charles Leclerc drove his Ferrari into the top of the timesheets, with teammate Carlos Sainz in P2. Fernando Alonso drove his Aston Martin into P3. On the Las Vegas Strip Circuit Max’s Oracle Red Bull Racing teammate Sergio Pérez and Valterri Bottas’ Alfa Romeo completed the top five. The session was extended by half an hour after problems in the first free practice.
“The circuit was slippery”, Max says after the second Las Vegas free practice: “We didn’t really run a lot in FP1, so it took a bit of time to rub the tyres in a little bit more. I think at the end it was a little bit better. We managed to do the whole program which I guess is the most important thing.”
Max continues: “The soft tyres are good for one lap. Long run was a bit more difficult, it seemed like the soft tyre was struggling quite a lot out there. So we very quickly went onto the medium. But it seems like even the medium is not a straightforward tyre as well in the long run. So there’s still a bit of things we have to look into, to see how we can improve our degragation in the long run. I think we still look very good compared to others as well, but I feel like maybe we can do a better job. So yeah, not straightforward to pick your tyres for the race.”
Because the track repairs on the manhole covers took longer than expected, the planned start at 00:00 local time was delayed till 02:00, then 02:15, and then finally till 02:30.
Sainz and the Ferrari team, who were victims of the loose manhole covers in the first free practice, received a negative from the FIA regarding their request to replace the damaged parts of the car without a penalty. The unfortunate Spaniard will probably get a grid penalty.
When finally, after a two-and-a-half-hour delay, the second free practice got underway, both McLarens are the first to take to the track. Both drivers are on soft tyres. Max also appears quickly and the world champion immediately brings his RB19 to P1, 1.9 seconds faster than Oscar Piastri in P2.
However, it does not take long before the Dutchman loses P1. Many drivers are, unlike both Red Bulls, driving on soft tyres. In the opening phase, first place is constantly getting traded between Max and both Ferraris. The track continues to improve and the drivers are getting familiar with its layout.
After a short half hour, both Red Bulls appear on track on soft tyres. In his first attempt to improve on his time, Max shoots straight through turn twelve. He can continue driving without damage. On his second attempt, he settles on P2 between the Ferraris. The times continue to improve. Max, too, improves on his time, but not his position. After 36 minutes, the Dutchman has a gap to Leclerc in first place of three-tenths. With that, he returns to the pits.
Halfway through the session, the track calms down, and only a handful of drivers are driving in circles. Alonso takes his Aston Martin to P1. Max Verstappen has dropped to P7 and is waiting in the pits. The top six are within a tenth of a second of each other.
With 38 minutes on the clock, Max goes back on track and the circuit gets busier. The Red Bull driver sets his best time on soft tyres and climbs to P1 in front of Sainz and Alonso. He returns to the pits. With just half an hour to go, the McLarens seem to be struggling to set competitive times. Both AlphaTauris also cannot seem to get ahead.
At the twenty minutes mark, Max goes on a long run on used soft tyres. In his second lap, he announces that already his soft tyres are losing grip. His race engineer lets him know that he should come back into the pits. He has to settle for P6, nearly a second behind Leclerc in first. The upshot is the Red Bull driver has used one set of tyres less than both Ferraris.
In the closing phase, it seems the whole field is doing long runs to collect data and prepare for the race. No improved times are being set, and with that comes an end to the first long day in Las Vegas.
During the Las Vegas Grand Prix weekend, Max will sport a special helmet design. His RB19 features a Las Vegas inspired livery. You can pre-order the scale models for both helmets and cars on Verstappen.com
|3||Fernando Alonso||ALO||Aston Martin Mercedes||1:35.793||+0.528s||38|
|4||Sergio Perez||PER||Red Bull Racing Honda RBPT||1:36.085||+0.820s||36|
|5||Valtteri Bottas||BOT||Alfa Romeo Ferrari||1:36.129||+0.864s||36|
|6||Max Verstappen||VER||Red Bull Racing Honda RBPT||1:36.183||+0.918s||37|
|7||Nico Hulkenberg||HUL||Haas Ferrari||1:36.489||+1.224s||33|
|8||Lance Stroll||STR||Aston Martin Mercedes||1:36.496||+1.231s||41|
|10||Alexander Albon||ALB||Williams Mercedes||1:36.688||+1.423s||42|
|11||Lando Norris||NOR||McLaren Mercedes||1:36.864||+1.599s||33|
|13||Kevin Magnussen||MAG||Haas Ferrari||1:36.917||+1.652s||37|
|14||Oscar Piastri||PIA||McLaren Mercedes||1:36.987||+1.722s||35|
|15||Pierre Gasly||GAS||Alpine Renault||1:37.134||+1.869s||33|
|16||Esteban Ocon||OCO||Alpine Renault||1:37.241||+1.976s||37|
|17||Yuki Tsunoda||TSU||AlphaTauri Honda RBPT||1:37.412||+2.147s||41|
|18||Zhou Guanyu||ZHO||Alfa Romeo Ferrari||1:37.656||+2.391s||36|
|19||Daniel Ricciardo||RIC||AlphaTauri Honda RBPT||1:37.680||+2.415s||40|
|20||Logan Sargeant||SAR||Williams Mercedes||1:38.140||+2.875s||42|