Max Verstappen scores 18th win of 2023 in Las Vegas Grand Prix thriller

Photo Credit: The Telegraph

Since the announcement of the Las Vegas Grand Prix last season, it has consistently been one of the most highly-anticipated sporting events.

The pinnacle of Motorsports blasting down the famous Las Vegas Strip, past various landmark sceneries under the lights at over 200 MPH: it was a vision taken out of a video game that this past weekend, came to fruition.

While the event did not sit well with many fans and locals, even before its disastrous Thursday saw FP1 canceled and FP2 held without fans with no refunds offered, the rest of it was a big hit. With countless A-list guests from across the world of sports and entertainment, the spectacle only grew.

And as for the race itself, it was what Formula 1 fans across the world have been waiting for all season – having a team, and driver capable of challenging Max Verstappen. While he did have to fight hard for it, and had some things go against him, he still wasn’t to be dethroned.

Starting second on the grid, Verstappen earned himself a five-second penalty for forcing pole-sitter Charles Leclerc off the track off the start, before then colliding with George Russell and damaging his front wing on his way back through the field. Even with the set-backs, the Dutchman took the lead back from Leclerc late in the race to secure his 18th victory of the season.

For Verstappen, it was his 53rd career win, tying him with fellow Red Bull Racing-great Sebastian Vettel for third on Formula 1’s all-time wins list. As for Red Bull, they won for the 20th time in 21 races, breaking Mercedes’ record from 2016 for the most wins by a constructor in a single season.

Verstappen stormed down the inside of Leclerc into Turn 1 on the opening lap, driving both the Ferrari, and himself off the track in the process, thus earning him the penalty. Leclerc took the lead back later in the first stint, while Verstappen’s penalty sent him outside the top five.

The Red Bull driver then pitted under the Safety Car period caused from the debris off his front wing after his clash with Russell, while Leclerc crucially stayed out of the pits to retain his lead. With fresh tires, Verstappen carved back through the field despite his damage to take the victory.

That meant Leclerc was forced to settle for second, however it wasn’t for a lack of trying. Leclerc initially lost the lead to Safety Car-beneficiary Sergio Perez, before stunningly taking it back on a dive into the penultimate turn a few laps later.

After the Monegasque lost the lead to Verstappen, he then ran wide coming onto the Vegas Strip, and lost second, before taking it back from Perez on the last lap in the same fashion as he had done previously to take P2 in a grandstand finish.

Because of that, Perez rounded out the podium in third. The Mexican started the race outside the top ten after a blundered strategy from his team in qualifying, and was caught up in Fernando Alonso’s Lap 1 pile up, causing him to pit out of sequence for a new front-wing. When everybody else pitted, he leapfrogged ahead of them, and then got lucky with the Verstappen Safety Car period. It was his first podium since the Italian Grand Prix in September, a result that clinched him P2 in the Drivers’ Championship for 2023.

Finishing fourth was Esteban Ocon for Alpine, who navigated the chaos to drive to his second top five finish of the season from 16th on the grid. Behind him was Lance Stroll in fifth, who had an even more impressive drive from 19th at the start.

Sixth was Carlos Sainz for Ferrari, who started in 12th after having a very controversial ten-place grid penalty for changing his control electronics due to the damage he sustained from a loose manhole cover in FP1. He was followed home by Lewis Hamilton in seventh for Mercedes, who came back from 19th after an early-race puncture due to contact with Oscar Piastri.

His teammate George Russell finished eighth after receiving a five-second penalty for his contact with Verstappen, while Alonso came home ninth for Aston Martin, ahead of Piastri in tenth to round out the points scorers.

Further down the order, his McLaren teammate Lando Norris finished the race in last-place after a heavy crash in the opening stages of the race. Norris spun hard into the concrete wall trying to correct a big oversteer moment, and was transported to local hospital for further evaluation before being released. It is believed he will be good to race in Abu Dhabi next weekend.

Speaking of Abu Dhabi, the Yas Marina Circuit will be the site of Formula 1’s final race of 2023. Verstappen will look to become the only driver to win 19 races in a single season, while Mercedes and Ferrari will square off for second place in the Constructors Championship. Mercedes leads by just four points in that battle.

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