Race Weekend Central

Stonking Race Caps off Messy Las Vegas Weekend

Though the 2023 Formula 1 Las Vegas Grand Prix ended with yet another Max Verstappen victory, the amply disparaged race proved to be a competitive show which nearly saw the dominant Red Bulls beaten on track for only the second time this year. And the racing was real.

Charles Leclerc began the race on pole and led a decent chunk of the evening after Verstappen was ordered to serve a five-second penalty in the pits for pushing Leclerc off the track in the first corner, taking the lead in the process. As it turned out, Leclerc didn’t need the penalty to take the lead.

Leclerc willed his Ferrari around Verstappen on lap 17, just as the Dutchman made a dive for the pits after struggling with tire management from the start of the race. Leclerc maintained the lead after Verstappen served his penalty, although Sergio Perez cost the Monegasque driver a fair bit of time to Verstappen’s advantage and the lead was soon in the hands of the champion once again.

More important – arguably – than who won, who took a turn in the lead, or who pushed who off the track in turn 1, was the fact that any of this happened on-track.

It wouldn’t be bold to say that expectations were uncertain for many by the time the lights went out on Sunday (Nov. 19) morning. The run-up to the race had included lower-than-anticipated ticket sales, track problems in practice, popular disapproval from the local populace, and a lawsuit, just to be sure.

What transpired when the lights went out was another story entirely. Not only was there action at the front, but it was actually sustainable. For the first half of the race it was nowhere near certain that Verstappen would be able to walk away into the night as he frequently does in dominant fashion. By the end of the race, the gap to Leclerc was only two seconds, and we’ll never know how Verstappen would have fared getting around Leclerc without the Ferrari driver being confronted with the back end of Perez’s RB19. Despite that, once Verstappen went by the battle was properly on between Perez and Leclerc.

That battle wasn’t settled until the final lap.

Good racing for the lead has been in short supply this year, but not tonight. Good racing in the pack has not been as scarce, however, and that trend continued under the lights of The Strip.

For the first time in… some time, the action at the front of the race compromised, albeit lightly, the broadcast’s focus on the rest of the field. That’s not to say there was no action from fourth place on back.

Behind the leaders were Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso doing battle for eighth place to cap off hectic days for both former World Champions. Both drivers were caught up in the first corner melee that awarded Verstappen his time penalty with Alonso coming to a stop facing the flow of traffic, luckily without major damage.

See also
Viva Victorious Max Verstappen as He Wins Las Vegas Grand Prix

Hamilton later made contact with Oscar Piastri, leading to a puncture on the Mercedes and necessitating an unscheduled pit stop. Somehow, the Briton came back from the last few positions in the field for a seventh place finish while Alonso followed in ninth.

A promising day for Williams fell short after Alex Albon and Logan Sargeant finished 12th and 16th, respectively; a day to forget for the duo who started the race in fifth and sixth. Meanwhile, Lance Stroll drove a quietly clean race to advance from 19th upward to his second fifth-place result in a row.

The race featured three retirements (Lando Norris, Nico Hulkenberg, Yuki Tsunoda) and a few collisions that didn’t lead to retirements, for good measure.

While there will be a large chunk of fans whose patience with F1 was done in by another Verstappen win, the chaos of the event’s buildup/execution, Manholegate, and a host of other issues, it will be a tall order to find a fan who didn’t hold their breath at the Las Vegas Grand Prix’s racing product.

That’s a win for the sport and perhaps for Vegas as well – time will tell.

About the author

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Alex is the IndyCar Content Director at Frontstretch, having initially joined as an entry-level contributor in 2021. He also serves as Managing Director of The Asia Cable, a publication focused on the international affairs and politics of the Asia-Pacific region which he co-founded in 2023. With previous experience in China, Japan and Poland, Alex is particularly passionate about the international realm of motorsport and the politics that make the wheels turn - literally - behind the scenes.

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TiminPayson

Team cars helping each other in F1. Shocking!

DoninAjax

Talk to Elliott!

sb

Interesting that F! seemed more concerned that the race was run at a convenient time for their European viewers than the ‘home crowd’. Here in the US we regularly have to either get up in the wee hours to watch, or DVR races. Guess they can’t do that in Europe?

DoninAjax

The safety car was doing 190 mph on the straight. NA$CAR could use that at Talladega and Daytona. Makes sense to me!

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