Welcome to news.com.au’s live coverage of the Las Vegas F1 Grand Prix.
F1 has returned to Las Vegas for the first time since 1982 and it has been an unmitigated disaster so far.
From Carlos Sainz’s farcical grid penalty for driving over a faulty manhole, to fans being kicked out after practice was cancelled and a lawsuit being launched by the city of Las Vegas for fans that attended the opening day mayhem.
But Vegas will be hoping it can put on a show for the race, which is taking place late on Saturday night local time.
Charles Leclerc will start from pole position after Ferrari dominated qualifying as he aims to become just the fourth driver to win a race this season.
Max Verstappen will start on the front grid as he chases an 18th win of the season.
Australia’s Daniel Ricciardo and Oscar Piastri will start 14th and 18th, respectively.
6.08pm – Piastri, flying, Verstappen hunting lead
Oscar Piastri is having a blinder and is up into third place, but he will need to pit again for another set of tyres.
The Virtual Safety Car has played into Verstappen’s hands and cancelled out the advantage of Leclerc, who is a bit of a sitting duck from the Red Bulls behind him.
Perez has overtaken Leclerc to take the lead on lap 32.
5.58pm – Verstappen in another skirmish
Verstappen is having himself an eventful race — this time bumping into George Russell’s Mercedes while attempting an ambitious overtake.
Pieces of debris flew off Verstappen’s Red Bull, but Russell was given a five-second penalty, apparently because he didn’t see Verstappen coming down the inside.
A Virtual Safety Car was triggered due to debris on the track.
5.44pm – Leclerc takes the lead
Charles Leclerc has taken the lead before the halfway mark of the race, overtaking Verstappen on a long straight on the Las Vegas strip.
It’s now Leclerc’s race to lose as he extends his lead out in front and Verstappen has pitted to serve his five-second time penalty.
Meanwhile, Oscar Piastri was flying up to sixth before he and Lewis Hamilton bumped into each other.
The incident punctured Hamilton’s tyre and damaged the floor of Piastri’s McLaren.
5.20pm – Norris out in nasty crash
Lando Norris has crashed out on lap 4 after losing control of his McLaren and spinning into the wall.
Thankfully Norris is OK. His crash triggered a Safety Car.
Australian rookie Oscar Piastri has moved up into eighth place, pulling off a superb overtake on Yuki Tsunoda once the race restarted.
5.12pm – Leclerc fuming at Verstappen
The race is underway and Max Verstappen got a great start off the line and pulled alongside Leclerc, but pushed the Ferrari wide off the track to get the lead.
Leclerc was furious over team radio and wanted Verstappen to give the place back.
“This needs to be addressed now,” he said.
“It is a joke if he gets the position. He wasn’t in front at the apex and he pushed me wide. He needs to give the position back.”
Martin Brundle said on Sky Sports during the start: “There’s chaos.”
Verstappen was given a five-second time penalty, which he’ll need to serve in the pits or at the end of the race.
Verstappen quipped over team radio: “Yeah that’s fine. Send them my regards.”
The Red Bull driver can consider himself lucky he’s been allowed to keep the lead.
Brundle said: “In a way I feel that position should be given back given track position could control the race. I’m not sure that’s a tough enough penalty.”
David Croft added: “It’s a penalty that might amount to absolutely nothing. I just don’t think it’s a penalty.”
4.15pm – Driver introductions are peak America
Las Vegas has certainly brought the glitz and glamour this weekend and that continued with driver introductions before the race.
UFC announcer Bruce Buffer turned the showbiz up to 11 as he introduced the drivers in his trademark style after they completed a pre-race parade in vintage cars.
Red Bull’s Sergio Perez looked slightly bemused as Buffer completed his screaming introduction while staring right at the Mexican.
3.50pm – Disaster strikes again with rogue leak
Just when you thought the Vegas fiascos were over, disaster has struck again before the race.
The car Oscar Piastri was in during the pre-race drivers parade broke down, leaking oil fluid onto the track on the spot on the main straight where pole getter Charles Leclerc will start his race.
It’s worth noting Leclerc has claimed 23 pole positions in his career but has a poor conversion rate, winning five races overall.
“This is going to be a loss of grip, it’s very unfortunate. I don’t know what they’re going to be able to do about it,” Danica Patrick said on Sky Sports.
“It’s on the dirty side of the grid that was always going to be slippery so that’s really bad news for Verstappen and all of those behind him,” Martin Brundle added.
2.15pm – ‘Unfiltered’ Verstappen censored in surprise move
Max Verstappen hasn’t been shy of voicing his disdain towards the Las Vegas Grand Prix this weekend, saying he felt like a “clown” in the opening ceremony and slamming the race as “99 per cent show and 1 per cent sporting event”.
“Of course I understand fans need something to do around the track, but it is more important we make them understand what we do about the sport,” he said.
“I love Vegas, but not to drive a F1 car; to go out, throw everything on red, whatever. But the emotion and passion is not there compared to some old-school tracks.”
The three-time world champion said he much preferred traditional circuits like Spa in Belgium and Monza in Italy that “have a lot of emotion and passion”.
Speaking about the Las Vegas Grand Prix, he quipped: “Monaco is like Champions League and this is National League.”
Told fans who were sent home before the second practice session were offered $200 merchandise vouchers as compensation, Verstappen said: “If I was a fan, I would tear the whole place down.”
The post-race cooldown room has been a recent innovation where the top three drivers sit in a room and watch highlights of the race before going up to the podium.
It can make for interesting viewing as the drivers analyse the race, but fans won’t get to enjoy the cooldown room after it was announced it had been removed from the official post-race procedure.
The FIA’s race document states: “Once the interviews have been completed, the drivers will be immediately escorted back to the grid, where the podium is located. There is no cool down room at this event.”
2pm – Sainz still fuming at penalty
Carlos Sainz will start 12th after copping a very harsh 10-place grid penalty for driving over a loose manhole that destroyed the underneath of his Ferrari during practice.
Ferrari dominated qualifying and would have had a front low lockout if it wasn’t for the penalty. But Sainz will have his work cut out to make it onto the podium.
“I’m sad, frustrated, disappointed,” he said after qualifying.
I’m not going to lie. I’m still in a very bad mood but I’m trying not to show it too much. But it is what it is.”
“At the same time not very surprised, because sometimes this sport can be … no one can understand it.”
“I’m paying tomorrow one of the most unfair penalties I’ve ever seen.”
Las Vegas Grand Prix provisional starting grid
1) Charles Leclerc 2) Max Verstappen
3) George Russell 4) Pierre Gasly
5) Alex Albon 6) Logan Sargeant
7) Valtteri Bottas 8) Kevin Magnussen
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) Lance Stroll 20) Yuki Tsunoda