The Las Vegas Strip Circuit really lived up to the city’s reputation for thrills and excitement tonight with drivers completing the 50-lap Nevada F1 round with a variety of strategies. F1Technical's senior writer Balázs Szabó analyses the tyre strategies at the Las Vegas Grand Prix.
With Formula One returning to Las Vegas for the first time in four decades, expectations were high for the Las Vegas Grand Prix that took place on an all-new circuit in Las Vegas, encompassing the very best the City of Lights has to offer. While Charles Leclerc delivered a sensational lap on the streets of Sin City to take pole for the Las Vegas F1 Grand Prix 2023, the race saw Max Verstappen take his 18th win of 2023 which enabled him to join Sebastian Vettel in third place on the all-time winners list on 53.
Speaking of the race weekend as a whole, Pirelli's Motorsport Director Mario Isola said: “That was 90 action-packed and spectacular minutes of racing which must have pleased all the spectators here in Las Vegas tonight and those watching on television or on-line.
"Overtaking, collisions, safety cars, mistakes and great feats of driving: the best of what this sport has to offer was all there condensed into 50 laps. It was the best possible advert for Formula 1 in the United States, a perfect combination of the racing side and the show, as exemplified in the prize giving ceremony.
As for the tyres, there was less talk about degradation, as the low temperatures posed a different set of challenges to the different compounds. Considering the layout and the low ambient temperatures, it was no surprise that Pirelli brought the softest selection of tyres in the range for the Nevada F1 round with the C3 having served as P Zero White hard, C4 as P Zero Yellow medium and C5 as P Zero Red soft.
Coming onto the technical summary of the evening, Pirelli's predictions prior to the race in terms of strategy were proved right: there wasn’t much difference between a one-stop and a two-stop.
The Hard proved to be the most effective race tyre, even if it suffered a bit from graining. The Medium, chosen for the start by three quarters of the field, behaved reasonably well, although it needed to be treated a bit more carefully, especially in the early stages. Yuki Tsunoda and Lance Stroll started on the soft compound while Lewis Hamilton, Oscar Piastri and Zhou Guanyu opted for the hard compound.
The strategies were affected by two safety car interruptions. Sergio Perez, Fernando Alonso and Valtteri Bottas switched to the hard compound at the end of the opening lap, while the first Safety Car that was deployed three laps later saw Carlos Sainz and Lance Stroll take the opportunity to switch immediately to the C3 to try and move up the order, thus mixing things up with those who chose to stay out on track.
The second Safety Car, following the collision between Russell and Verstappen which left debris strewn on the track, then saw the advantage swing in favour of those who had pitted very early on and had not yet made a second stop, as it minimised time lost in pit lane. Many drivers pitted for new tyres during the second safety car period, including Sainz, Max Verstappen, Perez, Stroll, Lewis Hamilton, Alonso, George Russell, Kevin Magnussen and Nico Hulkenberg.
The only drivers who pitted outside the safety car periods and completed the 50-lap Las Vegas race with a single stop were Charles Leclerc, Esteban Ocon, Pierre Gasly, Alexander Albon, Logan Sargeant and Daniel Ricciardo.
Of all drivers, Leclerc's strategy was the most affected by the safety car period as he pitted for new tyres on Lap 21 after managing his medium tyres extremely successful. With leading the race, the Monégasque had no other choice than staying out during the second safety car period, which then left him out with tyres that were five lap older than those of his direct rivals who benefitted from the interruption. With the Las Vegas Strip Circuit, this tyre offset proved to be crucial, and Leclerc encountered issues in terms of getting his used hards into their operating window when the race was resumed.
As for the longest stints, Williams driver Logan Sargeant did 35 laps on a set of Hards. The fastest lap on the white-walled tyres was recorded by race winner Verstappen, who clocked a 1m35.614s on Lap 44 which was his 18th lap during that final stint.
Bottas did 26 on the Medium tyre and also noteworthy, considering the fuel load at that point, was Leclerc’s 21 laps on the set of C4 he used from the start. Despite finishing down in P10, Oscar Piastri clinched the additional point for the fastest race lap which the Australian achieved on the medium on Lap 47 on a five-lap-old tyres following his last-minute pit stop.
As predicted, the soft tyres were not favoured in the race as they had shown graining during the practice sessions. In fact, only Yuki Tsunoda nad Lance Stroll used the red-walled compound, with the Japanese driver completing a ten-lap stint in the opening stages of the race. The AlphaTauri racer clocked a 1m41.561s on the ninth tour of the 50-lap race before throwing the C5 compound away for a fresh set of hards on the next lap.