In the first two segments, the cars completed multiple runs on the same set of softs to build temperature and gain grip on the slippery, cool and new Vegas track surface, but in Q3 the frontrunners completed typical single-lap efforts.
After Leclerc had established provisional pole with a 1m33.021s first lap in Q3, Sainz was the outlier in trying two warm-up laps for his second go, which meant Leclerc and Verstappen would set their laps ahead of him even as they left the pits late on to try and catch the best of the dramatic track evolution factor here.
But the one-lap efforts did not produce the usual excitement as the tyres did not fire up – as widely expected – with Leclerc able to improve best, being slower than his personal best in sector one, and Verstappen abandoning his second Q3 attempt as he failed to gain any time in the opening two sectors.
Leclerc stayed on it and eventually found enough tyre temperature to improve to a 1m32.726s, which was still barely quicker than he went in Q2.
Sainz’s alternative approach also paid off as he went faster and maintained the second place he had taken on the first Q3 attempts, but he will drop to 12th for the race as a result of his controversial penalty for taking a new battery following his FP1 water valve cover strike.
Behind Verstappen, efforts coming in during Q3’s dying seconds put Pierre Gasly fifth and Williams pair Alex Albon and Logan Sargeant into sixth and seventh – Gasly and Albon unable to dislodge George Russell from fourth after he had completed his final Q3 run just ahead of them.
Photo by: Jake Grant / Motorsport Images
Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes F1 W14
In Q2, which the Ferrari drivers started on used softs before switching to a fresh pair, while Verstappen waited to just complete a later stint on new softs, ended with late improvements for Albon and Gasly which knocked out Hamilton.
These gains also eliminated Perez – the second Red Bull having been wheeled back into its garage with over two minutes of the session remaining and Perez already sitting down in sixth and with just a 0.4s margin to 11th.
In Q1, Stroll’s last-gasp…