Charles Leclerc took pole position for the Las Vegas Grand Prix during a frenzied qualifying session.
Ferrari dominated qualifying, winning a one-two finish with Leclerc taking his 23rd career pole position and Carlos Sainz showing excellent single-lap pace.
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But that doesn’t mean much to Sainz after being handed a severe penalty of 10 places on the grid when his car was torn apart by a loose manhole during practice – although he was not at all at fault.
He will start from 12th on the grid, with Max Verstappen alongside Leclerc on the front row after being third fastest in qualifying.
Daniel Ricciardo finished 15th in Q2 and was eliminated in the second qualifying session with Lewis Hamilton and Sergio Perez as the starting grid was thrown into chaos.
Ricciardo told team radio: “We will focus on tomorrow.”
In a remarkable turn of events, both Williams drivers, Alex Albon and Logan Sargeant, qualified fifth and sixth respectively.
It was a huge surprise for American rookie Sargeant, who qualified dead last in the last few races and who has only one championship point to his name this season.
Sargeant will become the first American driver to start a race in the United States in the top 10 since 1987.
It was a disastrous qualifying for McLaren, with both drivers failing to make it out of the first session, which was a major disappointment.
Lando Norris and Oscar Piastri looked way off the pace as qualifying progressed as a very different top 10 began to take shape.
Street circuits are notoriously difficult to overtake, so Norris and Piastri could find themselves in a tough race on Sunday.
David Croft said on Sky Sports: “It will be a huge disappointment for McLaren, even after a very consistent and pedestrian test session yesterday. This could be crucial given Aston’s championship battle is against McLaren.
“As was the case in Miami for the first race of the season in the United States, the two McLarens were unable to advance to Q2. They didn’t expect miracles here, but they expected better than that.
Martin Brundle added: “Both McLarens are missing. This is a very big surprise here. They never looked fast enough. I didn’t expect them to be out in the first trimester.
Piastri was somewhat at a loss to explain why the car struggled at Las Vegas despite strong pace at other circuits.
“I think the pace of the car is pretty good, we just got surprised by not using a second set of tires or something like that,” said the Australian rookie.
“The car was pretty decent in P3 and we were in a pretty normal position at the start of qualifying.”
Lando Norris said: “It’s painful that we didn’t get into Q2. »
Watch the Las Vegas Grand Prix on Sunday at 5pm AEDT on Kayo Sports.
Provisional starting grid for the Las Vegas Grand Prix
1) Charles Leclerc
2) Max Verstappen
3) George Russell
4) Pierre Gasly
5) Alex Albon
6) Logan Sargent
7) Valtteri Bottas
8) Kevin Magnusse
9) Fernando Alonso
10) Lewis Hamilton
11) Sergio Perez
12) Carlos Sainz
13) Nico Hulkenberg
14) Daniel Ricciardo
15) Lando Norris
16) Esteban Ocon
17) Zhou Guanyu
18) Oscar Piastri
19) Spear Walk
20) Yuki Tsunoda