Charles Leclerc has suggested that Red Bull will still have the upper hand on Ferrari in Las Vegas this weekend as he joined in on Max Verstappen’s interview with Sky Sports. Leclerc made the prediction, despite the freezing-cold track temperatures that are expected for Sunday’s race and the tyre warm-up issues that go hand in hand with that.
Verstappen heads into this weekend’s race off the back of an immense performance at Interlagos last time out. The reigning world champion qualified on pole position before sealing victories in both the sprint race and the Grand Prix.
This result stretched his advantage at the top of the Drivers’ Championship to an unprecedented 266 points, while extending his winning streak to five races. The Dutchman has taken to the top step of the podium at 17 of the 20 Grands Prix so far in 2023.
There was far less to celebrate for Leclerc in Brazil. The Ferrari driver qualified on the front row of the grid alongside Verstappen, but while making his way around the formation lap he suffered a hydraulics issue, sending him spinning into the barriers and out of contention before the lights had even gone out.
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Verstappen was asked by Sky Sports F1 reporter Ted Kravitz whether or not he thought Ferrari could pose a threat in Las Vegas, to which he responded: “I don’t know, you should ask him,” before calling Leclerc over and asking Kravitz to repeat the question for his rival to hear.
Kravitz then asked Leclerc how much of a factor Red Bull’s slower tyre warm-up could play on Sunday, to which he replied: “You do massage the tyres (to Max), but it’s cold here, so I don’t know if you’ll have to massage the tyres. [You’ll have to be] more aggressive, whereas this is our strength.”
Verstappen then chimed in, jokingly suggesting that he would do a “hot stone massage this time, instead of a relaxing one” to get the tyres into the right window. Leclerc then brought the conversation back down to earth, stating: “I think they still have the upper hand, for sure.”
Pressed as to whether that related to qualifying or the race, he replied: “I think both, but maybe in quali… we never know. We think we are going to be strong here.”
Even if Ferrari can produce their characteristically strong qualifying pace, there is no guarantee that this will translate into a Grand Prix win. Leclerc has qualified on pole four times this season but is yet to convert any of those into wins.