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  • Maxime Baillieux

Leclerc's Daring Drive

This article was written by Maxime Baillieux, Year 11

Qualifying Drama:

The anticipation was palpable as the 2023 Las Vegas Grand Prix kicked off with a riveting qualifying session under the dazzling lights of the city. The drama unfolded in three distinctive acts, with each session revealing the contenders' prowess and setting the stage for a thrilling race.

Q1: A Purple Statement by Leclerc

The qualifying drama commenced with the first session, Q1, where Charles Leclerc wasted no time asserting his dominance. His impressive flying lap of 1:34.072 left competitors in awe, setting the tone for Ferrari's potential triumph. Shockingly, both Norris and Piastri, representing McLaren, faced early exits, spelling disappointment for the team.

Q2: Hamilton's Brief Reign and Perez's Surprising Exit

As the stakes heightened in Q2, Lewis Hamilton momentarily seized pole position, only to be swiftly outpaced by Max Verstappen. However, the defining moment came with Charles Leclerc's breathtaking lap of 1:32.834, securing a commanding lead over his rivals. Sergio Perez's unexpected elimination added an element of unpredictability to the race, leaving fans eagerly anticipating the main event.

Q3: Leclerc's Pole Triumph

The final act of qualifying, Q3, witnessed Charles Leclerc solidify his supremacy. His purple sector time in Sector 2 propelled him to a pole position finish with a remarkable 1:32.726 lap. The gap of 0.022s over his teammate, Carlos Sainz, and 0.083s over Verstappen underscored Ferrari's exceptional performance. The stage was set for an electrifying race day in the vibrant city of Las Vegas.

Main Race:

The 2023 Las Vegas Grand Prix unfolded in spectacular fashion, packed with unexpected twists and turns that kept fans on the edge of their seats. From the opening moments to the chequered flag, the race proved to be a true spectacle of skill and strategy.

The anticipation was high as the lights went out, with Charles Leclerc securing pole position, and Max Verstappen hot on his heels in P2. However, the excitement turned to dismay as both Verstappen and Leclerc went wide into turn 1, losing valuable positions. The challenging track layout, featuring the last places in a bend rather than on a straight, added an extra layer of complexity.

Carlos Sainz faced adversity, starting down in P12 due to a drain hole cover crash in FP1. Meanwhile, the Williams team showcased a remarkable performance with both cars starting in the top 6. The 1100th Grand Prix in Formula 1 began with a lack of grip into turn 1, causing chaos throughout the grid.

The early laps saw multiple incidents, including Fernando Alonso sustaining damage and a Virtual Safety Car (VSC) deployed on lap 2. Lewis Hamilton, opting for hard tyres, struggled and lost several positions. Lando Norris's unfortunate crash on lap 3 triggered a Safety Car, creating a pivotal moment in the race. Although a red flag seemed possible due to Tecpro barriers needing repair, the race continued.

As the Safety Car period concluded on lap 6, the restart proved relatively calm, with minimal overtaking. However, drama continued as Verstappen received a 5-second penalty for an incident with Leclerc in turn 1 on the first lap. The Dutch driver pushed hard to build a gap, exchanging words with the stewards.

George Russell emerged as a contender, showcasing impressive speed and claiming the fastest lap. Leclerc and Russell stayed close to Verstappen, raising the possibility of overtaking during pit stops. Sainz faced the risk of retirement due to overheating issues, adding another layer of uncertainty.

Pit stops unfolded strategically, with Russell opting for a two-stop strategy. Verstappen found himself defending against Leclerc, who eventually took the lead before heading into the pits. Russell overtook Verstappen during the pit stops, while Hamilton and Oscar Piastri suffered punctures, leading to a shuffle in the order.

Contact between Russell and Verstappen resulted in damage for both drivers, prompting a Safety Car on lap 26. Perez capitalised on the situation with a well-timed pit stop. Despite a 5-second penalty for Russell, he showed resilience, climbing back into contention.

As the race approached its climax, Perez surged to the front, overtaking Leclerc on lap 32. Verstappen, recovering from the earlier setback, passed Piastri to claim P4. Russell, despite his penalty, showcased remarkable skill, moving up to P6.

In the closing laps, Leclerc staged a brilliant comeback, overtaking Perez to secure P2. However, Verstappen maintained his dominance, clinching another victory in what turned out to be a thrilling, if somewhat predictable, Las Vegas Grand Prix.

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