Charles Leclerc, Ferrari, Circuit of the Americas, 2023

Leclerc snatches pole after Verstappen loses top spot for track limits breach

Formula 1

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Charles Leclerc will start on pole position for Sunday’s United States Grand Prix after Max Verstappen had his best time deleted for track limits.

Verstappen looked to have snatched pole by five-thousandths of a second at the chequered flag, before the stewards deleted his time for running wide at the penultimate corner.

That secured pole for Leclerc and dropped Verstappen to sixth, elevating Lando Norris into second and Lewis Hamilton third.


As the first phase of qualifying began weather conditions were near-identical to those the drivers had experienced in the single hour of practice earlier in the day. Aston Martin driver Lance Stroll was one of the first out onto the track, his team having fixed the braking problem that had limited him to only five laps in practice.

All drivers opted for soft tyres for their opening runs. The only American driver on the grid, Logan Sargeant, was the first over the line to start his first flying lap, but pulled into the pits to abandon his run before crossing the line.

Charles Leclerc set the initial benchmark time with a 1’36.622, with Lando Norris almost matching the Ferrari’s time in second place – both having set their opening push laps on used soft tyres. Both were beaten by Max Verstappen after his first effort by a tenth of a second, also on used rubber.

With his newly-upgraded Haas at his team’s home grand prix, Nico Hulkenberg’s name made a surprising appearance at the top of the times with a 1’36.235, two-tenths quicker than Verstappen. Pierre Gasly quickly replaced Hulkenberg by posting a 1’36.158 on fresh soft tyres, before Carlos Sainz Jnr blitzed the circuit on new tyres to easily go quickest of all with a 1’35.824.

In the final five minutes of the session, the drop zone consisted of Alexander Albon, Kevin Magnussen, Daniel Ricciardo, Zhou Guanyu and Sargeant. The latter was the only driver yet to post a valid time after having his one previous effort deleted for running wide at the exit of turn 12.

Despite being in sixth place, Red Bull sent Verstappen back out on fresh soft tyres with the world champion immediately leaping four tenths clear at the top of the times. Red Bull’s decision to send Verstappen back out to improve his margin of safety was quickly justified as the torrent of improvements followed in the final moments of the session.

Albon appeared to be safe when he jumped into eighth, but he rapidly dropped down the order again as virtually every other driver improved. Eventually, both he and team mate Sargeant fell into the bottom five and were eliminated.

Despite jumping to the top of the times earlier, Hulkenberg failed to improve on his final lap after having his effort deleted for track limits at the penultimate corner. He was the first driver out in 16th, to his clear disappointment over the radio.

For the first time this year Fernando Alonso not only failed to reach Q3 but did not progress beyond the first round. Team mate Stroll joining him, posting his fifth consecutive Q1 elimination, while the two Williams drivers also went no further.

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Q1 result

144Lewis HamiltonMercedesW141’35.0916
24Lando NorrisMcLaren-MercedesMCL601’35.1100.0198
31Max VerstappenRed Bull-Honda RBPTRB191’35.3460.2556
455Carlos Sainz JnrFerrariSF-231’35.8240.7336
522Yuki TsunodaAlphaTauri-Honda RBPTAT041’35.9130.8226
611Sergio PerezRed Bull-Honda RBPTRB191’35.9890.8986
720Kevin MagnussenHaas-FerrariVF-231’36.0090.9186
824Zhou GuanyuAlfa Romeo-FerrariC431’36.0520.9619
916Charles LeclercFerrariSF-231’36.0610.9709
1081Oscar PiastriMcLaren-MercedesMCL601’36.0640.9739
1177Valtteri BottasAlfa Romeo-FerrariC431’36.0820.9919
1231Esteban OconAlpine-RenaultA5231’36.1311.0409
1310Pierre GaslyAlpine-RenaultA5231’36.1581.0677
1463George RussellMercedesW141’36.1651.0746
153Daniel RicciardoAlphaTauri-Honda RBPTAT041’36.2131.1226
1627Nico HulkenbergHaas-FerrariVF-231’36.2351.1446
1714Fernando AlonsoAston Martin-MercedesAMR231’36.2681.1778
1823Alexander AlbonWilliams-MercedesFW451’36.3151.2246
1918Lance StrollAston Martin-MercedesAMR231’36.5891.4989
202Logan SargeantWilliams-MercedesFW451’36.8271.7368

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The second phase of qualifying saw both Ferraris of Sainz and Leclerc, Lewis Hamilton and Verstappen all take to the track on used soft tyres. The Ferraris were the first over the line, as Leclerc posted the quicker lap of the pair with a 1’35.888, three tenths faster than his team mate.

Both Ferraris were replaced at the top of the order by the Mercedes of George Russell and Hamilton, before Verstappen went faster than all of them to take the top spot with a 1’35.491. Oscar Piastri moved into second place, less than a tenth of a second behind the Red Bull, while his team mate Norris had his first time deleted for track limits at the penultimate corner. He complained about being distracted by Sergio Perez in the final sector.

