2023 Las Vegas Grand Prix: Free Practice Tyre Analysis – The Ferrari drivers were the undoubted front-runners on the first day of track action at the Las Vegas Strip Circuit. Charles Leclerc topped the time sheets from both sessions: the FP1 time did not mean much as the session only lasted eight minutes, however his FP2 time of 1’35″265 was much more significant, just over half a second quicker than team-mate Carlos Sainz. Third fastest was Fernando Alonso (1’35″793) just 11 thousandths slower than his fellow countryman.
It was a very long day, with most of the personnel only leaving the paddock as dawn was breaking. The first session was red flagged after eight minutes when a manhole cover lifted off the track surface, damaging the cars of Carlos Sainz and Esteban Ocon and then was stopped completely to allow for a thorough track inspection and, where necessary, repairs. This meant the second session began at 2.30 am, a delay of two and a half hours, with running time extended by 30 minutes to make up for the lost track time. In addition, the FIA ruled that the teams’ normal requirement to return two sets of tyres after FP1 as per the Sporting Regulations, could now be postponed until two hours after the end of FP2.
Red was the dominant colour when it came to compound use: the Soft completed 408 laps (54.11%), followed by the Medium (302, 40.05%), while the Hard only did 44 laps (5.84%), the latter used in FP2 by just Bottas, Tsunoda, Albon and Sargeant.
Simone Berra – Pirelli Chief Engineer
“It was definitely an unusual first day, with one session reduced to almost nothing and the next one extended by 50%, along with permission granted to use all the sets of tyres available to make up for the time lost in the first session. This meant we were able to get some useful initial indications which are important for the rest of the weekend, starting with how the track is evolving. As was entirely predictable, lap times tumbled down pretty quickly with every passing lap, even if we are still quite a long way off our simulation times, by around three to four seconds. Furthermore, we were able to check the speed of track evolution over a time period reasonably similar to a race distance, which highlights how conditions might change during the race itself, thus informing strategy and compound choices.
“Looking at the split of laps completed between the Soft, Medium and Hard, it seems the last of these is being saved by several teams specifically for Saturday night, with the Medium also being very much in the running. Having said that, the Soft cannot be ruled out completely, precisely because of my earlier comment about track evolution. When assessing this, we must also take into account that much of the track is now open again to road traffic which is bound to lead to a quite significant reset in terms of the rubber laid down on the track surface.
“Going into the Las Vegas round, we had two bugbears in mind: warm-up and graining. Honestly, as regards the first of those, today we didn’t notice anything dramatic or unprecedented compared to what we have seen before in this discipline. As for the second, it was clearly significant, but still in line with what we have experienced at other tracks. Furthermore, we saw today how the graining tended to progressively reduce as the cars did more and more laps, a sign that the situation could change, possibly quite significantly, by Saturday night, opening up opportunities that maybe today seemed unlikely.”