Round 22 of the 2023 FIA Formula 1 World Championship commenced with practice on Thursday as teams prepared for Saturday night’s inaugural 50-lap race on the Las Vegas Strip Circuit – home of the Las Vegas Grand Prix.
The evening’s opening practice session (FP1) lasted just eight minutes before a red flag stop, due to track surface issues, led to the cancellation of the session. A full track investigation around the 6.201-kilometer (3.853-mile) street circuit followed – subsequently delaying the start of FP2 to much later in the night. MoneyGram Haas F1 Team drivers Nico Hulkenberg and Kevin Magnussen had banked just four FP1 laps each on Pirelli P Zero Red soft tires before the stop – Hulkenberg sitting P2 with a 1:43.466 and Magnussen P3 on a 1:44.261 from the 15 cars with times logged early in the night.
FP2 was subsequently extended to 90-minutes of run time – the session finally getting underway at 02:30 local time. Both cars started on the soft compound once again before a baseline run on the Yellow mediums. A second set of fresh Reds produced the fastest laps of the evening, with the track gripping up with the extended running. Hulkenberg ran a 1:36.489 to take P7 on the timing screen. Magnussen produced a best effort of 1:36.917 for P13 in the session. High-fuel runs closed out a prolonged long night at the track – Hulkenberg reverting back to the medium rubber with Magnussen sticking with the softs through to the checkered flag at 04:00.
Kevin Magnussen: “We’ve done our first laps in Vegas now, and it’s not a bad track, I had fun out there. As always, we need to find more speed but at least after all the waiting, we got some laps in and have data to look at for tomorrow. There weren’t many surprises from the simulator to the track, it is very low-grip, but it is also very fun.”
Nico Hulkenberg: “It was obviously an interesting day, in unique circumstances for everyone involved. I think having FP2 start at 02:30 will be a record that will stand for a long time, I don’t think that will be beaten easily. Building up to it and learning the circuit, we found that okay and we’re obviously still exploring. We’ll have to see overnight what we can do with our set-up but it didn’t feel bad today, at least over one lap. Thanks to the fans who came out and stayed with us for so long, we’ll make sure to bring you more entertainment tomorrow.”
Guenther Steiner, Team Principal: “It wasn’t a perfect start to FP1, running for less than 10 minutes in total, but I think the decision was right to wait and fix the track so we can get some laps in. FP2 was extended to 90-minutes as we lost so much time, and even though there was a big delay, it was a good thing that we did it. As much as everyone is tired, we had enough energy to get through a session – which for sure will help going into FP3. I think we went out there pretty prepared for a new event, so we need to continue our work tomorrow and get the cars in a good spot for qualifying and the race.”