Ferrari bounced back from a disastrous first day of the Las Vegas Grand Prix with a victory for Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz Jr. in Friday night qualifying.

Only this doesn’t translate into a 1-2 in Saturday night’s race for the two Ferrari drivers. Sainz is in a backup car because his Ferrari was badly damaged when he ran over a drain valve cover in Thursday night’s opening practice.

Because he needed to switch to a backup car for the rest of the weekend, Sainz was penalized 10 places on the grid and will instead start 12th on Saturday night.

Charles Leclerc pilots his Ferrari around the track during Friday practice for the Las Vegas Grand Prix. He ended up winning the pole position for Saturday night’s race.

John Locher/Associated Press

Ferrari attempted to argue against the penalty because the damage to the car was caused by the track surface, but the FIA ​​had no provision in its rules to grant an exception.

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After qualifying, Sainz was struggling to balance the spectacle of F1’s first visit to Las Vegas in 41 years and the damage to the sporting element of the biggest spectacle on the series’ 22-race calendar.

F1 and its owner Liberty Media have spent $500 million on the race that uses the Strip and incorporates several iconic Las Vegas locations.

It is the most expensive race of the season and the third stop this year in the United States, more than any other country.

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“I think we have to learn to separate things and there’s the sport and there’s the show, and you can have both in a good combination,” said Sainz, who noted that Wednesday night’s opening ceremony and the numerous packed events Celebrities at casinos and restaurants have been a big part of the week.

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“But I see the race as a very good opportunity for F1 and I think it is good that F1 is in Las Vegas and I am enjoying coming to Las Vegas.

“I feel like we started off on a very bad foot… and I think it was a very good opportunity to make a statement as a sport and open Las Vegas with a very good image and attraction for everyone.

“But there are people who have never come to a race and ask me why I was penalized for what happened.”

Leclerc said the criticism over the disastrous opening day saddened him.

Practice was stopped nine minutes into the first session for track officials to fix any valve covers that needed attention, second practice started 2.5 hours late at 2:30 a.m. and ran until 4 a.m. , and fans were ordered to leave before the second. practice.

He felt the qualifying session denying Max Verstappen his 12th pole of the season would help improve attitudes towards the event.

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“Yesterday I was sad to see how much criticism there was on the track. Of course, it wasn’t good enough, but we shouldn’t forget how much work there has been for many, many people to make this work and I think it looks incredible,” Leclerc said.

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“I really hope we have an exciting race to really show what Formula 1 is about. Obviously yesterday was a pretty bad start, but I think it’s an incredible place.”

After winning the pole, Leclerc’s image was broadcast on The Sphere, which dominates the 6.2-kilometer street circuit that runs through much of the Strip.

Max Verstappen, seeking his 18th win of the season on Saturday night, qualified third for Red Bull.

He has been critical of the event since before he arrived because he believes F1 has placed too much emphasis on the entertainment value of the Las Vegas race.

He also called for a change in FIA rules to ensure drivers are not penalized for incidents like Thursday’s mishap.

“The rules have to change; It’s the same if you get taken out or have a big accident,” Verstappen said. “These things must be taken into consideration. “I think he is very hard on Carlos.”

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Verstappen was also critical of the 17-turn circuit with a football analogy: “I think Monaco is the Champions League (level). “This is the National League.”

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George Russell was fourth for Mercedes and followed by Alpine’s Pierre Gasly. Williams’ teammates Alex Albon and Logan Sargeant were sixth and seventh and it was the best qualifying effort of the season for American rookie Sargeant.

After the highest qualifying of his career, Sargeant said F1 had recovered from the failed first practice and was putting on a good show.

“I think today was a big success in terms of the grand prize,” the Florida native said.

“I think those things happen. Obviously it’s not ideal, but there’s clearly been a good reaction. We have had three very good sessions and personally I think there will be great races at this track.”

Lewis Hamilton, Sergio Pérez and McLaren drivers Lando Norris and rookie Oscar Piastri were eliminated in the first round.

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In related news, organizers offered a $200 credit to Thursday-only ticket holders following the debacle during practice.

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However, that credit could only be spent at the official merchandise store and did not cover the state’s 8 percent sales tax.

A quarter-zip racing team jersey cost $200, while a racing team sweatshirt cost $160. However, there are cheaper items: baseball caps are $40, long-sleeved t-shirts are priced at $60, while regular t-shirts are $42 and hats are $35.

And this also happened: The Continental Tire Main Event, a college basketball tournament in Las Vegas that began Friday, took a dig at the Las Vegas Grand Prix.

“Hello Vegas…our practices started on time!” the tournament published in X.

Saint Mary’s, San Diego State, Xavier and Washington compete in that tournament at nearby T-Mobile Arena.

With files from the Associated Press

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