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Las Vegas Grand Prix 2023

The roulette wheel which shaped the Las Vegas GP

The Ferrari driver believes he could have won the Las Vegas Grand Prix if there was not a second Safety Car.

Leclerc Verstappen Las Vegas
To news overview © RN365/Michael Potts

When George Russell collided with Max Verstappen 26 laps into the Las Vegas Grand Prix, it sealed the fate of Charles Leclerc's chances of victory.

The Ferrari driver had already made his pit stop three laps prior, and was now faced with a Safety Car due to debris on track as a result of the contact between Russell and Verstappen.

Sergio Perez benefitted the most from the intervention, as it enabled him to pit from the lead and emerge behind Leclerc who elected not to pit.

Verstappen also pitted for fresh tyres and rejoined in fifth behind Oscar Piastri and Pierre Gasly, with him separated from Leclerc by two seconds.

The Dutchman was back in the game after being issued with a five-second time penalty for his robust move on Leclerc into Turn 1 at the start, and was now in the lucrative place of having track position and fresh tyres to attack Leclerc.

"We pitted again for the second set of Hard tyres and then it was very fun," Verstappen told media, including RacingNews365.

"I think the Hard tyre was just a bit more robust against the graining, because that was my problem on the Medium.

"The tyre just started to open up and then you lose a lot of grip. So that's what happened. Then on the Hard tyre I didn't really have that problem for a long time. So that was definitely helping me."

Leclerc: Without the Safety Car, the win was ours

Leclerc by his own admission felt that he was in a good position to maintain his lead before the Safety Car, after the Hard tyres performed better than expected for Ferrari.

"I really believe that without the Safety Car, the win was ours," said Leclerc

"We had a really good first stint on the Medium and we had five laps newer Hard than Max.

"I had a good four, five laps in order to bring them into temperature and we had done a really good job on that. So, I was really confident that the win was ours."

The call to come into the pits during the Safety Car was tricky to judge for Ferrari, particularly on tyres that had only done five laps.

But even with his low-downforce setup on the SF-23 - a trait of the car that has benefitted them throughout this season - Leclerc was unable to fend off the charging Red Bulls.

			© Red Bull Content Pool
	© Red Bull Content Pool

Track temperatures play havoc

Track temperatures played a massive role throughout the weekend, as evidenced in qualifying and practice sessions.

It was pretty evident the low grip surface was playing havoc with the drivers when they all arrived into Turn 1 at the start, and several drivers spun - including Fernando Alonso - or went wide and off track.

This caused a chain reaction as the VSC came out and caused tyre temperatures and pressures to drop again, eventually culminating in the circumstances that led to Lando Norris' big shunt four laps into the race.

Leclerc felt the low track temperatures had an effect on getting heat into the tyres, which was made worse under the slower Safety Car conditions.

"Max and Checo stopped and I stayed on my five laps Used Hard, which is not too much, five laps," Leclerc continued.

"But the problem is that then when you cool them down during the Safety Car, to restart a used tyre is incredibly difficult with those temperatures. And there we lost the race."

After making a mistake while under pressure for second from Perez, the Ferrari driver managed to retake the position on the final lap in a dramatic move at Turn 14 at the end of the Las Vegas Strip.

"The last part of the race was extremely fun and that gave me a lot of adrenaline inside the car," said Leclerc.

"We didn't leave anything on the table until the very last lap, the last corner of the last lap, I gave it all and managed to get that second place."

In a race that featured a pole position and two on-track passes for the lead from Leclerc, he still finished in second.

It is perhaps evident of the perfect circumstances one must have to win a race in F1 these days during Red Bull's dominant run.

F1 2023 Las Vegas Grand Prix RN365 News dossier

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