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Max Verstappen wins spectacular Las Vegas GP: 'A lot of fun'

Published on 19 November 2023 by Stefan Meens

Max Verstappen won an action-packed Las Vegas Grand Prix, beating pole sitter Charles Leclerc. The Ferrari driver finished second ahead of Max’ Oracle Red Bull Racing teammate Sergio Perez, who secured second place in the drivers’ championship.

Max had to work hard for his eighteenth win of the season, overcoming a time penalty and executing plenty of overtakes along the way. “It was a difficult race” said Max after the race in front of the iconic fountains at the Bellagio Hotel. “I had a good start, and we both braked late into turn one. I didn’t have enough grip and we both went off track. The stewards gave me a penalty, so we were on the back foot and the first stint was difficult with graining at the end. After my first pit stop, I had to overtake others to get back to the leaders. The DRS was powerful, even when you were in the lead, the car behind could stay in it to get back at you. It created good fights and I really enjoyed today.”

As Max fought his way back to the front, a tangle with George Russell (Mercedes) inflicted damage to the RB19’s front wing. “The wing did look quite broken, but the structure was fine. It wasn’t ideal and we had a bit more understeer. Luckily, we could still win the race”, explained Max who thoroughly enjoyed his Saturday evening drive. “I’ve had a lot of fun. The DRS helped the racing. Because of the low tyre wear, we were able to push, which was fun. The fans were amazing, and I hope they all enjoyed it. I look forward to doing a similar thing next year.”

When the lights go out for the first Las Vegas Grand Prix in over forty years, the first corner provides plenty of drama, aided by the slippery, dusty track surface. At the front, Max takes the lead off Charles Leclerc. Both go wide and Max is given a five second time penalty as a result. Further back, Fernando Alonso (Aston Martin) and Carlos Sainz (Ferrari) struggle to get their cars slowed down for the first turn. Both Spaniards spin, involving Alfa Romeo’s Valtteri Bottas and Sergio Perez in their woes. A quick virtual safety car is deployed to clear any debris as Max leads Leclerc, Russell and Alpine’s Pierre Gasly.

Only a couple of laps later, the full safety car makes an appearance. Lando Norris has lost control of his McLaren in the high-speed turn eleven, crashing into the guardrails before coming to a halt in the tech-pro barriers at turn twelve. Although winded, Norris can step out of his stricken McLaren without injury.

Max successfully defends his lead when the race is restarted on lap seven. After maintaining the gap to Leclerc for half a dozen laps, the Monegasque starts reeling in the Red Bull driver, before passing him for the lead on lap sixteen. Max responds by heading into the pits for a fresh pair of the Pirelli hard compound, as well as serve his five second time penalty. Upon exiting the pits, Max resumes the race in P11.

On his way back to the front, Max passes Sainz and Alonso, before making a daring overtake on Russell into turn thirteen on lap 25. Max sends the RB19 up the inside of the Mercedes. Unfortunately, Russell does not expect the overtake and turns into the corner, unaware of the Red Bull alongside him. The pair touch with Russell’s wheel cover shattering and Max’ wing-end plate coming off. The debris caused, prompts a second safety car.

Perez, who took the lead when Leclerc made his first pit stop on lap 21, uses the safety car to make his final pit stop. He is joined by most of the front runners, including Max, but with the exception of Leclerc. The decision to stay out gifts the lead back to Leclerc who hangs on to P1 as the restart ahead of Perez, Piastri, Gasly and Max.

In the final third of the race, Max works his way to front from fifth by passing Gasly on lap 31 and Piastri a lap later. Meanwhile at the front, Perez has overtaken Leclerc, who now finds himself in a Red Bull Racing sandwich. Within a couple of laps, Max closes the gap to the two leaders. He has front row seats to see Leclerc regaining the lead on lap 35. A lap later, Max passes Perez and sets about chasing the leading Ferrari.

With thirteen laps to go, Max once again takes the lead off Leclerc. This time, the Dutchman quickly builds a gap to secure his 53rd Grand Prix win of his career. Perez looks set to make it a Red Bull one-two but is passed by Leclerc after a daring lunge into turn fourteen, resulting in the Ferrari driver clinching P2 ahead of third-placed Perez.

Results Grand Prix Las Vegas:

1Max VerstappenVERRed Bull Racing Honda RBPT501:29:08.28925
2Charles LeclercLECFerrari50+2.070s18
3Sergio PerezPERRed Bull Racing Honda RBPT50+2.241s15
4Esteban OconOCOAlpine Renault50+18.665s12
5Lance StrollSTRAston Martin Mercedes50+20.067s10
6Carlos SainzSAIFerrari50+20.834s8
7Lewis HamiltonHAMMercedes50+21.755s6
8George RussellRUSMercedes50+23.091s4
9Fernando AlonsoALOAston Martin Mercedes50+25.964s2
10Oscar PiastriPIAMcLaren Mercedes50+29.496s2
11Pierre GaslyGASAlpine Renault50+34.270s0
12Alexander AlbonALBWilliams Mercedes50+43.398s0
13Kevin MagnussenMAGHaas Ferrari50+44.825s0
14Daniel RicciardoRICAlphaTauri Honda RBPT50+48.525s0
15Zhou GuanyuZHOAlfa Romeo Ferrari50+50.162s0
16Logan SargeantSARWilliams Mercedes50+50.882s0
17Valtteri BottasBOTAlfa Romeo Ferrari50+85.350s0
18Yuki TsunodaTSUAlphaTauri Honda RBPT46DNF0
19Nico HulkenbergHULHaas Ferrari45DNF0
0Lando NorrisNORMcLaren Mercedes2DNF0