Max Verstappen pipped pole-sitter Charles Leclerc at lights out of the Las Vegas Grand Prix on Saturday (Nov. 18) night but failed to enjoy his usual cruise to victory. Instead, after pitting in the first stint of the race, he and George Russell collided and put Verstappen into the pits again during a safety car period.
Once the restart came after the safety car on lap 26, Verstappen began his march to the front, finally assuming the lead on lap 38 after overtaking Leclerc again. From there, he flashed the dominant form that he has displayed all season, claiming his 18th race of 2023 and his 53rd career win. For a driver who had denounced the event, Verstappen appeared to be his typical self and even cheered, “Viva, Las Vegas! Viva, Las Vegas!” soon after crossing the line.
Sergio Perez looked poised to earn the win after the midpoint of the race but could not manage his position in front. He dropped from first to eventually third before moving past Leclerc for second. Yet, on the final lap, at turn 14, Leclerc outbraked Perez to move into second, nabbing only his fourth podium finish of the season.
For Perez, he again suffered a last-lap position-battle loss, with the previous one coming from Fernando Alonso. Still, his third-place finish secured him second in the drivers standing for the year.
George Russell may have crossed the line in fourth, but with a five-second penalty, slid back to eight. Esteban Ocon grabbed fourth, his second top-five of 2023. Lance Stroll followed and earned the fifth spot, with Carlos Sainz, who came from the rear of the field, taking sixth.
Lewis Hamilton battled through an up-and-down race and managed to take seventh on the day.
Fernando Alonso came home in ninth, giving Aston Martin a solid points day when combined with Strollʻs performance, while Oscar Piastri salvaged tenth for McLaren.
Verstappen grabbed the lead from the get-go but, in doing so, suffered a five-second penalty for pushing Leclerc wide on turn one. While such a penalty might not usually garner much attention for Verstappen, his inability to distance himself from Leclerc looked like it might become a problem.
Verstappen supported this notion by offering an insouciant response to his team engineer when told of the penalty, “Yeah, that’s fine, send them my regards.”
With a virtual safety car on lap two, followed by an actual safety car owing to Lando Norris wrecking out, the LVGP looked like it might become a troubled affair.
Norris lost control of his car and one might speculate that the low temperatures meant that he could not maintain heat in his tires and that the racing would suffer. Instead, as brutal as Norris’ wreck was, it proved to be an anomaly rather than a trend.
The track and the event had faced enormous scrutiny, but the race countered all disapproving sentiments, with close racing being a constant element. The battle between Lewis Hamilton and Oscar Piastri highlighted this aspect as they pushed one another on lap 17, eventually banging into one another. The result saw Hamilton, who had made his way to fifth, fall to 19th, while Piastri, who had held onto sixth, dropped to 14th. And yet both recovered.
Similarly, George Russell and Max Verstappen nicked each other on lap 26, which brought out a safety car that might have seriously upset the running order. Instead, the pause helped everyone reset, like boxers might during rounds, and then come out fighting.
Leclerc held the lead but was being stalked by Perez, a fight that lasted a number of laps before Perez eventually overtook Leclerc – only to be overtaken himself by first Lecler and then Verstappen.
By lap 38, Verstappen pushed past Leclerc and, from there did what Verstappen does and cruised to his record-breaking win.
The final race of the 2023 F1 season will be the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix from the Yas Marina Circuit in the United Arab Emirates. Coverage will begin on ESPN at 6 a.m. ET, Sunday, Nov. 26.
About the author
As a writer and editor, Ava anchors the Formula 1 coverage for the site, while working through many of its biggest columns. Ava earned a Masters in Sports Studies at UGA and a PhD in American Studies from UH-Mānoa. Her dissertation Chased Women, NASCAR Dads, and Southern Inhospitality: How NASCAR Exports The South is in the process of becoming a book.
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