All 15 remaining cars returned to the pits at the end of their first runs, leaving the circuit completely silent. With Norris the only driver yet to set a time, he was sat at the bottom of the order, with Sainz ahead of him in 14th place. Ricciardo, Kevin Magnussen and Zhou were all tasked with finding more time if they were to be able to progress into the final phase of qualifying.

Again, the Ferraris were the first to begin their laps during the final run of Q2. Leclerc sat ninth after the initial laps, but he used fresh softs to go easily quickest with a 1’35.004. Sainz also improved to jump up to second, almost three tenths slower than his team mate.

Norris completed his lap to go fourth, successfully keeping his car within the margins, while team mate Piastri abandoned his last lap. Zhou, Magnussen and Ricciardo all failed to improve by enough and were doomed to be eliminated from the session.

Despite abandoning his final push lap of the session, Sergio Perez only just escaped being knocked out in tenth position. That left Yuki Tsunoda and the second Alfa Romeo of Valtteri Bottas as the last two drivers to be knocked out of the session. Tsunoda was a mere thousandth of a second faster than Zhou, the pair missing the cut for Q3 by less than two-hundredths of a second.

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Q2 result

116Charles LeclercFerrariSF-231’35.00415
21Max VerstappenRed Bull-Honda RBPTRB191’35.0080.00412
344Lewis HamiltonMercedesW141’35.2400.23612
455Carlos Sainz JnrFerrariSF-231’35.3020.29812
531Esteban OconAlpine-RenaultA5231’35.4130.40915
64Lando NorrisMcLaren-MercedesMCL601’35.4410.43714
710Pierre GaslyAlpine-RenaultA5231’35.4960.49213
881Oscar PiastriMcLaren-MercedesMCL601’35.5760.57214
963George RussellMercedesW141’35.6060.60212
1011Sergio PerezRed Bull-Honda RBPTRB191’35.6790.67511
1122Yuki TsunodaAlphaTauri-Honda RBPTAT041’35.6970.69312
1224Zhou GuanyuAlfa Romeo-FerrariC431’35.6980.69415
1377Valtteri BottasAlfa Romeo-FerrariC431’35.8580.85415
1420Kevin MagnussenHaas-FerrariVF-231’35.8800.87612
153Daniel RicciardoAlphaTauri-Honda RBPTAT041’35.9740.97012

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Heading into the final shootout for pole position, Verstappen appeared to once again be the best-placed driver to secure the top spot on the grid for Sunday’s grand prix. If any of his rivals believed they could offer a realistic challenge for his pole position, Verstappen looked to squash all hopes by heading out first of all drivers.

He set the benchmark with a 1’35.081, but was infuriated to have caught his team mate Perez in the final two corners, feeling that dirty air affected the balance of his car. His frustrations were compounded when Leclerc duly beat his provisional pole time by a quarter of a second, while Hamilton also moved ahead of the world champion into second, less than a tenth of a second behind the Ferrari driver.

Sainz went fourth with his first effort, while Perez could only manage sixth behind Gasly. Russell had his first time deleted for exceeding track limits at the exit of turn nine, putting him under pressure for the final run.

After all 10 drivers sought sanctuary in the pits yet again, they began to filter out onto the circuit for their final runs. Yet again, the Ferraris were the first over the line, with Leclerc looking to improve on his own provisional pole time. He ultimately did so by a full tenth of a second, while Norris leapt up into second place with his final effort.

Verstappen then broke Ferrari’s hearts by pipping Leclerc to pole position by just five-thousandths of a second. However, the world champion’s time was soon deleted by the stewards as he had run wide at the penultimate corner, handing pole position back to Leclerc.

That secured Leclerc’s second pole of the season and Ferrari’s fourth of 2023, just a tenth of a second ahead of Norris. Hamilton took third place, nine-thousandths of a second behind the McLaren driver, with Sainz joining him on the second row in fourth.

Russell took fifth with his sole valid lap of the session, as Verstappen’s track limits violation meaning he will start down in sixth for Sunday’s grand prix. Gasly took seventh for Alpine just ahead of team mate Esteban Ocon with Perez managing ninth. Oscar Piastri completed the top ten for McLaren.

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Q3 result

116Charles LeclercFerrariSF-231’34.72321
24Lando NorrisMcLaren-MercedesMCL601’34.8530.13020
344Lewis HamiltonMercedesW141’34.8620.13918
455Carlos Sainz JnrFerrariSF-231’34.9450.22218
563George RussellMercedesW141’35.0790.35618
61Max VerstappenRed Bull-Honda RBPTRB191’35.0810.35818
710Pierre GaslyAlpine-RenaultA5231’35.0890.36619
831Esteban OconAlpine-RenaultA5231’35.1540.43121
911Sergio PerezRed Bull-Honda RBPTRB191’35.1730.45017
1081Oscar PiastriMcLaren-MercedesMCL601’35.4670.74420

2023 United States Grand Prix

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Author information

Will Wood
Will has been a RaceFans contributor since 2012 during which time he has covered F1 test sessions, launch events and interviewed drivers. He mainly...

