Revealed: The team to watch out for at the Las Vegas Grand Prix

Oliver Harden
Max Verstappen leads the field at the start of the F1 2023 Monaco Grand Prix.

Max Verstappen leads the field at the start of the 2023 Monaco Grand Prix.

F1 commentator Peter Windsor believes the low temperatures at the Las Vegas GP will prove “a big problem” for the teams – and is backing Ferrari to have a good weekend.

Las Vegas is set to host F1 for the first time since 1982 this weekend, with the cold conditions set to play a major role in the outcome of the race.

With qualifying starting at midnight and the race scheduled for 10pm on Saturday, the temperatures are likely to plummet into single figures and create tyre-related headaches across the field.

Las Vegas GP challenges explained

Although Red Bull and Max Verstappen head to Nevada as strong favourites, the RB19 car’s occasional tyre warm-up weakness could open the door for other teams this weekend.

And speaking via his YouTube channel, title-winning 1992 Williams team manager Windsor suspects that the signs from Singapore – where Carlos Sainz became the only non-Red Bull driver to win a race in 2023 – bode well for Vegas.

He said: “I think, if the temperatures are down in the five-six-seven degrees centigrade [range], it will be a problem for everyone. A big problem. Pirelli are bringing the softest tyre they’ve got, which is good I guess.

“But at the moment, around the time of practice and the race, it’s about 12 to 15 degrees, but I think if it is that cold it’s going to be a problem.

“I think Ferrari will be strong. I was talking to a couple of engineers and they all said Monza-spec almost in terms of wings [and] downforce level. A lot of straights.

“So on that basis – not just because Ferrari went well at Monza but because, as we know, Ferrari [are] pretty good, in a straight line, pretty good [at] high-speed braking, pretty good functional race car, assuming they’re reliable – they should go quite well around Vegas.

“They did a good job at Monza and in Singapore. With those long-ish straights and and emphasis on high-speed braking, if you’ve got that then you’ve got quite a lot of the Singapore lap sorted. It could well be the same in Vegas.

“Once you’ve got in front – on the pole or the front row – and you’ve got a top-speed advantage, in theory you should be able to sustain that in terms of not being that easy to pass, but DRS can enable a slower car to do something and maybe to manage its tyres.

“But then again, you actually use the tyres more if you’re following a car than if you’re in clear air.”

Windsor outlined the challenges facing the teams in Vegas, pinpointing the soft tyres, ride heights, high-speed braking, top speeds and track evolution will all come into play.

He explained: “It’s all going to be about getting the soft tyre to work.

“That’s either going to be getting it up to temperature or it’s going to be controlling the soft as it’s going off in the lap and getting a full lap out of it in qualifying, depending on the ambient and track conditions.

“Ride height? I imagine most teams are going there with relatively high ride height because it’s a new circuit. Of course they can look at the asphalt and get a feel for the abrasion and bumps and so forth, but there’s nothing like actually being at the track in order to feel all of that, so because it’s a first race I would imagine everyone will go there with a relatively high ride height.

“Not a sprint weekend, so they can modify the car a bit but I imagine that’s where they will be going. It’ll be whoever can run as low as they can to get away with it. It’s bound to be bumpy and when you’ve got high-speed braking, it’s all about making the car as stable as possible as well.

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“If the circuit is quite bumpy, it’s going to be really difficult under high-speed braking, so that’ll be one of the telling factors.

“And then top speed as well: who can have a significant advantage in top speed? Because if there are tyre issues – either too soft, too hard, whatever it is – if you can make up for that with a 4/5kph advantage in top speed, you’ve got a lot of the lap sorted. Top speed will be the most interesting thing, to compare top speeds throughout the Friday and the Saturday to see who’s got that sort of advantage.

“Also, being a brand-new track, it’s going to pick up grip very quickly and the track on Sunday midway through the race is going to be completely different to the track that they begin with on Thursday.

“It’s an interesting challenge in that sense, I suppose.”

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