Fernando Alonso believes that track evolution will be bigger than normal in Las Vegas this weekend and a key factor to master for drivers, with no two laps the same.
Nestled amidst the neon lights and bustling energy of the entertainment capital of the world, Las Vegas’ 6.12-kilometer street circuit weaves its way through the heart of the city, blasting down the latters’ famous Strip and winding past iconic landmarks like Caesars Palace, the Bellagio, and the Venetian.
However, the fresh tarmac’s grip levels are likely to challenge drivers at the outset, although track evolution will bring improvements. But adapting to conditions will be key according to Alonso.
“A street circuit, very low downforce, just getting that confidence into the car, the braking areas… that will be, I think, very important,” explained the Aston Martin driver.
“And I think with the condition on the track and not having any support races, I think the amount of track evolution during the weekend, it’s going to be bigger than normal.
“So that, you know, will challenge everyone, I guess we will not have two laps the same on the weekend.
“Every lap of the track will be a little bit better than the lap before. From P1 to the last lap on the race. So, we will have to adapt to that changeable grip, so it’s going be a challenge for everyone.”
Another important factor to add to the mix will be Vegas’ nocturnal ambient temperatures, with forecasts calling for single-digit Celsius temps during F1 latest sessions.
In such conditions and taking into account the track’s low-energy profile, protecting tyre temperatures and keeping compounds in their ideal operating window will be a difficult exercise.
Alonso believes the extreme conditions could benefit those teams that typically struggle with tyre degradation on race day.
“I think we have to run first and then see how the car behaves and the tyre behaves,” he added. “I think it could be that with this long straight, the tyres, they lose a little bit of temperature.
“So, we’ve been facing a little bit of tyre overheating on the last three events. And maybe here it’s a little bit the opposite.
So, maybe some cars that they’re struggling on long run pace, here they are good because they can keep the tyres in the window and things like that. So, I think tomorrow we will have some answers.”
Looking ahead at the potential track action, Lewis Hamilton has reserved judgment on the latter until he gets a chance to sample the layout.
“Maybe the track will be good, maybe it’ll be bad,” the Briton said. “It was so-so on the sim. It’s definitely not Silverstone. I think don’t knock it until you try it.”
Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz – who won on F1’s previous street circuit in Singapore – believes that drivers will need to upgrade their confidence level when they tackle the big braking zones after Vegas’ long straights.
“I think Turns 1-2-3, I think it’s a good combination,” commented the Spaniard. “I think it’s long corners.
“There are two corners that stand out a bit to the rest of the track, that are more like 90° angles, or shorter apex corners. I think there’s a very long combined braking. I think it’s Turns Six, Seven, that in the simulator was actually quite tricky to get right with the braking.
“And yeah, apart from that, obviously, it’s all going to be about the long straights, the big braking zones, being confident, getting close to the walls. Also, on the exit of the corners.
“But apart from that, just getting confidence with a low downforce car on such long straights. With high peak braking getting confidence is going to be the key.”