George Russell has warned the Las Vegas Grand Prix could even become a four-stop race for anybody who struggles with tyre graining during Sunday’s encounter.

After the opening practice hour was curtailed when a loose manhole cover damaged two cars, the delayed second session – extended to 90 minutes – ran without stoppages.

Formula 1 has returned to Vegas for the first time in 41 years on a street venue that features a 1.9km blast down the famed Strip, rivalling the top speeds seen at Monza.

Having experienced his debut on the newest addition to the F1 calendar today, Russell, who wound up 12th, contends the weekend will likely be dominated by the tyres.

“Good to finally get going after quite a long day,” Russell reflected. “But it was really great to get out there, obviously a very fast circuit, highest top speeds of the year probably.

“Obviously racing at night is pretty spectacular, but I think it’s going to be an interesting race weekend. The session [was] dominated by getting the tyres working and by graining. I think it’s going to hinder everybody come Sunday.”

Fernando Alonso suggested on Wednesday that the rapid rate of evolution expected on the newly relayed track surface meant the drivers “will not have two laps the same”.

Russell confirmed the Spaniard’s suspicions after practice, citing that every single lap is proving to be a learning experience with the changing grip levels available.

“The tracks evolving every single lap, so the first laps you did you were sort of driving around on ice it feels,” Russell explained. “No grip, you can visibly see the dirt and the dust. So every lap you do you’re learning, you’re all going faster, the tracks going faster, your braking points are changing.”

George Russell (GBR) Mercedes AMG F1. 16.11.2023. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 22, Las Vegas Grand Prix, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA, Practice Day. –

With the teams running a version of their low-downforce packages, Russell admits that nailing the braking zones with minimal load at the end of the straights was tough.

“It’s tricky when you’re going 230 MPH into both braking zones, picking your braking point with very little downforce on the car,” he added. “But it was good fun out there, but difficult to get a true representation because some people did two sets of new Softs, we only did one set. But I think it’s going to be dominated by race pace.”

Aside from getting accustomed to a new track, the drivers are also experiencing a challenge with the late sessions contributing to the coldest conditions of the season.

Russell asserts that avoiding suffering with graining in the race will be the ultimate difference between managing a one-stop strategy or making multiple trips to the pits.

“As we know, the tyres, at the best of times, are tricky to get into their happy place,” the Briton acknowledged.

“But this is a weekend that we’ve never experienced with the graining. We saw a bit of it last year due to the nature of the tyre, but with these cold temperatures I think if you can keep the tyres working it should be an easy one stop. But if you find yourself graining those tyres, you’ll be doing two, three, four stops, so we need to make sure we’re not one of those.

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