Ferrari tops prolonged FP2 for Las Vegas Grand Prix, with Charles Leclerc leading the way

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Photo credit: Scuderia Ferrari

After a significantly shortened FP1 it was a bit of a wait for FP2 to be started. The incident with Carlos Sainz on The Strip prompted the organisation to check and, if necessary, repair the drain covers on the track. Originally the second practice was meant to start at midnight, but after several delays the starting time was set at 02:30 local time, stressing the teams’ mechanics even further.

Even more so for the mechanics of Sainz and Esteban Ocon, who both had significant damage to their car that required a rebuild. Ferrari even had to change the battery, which resulted in a 10 place grid penalty for Sainz.

And at 02:30 sharp the light at the end of the pitlane turned green, with the McLaren’s heading out first. Lando Norris immediately had a little off at turn 7 because of the lack of grip. The track soon became busier, but it was the same Lando Norris who had to return to the pits in ‘limp mode’.

Both Kevin Magnussen and Sergio Pérez miss their braking point in turn 12, but with ample run-off there it was just a momentary yellow flag.

Seven minutes into the session Sainz finishes his first flying lap and puts his Ferrari on top. A Herculean effort by the Italian mechanics, which is immediately rewarded by the Spaniard. He later is demoted by his teammate Charles Leclerc, who is almost a second quicker.

Lewis Hamilton improves to first with a small margin, but it is clear that the track is quickly gathering more grip, as Max Verstappen goes to the top shortly after on eight lap old medium tyres. Both Ferrari’s quickly better the Dutchman.

Lance Stroll is the first one to miss the braking point at the end of The Strip, but he can also make a little U-turn to continue his way.

After 20 minutes the first runs seem to have finished as there are fewer improvements. Alexander Albon improves to third, but a lot of drivers are returning to the pit for a few setup changes.

In the second set of runs there was a little battle between Verstappen and Leclerc, something the Ferrari driver wasn’t too pleased with. But karma is served swiftly as Verstappen misses his braking point into Turn 12.

Sainz has in the meantime risen to the top of the timing sheets, closely followed by Leclerc and Pérez. At the other side of the ranking it is Oscar Piastri who has had very little track time due to mechanical issues.

The times are slowly getting quicker, with the teams mostly running on soft tyres, and a few on the mediums, but the rush hour on track has subsided a bit.

Halfway through the session Leclerc leads the way for Hamilton and Albon, with the three of them being within three hundreths of a second. A few minutes later that is four drivers within three hundreths, as Fernando Alonso goes to first by just three thousands.

The close top five doesn’t stays like that for long, as both Sainz and Verstappen improve Alonso’s time by about three tenths. Leclerc betters that a little later by more than six tenths, hinting that Ferrari might be competitive this weekend.

And while George Russell paints his tyres pink from a painted patch of tarmac, Norris keeps on struggling with his McLaren, with the Briton being last in the standings.

Magnussen in the meantime decides to pass Albon on the inside of turn 8, as the Williams blocks the Haas driver.

Leclerc improves his own best time with about half a second, proving that there is still time to be gained on the track, as it is rubbered in more and more. Alonso attempts another improvement, but he misses his braking point and has to let the lap go.

With about 20 minutes to go it is clear that Verstappen is going to do some long runs, as his first sector on new soft tyres is more than two seconds of the pace. He is soon followed by the rest of the grid, meaning that the final standings for this session are probably set.

As the laptimes increase over the course of the long runs, it is clear that the track still needs some grip, with Russell the only one in the pits with just five minutes to go. He does however emerge from pitlane to take part in the practice starts at the end of the session.

So when the flag drops it is Charles Leclerc on top, followed by his teammate Sainz and Alonso. Pérez is fourth, Valtteri Bottas fifth and Verstappen only sixth. Nico Hülkenberg and Stroll both have a decent result at P7 and P8. Hamilton and Albon complete the top 10.