4th December 2023

Barring any last-minute penalties, the grid is about for the inaugural Las Vegas Grand Prix.

Ferrari confirmed their energy on Friday evening, as Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz Jr. completed one-two on the entrance of the sphere. Nevertheless, a ten-place grid penalty handed all the way down to Sainz on account of a collision with a free manhole cowl in FP1 — a quite unfair penalty that the FIA can be sensible to revisit for subsequent season — denied Ferrari their front-row lockout. Because of this, Leclerc will begin alongside Max Verstappen, with Mercedes driver George Russell proper behind him.

That offers us a place to begin to dive into the important thing factors to look at within the inaugural Las Vegas Grand Prix later tonight.

Who leads Lap 1?

Leclerc has essentially the most highly effective automobile, at the very least given what now we have seen up to now.

However Verstappen is, Verstappen. He’s a three-time World Champion, and has been within the cockpit of essentially the most dominant automobile this season. (He has additionally been on hearth this week with the media).

And he may need a bonus on Lap 1. Verstappen shall be beginning on the within line into Flip 1, which could give him an opportunity to take the lead.

Whether or not he can take it — after which maintain it — are two totally different questions.

Oh, and there may be yet another factor, and that’s the lurking Russell behind the 2. If Leclerc and Verstappen are tangling on Lap 1, may that open the door for the Mercedes driver?

How excessive can Sainz climb?

As Ferrari Workforce Principal Frederic Vasseur famous following qualifying, Sainz deserved to be on the entrance row. He and the SF-23 have been robust all week lengthy, and it’s only due to the ten-place grid penalty that Ferrari doesn’t have the entrance row locked out.

However how far can he climb by way of the sphere?

If Ferrari will get their tire technique proper — one thing else Vasseur famous following qualifying — he may climb quite far.

Is a giant day from Williams on faucet?

There are lot of causes to imagine that Williams may put in a large efficiency within the Las Vegas Grand Prix.

As has been famous right here and elsewhere, the FW45 has been spectacular on lengthy straights this season. We noticed that in qualifying. Take, for instance, the telemetry knowledge from Logan Sargeant’s finest lap of qualifying, and the perfect lap from Sainz, courtesy of F1-Tempo:

Although Sainz had the quicker lap — by .787 seconds — Sargeant was quicker over virtually your entire lengthy straight down the Vegas Strip.

Each Sargeant and Alexander Albon are beginning within the prime ten, as they’ve locked out the third row with Albon in P5 and Sargeant in P6. Can they work collectively to ship a large haul of factors for the staff, and maybe lock up P7 within the Constructors’ Championship?

Their energy on the straights would possibly give them an opportunity to just do that.

How good will the racing be?

Race promoters behind the Las Vegas Grand Prix made a couple of guarantees concerning the monitor. One in every of them is pace, and now we have seen that already throughout apply and qualifying. Significantly alongside the primary straight as drivers roar down the Vegas Strip.

However one thing else they promised?

Overtaking alternatives.

Whether or not it’s the fast chicane on the finish of the lengthy straight as drivers wind by way of Turns 14, 15, and 16, or maybe at Flip 5. Numerous drivers have struggled with that sharp right-handed flip popping out of one other of the format’s straights. Albon himself hit the wall throughout FP3, drawing the ultimate apply session to a detailed.

That might supply fertile floor for overtaking.

Now we wait to see if the potential lives as much as the precise.

Can McLaren salvage one thing?

If there was one staff that most likely began enthusiastic about flights to Abu Dhabi Friday evening, it was McLaren.

Whereas they’ve been red-hot since Austria, issues have been a lot totally different for them in Sin Metropolis. Aside from a lap from Oscar Piastri late in FP3, the tempo has simply not been there. Each Piastri and Lando Norris have been eradicated in Q1, the primary time the duo suffered that destiny since manner again in Could, on the Miami Grand Prix.

Once I talked with Piastri earlier this week, the rookie driver hinted that the format may not be the perfect for the MCL60, as spectacular is it — and the 2 drivers — have been within the second half of the season. “I’m unsure will probably be our best weekend as a staff,” Piastri instructed me on Tuesday evening. “I feel the gradual corners and lengthy straights are nonetheless not our strongest areas.”

Additionally, contemplate this graphic from Formulation Information Evaluation:

Down and left will not be the place you need to be on that graph.

Can McLaren salvage one thing? They could must, as a result of with Fernando Alonso beginning inside the highest ten, McLaren’s benefit within the battle for P4 within the Constructors’ could possibly be razor-thin come that flight to Abu Dhabi.

Does Sin Metropolis have yet another twist to the story?

Las Vegas is a metropolis crammed with twists and turns, the place lives are modified within the blink of an eye fixed or, extra precisely, with the flip of a card.

Does yet another twist — or extra — await the sphere later tonight?

May we see a purple flag shake up the grid? A shocking cost by way of the sphere from somebody like Sainz? A driver get distracted by one thing on the Sphere which creates a giant overtaking alternative for somebody behind them?

Okay perhaps not that final one, however you get the purpose.

The story has not but been written for the inaugural Las Vegas Grand Prix and there may be time for yet another twist, or extra, to be woven into the story.

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