LAS VEGAS GP – Max Verstappen wins a chaotic race fighting back to seal victory ahead of Charles Leclerc on the final lap

Testing & Race Reports

Max Verstappen has won a thrilling and drama-filled Las Vegas Grand Prix after overtaking Charles Leclerc on the final lap securing victory by two seconds. The Red Bull driver had collided with Leclerc on the opening lap and picked up the penalty for forcing the Ferrari off track and then fought back to retake the lead with sixteen laps to go.

Verstappen had been given a penalty for forcing Leclerc off the track at the first corner before gaining damage to his front wing in a collision with Mercedes’ George Russell and made an extra pit stop than Leclerc under a mid-race safety car – the second in an action-packed race.

The first safety car played a huge role, after dropping down the order Verstappen made his only stop under safety car at a quarter distance before surging through to take the lead on lap thirty-eight. After the Dutchman took the lead he managed to build a lead and take his eighteenth win of the season.

Verstappen, who has already sealed a third-successive drivers’ title, claimed a record-extending eighteenth win of the season and fifty-third career victory to move level with Sebastian Vettel in third on F1’s all-time list of winners. It was a race once again, where the Dutchman was utterly the man to watch fighting back.

For once Ferrari looked to be on top of the tyres and a genuine chance for victory, but that was ultimately undone by losing tyre advantage under the safety car, rather than the tyre wear problems they have had all season.

At the start Verstappen and Leclerc appeared to get a even start off the line, it remained that way all the way into Turn One but the Red Bull driver forced them both off and then gained the position as they re-joined for Turn Two. Verstappen protested he was head at the apex, but watching the overhead it appeared at the turn in point Leclerc was ahead, with Verstappen pushing Leclerc off. Saying post-race he had “no grip.”

The stewards didn’t agree with the Dutchman who thought he had the apex, and ordered Verstappen to give the place back, however, Red Bull decided to leave their driver where he was and take the penalty, which the world champion served at his first pit stop on lap sixteen. But that pit stop was from second place, not the lead. Rather than waltz off into the distance after taking the lead, Verstappen found it impossible to shake off Leclerc.

Verstappen race hadn’t started well either, he had tried to pass Russell up the inside of Fashion Mall (Turn Twelve), when there wasn’t enough space with the Mercedes driver deemed to be at fault. While both kept going and finished the race it brought out the safety car to clear up the debris from the incident.

Russell was deemed to be the driver at fault, the stewards ruling that, as Verstappen had “a significant portion of the car alongside” at the corner apex, Russell was at fault and so warranted a five-second time penalty being applied. A hugely disappointing result as with the penalty applied dropped him from fourth to eighth.

Verstappen’s teammate Sergio Perez was third despite being overtaken by Leclerc on the final lap, the Mexican finished two and a half tenths behind allowing him to seal second in the drivers. His main rival for the runners-up spot Lewis Hamilton could only manage seventh.

Verstappen said, “It was a tough one. I tried to go for it at the start. We (himself and Leclerc) both braked quite late and I just ran out of grip, so we ended up a bit wide. The stewards gave me a penalty for that and it put us on the backfoot. I had to pass quite a few cars and there was the Safety Car, so at that point, there was a lot going on.”

Leclerc said, “The start was tricky, Max on the inside lost a bit of grip and overtook me on the outside. We had the pace, we passed him back and we were really strong overall, that was a really good race. We got unlucky with the safety car, we didn’t know what the others would do and we went for track position and keeping the first place and that was difficult with the tyres”

Perez added, “Yeah it was at the start really difficult with a lot of damage initially, we broke the front wing so we basically went all the way to the back of the grid. Then progressively we were picking one by one and things were going well, we had really strong pace in that first stint so we put ourselves back in position.

Leclerc admitted that Ferrari had not pitted under the second safety car because they did not know what the others would do and said: “We got a little bit unlucky there,” but said he had “really enjoyed the race even though I wanted to win”.

Las Vegas has been a much more solid weekend for Ferrari, the graining issues didn’t cost them in the race but strategy. It’s the twelfth pole position in a row for Leclerc he has failed to convert into a win, but it was a decent weekend all round for the Monacan despite not winning.

Their also could be ‘what if,’ Carlos Sainz could have played a huge role in the outcome on the opening lap. But he started twelfth following a controversial ten place-grid penalty, for exceeding his engine part allowance after an incident caused by a faulty water valve cover in first practice on Thursday.

Esteban Ocon and Lance Stroll rose through the chaos on track to finish fourth with the Alpine finishing a second and a half ahead of the Canadian. The race saw several battles throughout the field a circuit providing one of the most dramatic races of the season.

Sainz was sixth finishing nearly a second ahead of Hamilton, the two did make contact as the Ferrari driver struggled for grip understeering at one stage into the seven-time champion.

Hamilton was another driver who fought back following two collisions during the race to finish a second ahead of teammate Russell.  The seven-time champion had two collisions, the second with Oscar Piastri resulted in a puncher, while Russell dropped from fourth to eighth after receiving a five-second penalty for the collision with Verstappen.

However, the collision cost him fifteen seconds, forcing Piastri to pit losing fifteen seconds and Hamilton having to switch to a two stop strategy costing him more time in the overall race. But, Hamilton later showed more strong speed to pip Russell to seventh, but will ultimately be disappointed to have got little out of a pace that wasn’t far off that of the front-runners.

Mercedes will go to next weekend’s season finale in Abu Dhabi with just a four-point lead over Ferrari in the constructors’ standings, as they fight to be best of the rest behind Red Bull.

Admits the chaos at the start Fernando Alonso spun before recovering to ninth, and Perez hit Valtteri Bottas the three separate incidents brought out the virtual safety car.

Piastri was tenth while his McLaren teammate Lando Norris survived the chaotic start, but his race didn’t last much longer. A rare mistake by the Englishman saw him lose the rear at Wynn Hotel and shot off down the escape road, into the barriers nearly collecting his teammate in the process, as well as bringing out the safety car.

Norris had made good gains before his car suddenly snapped at Fashion Mall, he couldn’t save the car and slammed rearwards into Eleven, while Piastri narrowly avoided being caught up in the accident.

Pierre Gasly was eleventh finishing nearly ten seconds ahead of Alex Albon, Kevin Magnussen and Guanyu Zhou. Williams failed to convert Logan Saregant’s sixth place in qualifying into points, the American finishing two-tenths behind the Alfa Romeo and ahead of Valtteri Bottas by twenty-five seconds.

Yuki Tsunoda and Nico Hulkenberg were the other retirements they both pulled off  on consecutive laps at City Centre Plaza because of technical issues


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