Verstappen overcame a 5 second time penalty and contact that left Verstappen’s Red Bull machine with front wing damage to win the inaugural Las Vegas Grand Prix early Sunday morning.
The driver, who had already clinched this season’s driver’s championship, took the lead on the first corner of the first lap with a daring move to the inside of pole sitter Charles Leclerc. Stewards however, ruled that he forced the Ferrari driver off the track and penalized him 5 seconds.
While charging his way back through the field, he made contact with Mercede’s driver George Russell at Turn 14 damaging his car and causing a safety car deployment to clean up the debris left. The Red Bull team opted not to change Verstappen’s front wing.
“I think we were happy not to touch it because it looked already quite broken,” Verstappen said. “Of course, the structure was fine, but it’s never ideal, let’s say it like that. There was always a bit more understeer, but luckily, we could still win the race.”
Once back green Verstappen fought his way from fifth and finally got past first his Red Bull teammate Sergio Perez, then Leclerc once again to re-take the lead with just over 10 laps to go. He would go on to win by 2 seconds.
“It was a tough one,” Verstappen said. “I tried to go for it [with Leclerc] at the start. I think we both braked quite late, then I just ran out of grip and we ended up a bit wide, so the stewards gave me a penalty for that.
“Of course, that put us a little bit on the backfoot, I had to pass quite a few cars, then the Safety Car [came out] again. At the point already there was a lot going on in the race. Once we had the message to the end we could go flat-out.”
Meanwhile the battle for the second spot continued as Perez, who had fought his way from 11th on the starting grid after a controversial penalty after the first practice, tried to hold on. On the final lap, however, Leclerc was able to charge past at Turn 14 and hold on for second.
“I mean what a race,” Leclerc said. “Honestly, I enjoyed it so much. I am of course disappointed to only finish second but at the end that was the best we could do.
“At the start it was very tricky because I think Max on the inside lost a little bit of the grip and rode me on the outside. But then we had the pace, we passed him back. We were really strong overall, so that was a really good race.”
Perez meanwhile took the last podium spot after a gutsy performance.
“I was just carrying a little bit too much wing in my car so my straight-line speed was a little bit down, so I could pull away from him. Then Max came, he passed us both. With Charles he went straight,” he said.
“It was quite difficult out there with the gusts of wind that we had a few times. I ended up locking up a few [times] but luckily, we kept it on track. In the end with Charles, I was not expecting him, he was 0.7 [seconds back] but then the braking zone he was there so well done him and to Max.”
The race had two safety cars. Lando Norris crashed on lap 3 bringing out the first with the second for the Verstappen, Russell incident. Norris was later taken to a local hospital, checked and released.
The first F1 race in Las Vegas since 1982 and the first on the new street course layout was controversial in the months and days leading up to the race. Locals complained about the street closures, high ticket prices, and a water valve cover came loose during the first practice session Thursday leading to damage on the Sainz car that in the end left him with a 10-place grid penalty. It also led to a lengthy delay that saw fans removed from the spectator areas and culminated in a class-action lawsuit.
After all the controversy, celebrity sightings, parties, and money spent, the race itself delivered one of the best events of the season. It will leave many with good memories of a grand prix that could have gone so bad.
“I hope everyone enjoyed it – we definitely did,” Verstappen said. “I’m already excited to come back here next year and hopefully try to do something similar.”
|1||1||Red Bull Racing Honda RBPT||50||1:29:08.289||25|
|3||11||Red Bull Racing Honda RBPT||50||+2.241s||15|
|5||18||Aston Martin Aramco Mercedes||50||+20.067s||10|
|9||14||Aston Martin Aramco Mercedes||50||+25.964s||2|
|14||3||AlphaTauri Honda RBPT||50||+48.525s||0|
|15||24||Alfa Romeo Ferrari||50||+50.162s||0|
|17||77||Alfa Romeo Ferrari||50||+85.350s||0|
|18||22||AlphaTauri Honda RBPT||46||DNF||0|
Note – Piastri scored an additional point for setting the fastest lap of the race. Russell received a five-second time penalty for causing a collision.
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