Charles Leclerc went over half a second faster than anyone else in FP2 for the Las Vegas Grand Prix, after lengthy delays for the session to start.
Ferrari team-mate Carlos Sainz was second-quickest after a chassis change following his hefty damage in FP1, but fans were left disappointed after all fan zones were closed prior to the session getting started, meaning they could not watch the cars head around when it finally got underway.
Lengthy track repairs had taken place to get the session going in time, but on track, Ferrari will be pleased with their night’s work, as will Fernando Alonso, who was third fastest on the night.
Long delays followed by extended FP2 session in Las Vegas
After only eight minutes of running in FP1, a huge amount of damage for Sainz has led to a grid penalty being applied for the changes required to his car.
With the two-and-a-half hour delay required after he ran over and dislodged a drain cover, all fan zones were also closed prior to FP2 getting underway due to the lateness of the session.
This meant that the session took place the latest any Formula 1 session ever has, in front of no fans, while the drivers still had to learn the circuit with the lack of running from FP1.
The session was extended to 90 minutes to account for the lack of running earlier on, but Lando Norris suffered an issue early on that saw him required to crawl back around to the pit lane.
Several lock-ups were happening early in the session as the drivers explored their limits, but the main benefit of the session was about getting to grips with the Las Vegas Grand Prix venue as much as possible.
Having had a new chassis and survival cell installed on his car, Sainz quickly found confidence on his car and traded fastest laps with team-mate Charles Leclerc.
Lance Stroll suffered a lock-up heading into Turn 14, the biggest braking zone on the track where cars were clocked at over 215mph in the session, seeing him lock both front tyres and go straight on as he found his own limits.
“Max is racing already”, came the withering message from Leclerc over team radio as the Red Bull driver passed him into Turn 14 – presumably testing where the best overtaking opportunities were on the circuit.
As was expected, track evolution was also significant throughout the session as drivers found confidence, rubber went down and a racing line began to emerge in the extended session.
Qualifying simulations put Leclerc 0.003s ahead of Lewis Hamilton in second, eight-hundredths clear of Sainz as Verstappen lost time as his quickest lap progressed and FP2 reached its halfway point.
Alex Albon also put his Williams into the top three, before suffering a huge lock-up of his own into the Turn 14 braking zone from top speed.
On a flying lap of his own, 0.003s was the gap that Fernando Alonso took to then put himself top of the timesheets in Las Vegas on his qualifying simulation – less than a tenth separating the top five at that stage.
But times continued to improve and Leclerc broke into the 1:35s, with a 1:35.696 almost half a second quicker than Verstappen behind as he found a big chunk of performance in his Ferrari – with the drivers having lapped well over four seconds slower at the start of the session.
While others closed up to Leclerc’s time, the Ferrari driver found another four tenths on his next flying lap as he put more daylight between himself and the rest.
And with that, attention switched to long-run simulations for the final part of the session as FP2 drew to a close – giving the teams an option to assess how their cars perform over a longer stint.
But Ferrari will be encouraged by their one-lap pace once again around Las Vegas, even if they had to wait a long time to show it.
FP2 classification: 2023 Las Vegas Grand Prix
1 Charles LECLERC Ferrari 1:35.265
2 Carlos SAINZ Ferrari +0.517
3 Fernando ALONSO Aston Martin +0.528
4 Sergio PEREZ Red Bull +0.820
5 Valtteri BOTTAS Alfa Romeo +0.864
6 Max VERSTAPPEN Red Bull +0.918
7 Nico HULKENBERG Haas +1.224
8 Lance STROLL Aston Martin +1.231
9 Lewis HAMILTON Mercedes +1.398
10 Alexander ALBON Williams +1.423
11 Lando NORRIS McLaren +1.599
12 George RUSSELL Mercedes +1.625
13 Kevin MAGNUSSEN Haas +1.652
14 Oscar PIASTRI McLaren +1.722
15 Pierre GASLY Alpine +1.869
16 Esteban OCON Alpine +1.976
17 Yuki TSUNODA AlphaTauri +2.147
18 Guanyu ZHOU Alfa Romeo +2.391
19 Daniel RICCIARDO AlphaTauri +2.415
20 Logan SARGEANT Williams +2.875