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29 comments on “Leclerc snatches pole after Verstappen loses top spot for track limits breach”

  1. This is the closest Stroll has been to Alonso in a long time.
    Is he bouncing back???

    1. I thought that was the big takeaway from qualifying too. So you’re saying that as the Aston Martin plunges down the time sheets, Stroll’s skill set is coming to the fore? Hmm. Could be.

  2. I guess Stroll Sr’s love outweighs his common sense! His son just doesn’t have it!

    1. @72defender on the other hand, it wasn’t as if Alonso was that much better either – and it’s not as if people have been crying out that “Alonso doesn’t have it” these days either.

  3. Probably the best chance that Lando and Lewis have this year to win a race.

    Will Merc use Russel as a shield and sacrifice him?. Surely Ferrari will do it to Sainz

    1. Nah, George will do his usual best to try crash into Lewis.

      1. Come On !

      2. @flyinglapp Surely not George ‘Are-We-Racing-Them-Or-Each-Other?’ Russell?!

  4. Breaking news. Leclerc gets 5 grid spot drop for his helmet design.

    1. That’s leclerc is it, I thought it was a frog..!

      1. Lekermit ?

  5. Hamilton is looking fresh with that upgrade!
    Keep an eye on him come the race!

  6. I spoiled the results for myself as I forgot that it’s Friday quali.

    1. Same!

      Hate, hate, hate this new format!!!

      1. Why the desperation?
        Just consider for yourself the Sprint Shootout to be the Quali proper. There is even a minute chance that the final order will be the same.

    2. Agree, it happened to me earlier this year, if you don’t keep track of which race has a sprint and which doesn’t and you happen to check on here or other sites on friday, spoilers are basically guaranteed.

      1. @esploratore1 @f1mre
        I tried to avoid all news sites (and this one) that might announce who won pole. But being able to watch qualifying on the F1TV app on a half-an-hour delay (spent sorting out an app subscription bug…) doesn’t combine well with chirpy notifications from the F1 app saying who won pole.

  7. Max will at least have a tougher challenge to win rather than comfortably leading from start to finish.

    1. Yep. It’ll take him at least 5 laps before he takes the lead.

  8. The highlight video was one of the worst in a while.

    Practically zero footage from sectors and two, and just dozens of cars rounding the final corner, leaving viewers with little else than see the timing bar update whilst being shouted at by the English commentator. It’s an awful way to show how cool and quick F1 cars are; thanks knockout qualifying.

    F1TV also showed such promise, but it’s got stuck. It doesn’t seem to have any ideas other than to copy the Sky format.

    But hey, at least Ferrari got pole. That’s kinda cool.

    1. Verstappen, as often happens, had the actual best time, however it was by only 0.005, so I think this might be a case where he actually gained enough time by going off track to get pole, before being penalised.

    2. @MichaelN F1TV has two audio channels in English, international and Sky UK. I can never decide between them as their are commentators and pundits I like on both. But it’s a good problem I guess. Highlights are usually rubbish. And why still no smart tv app? :(

      1. I can’t find a choice of audio channels other than “English | FX” (where FX is silence – which some may prefer to Crofty). I prefer Crofty’s shouting to the F1TV’s replacement shouting.

        How is the Sky setting found?

      2. Chris Coppulotta
        21st October 2023, 17:26

        F1TV smart TV app is on Roku in the States.

  9. Robert Henning
    21st October 2023, 10:27

    Verstappen let frustration from his compromised first attempt get to him. The lock up at Turn 1 then going well beyond the white lines was uncharacteristic. But he has another chance to not allow himself to be frustrated to do well in the sprint shootout.

    Hamilton seems to love these upgrades and was flying. Leclerc with a good lap, been a while since I said that.

    McLaren kept the best for the last. Good lap Lando.

    RB19 is an interesting car. Whenever there are bumps the cars handling is just not there. Very W13 like rather than the RB18 like.

    1. Coventry Climax
      21st October 2023, 14:09

      Whenever there are bumps the cars handling is just not there.

      That seems like a correct observation. Also not a very surprising one, given these current regulations where ground effect is a big chunk of car performance. Red Bull seems to be the team with the best underfloor aero and/or best integration of that within the other (aero-) aspects. Disrupt that (bumps), and the car suffers more, percentage wise, than other cars.

      1. Robert Henning
        21st October 2023, 14:36

        Yeah indeed. Thanks for expanding on it. Just felt like the RB18 could handle these bumps better and to my naked eyes ran quite a bit higher than the RB19 which seems to hug the ground much more like the zeropod.

  10. Yes (@come-on-kubica)
    21st October 2023, 13:11

    Verstappen bottling again. He’s got the best car by a mile and still fails to get pole secured. I do hope the mercy, mclaren and ferrari are closer next season.

  11. Oh it’s sprint weekend?

    Totally missed the memo where this was informed so missed the quali, and I even saw some tweets from F1 teams yersterday mentioning FP2 so I really thought it was going to be a normal race weekend.

    I guess my bad, but imho they could do better at informing fans about these things…

Comments are closed.