Las Vegas – Max Verstappen hated every aspect of the Las Vegas Grand Prix from the moment he landed in Sin City. The reigning three-time Formula One champion found that excess and opulence overshadowed the competition.
He changed his tune — literally — after winning his 18th race of the season on Saturday, overtaking Charles Leclerc in a grand prix that turned out to be one of the most competitive of the season despite a disastrous start to the flashy and expensive event.
“Long live Las Vegas! “Long live Las Vegas!” chanted the Dutch pilot. Red Bull passing by the flag waved by Justin Bieber. Verstappen had criticized the race every time he had it, but he ran in an Elvis-inspired outfit and took victory on the Las Vegas Strip, a famous hotel and casino area in the city.
“I hope everyone was able to enjoy it, we have. Delighted to be able to come back next year and try to do something similar,” said Verstappen, who reversed his stance on the entire show in Las Vegas.
“It was a fun race. I enjoyed it”he finished.
It was the third race of the season in the United States, more than any other country, promoted by F1 and the group to which it belongs, Liberty Media. But the event was criticized, especially by Verstappen.
Tickets were expensive, hotels along the famous Strip raised their prices and the sporting element of the twenty-first race of the season took a backseat, relegated to topics such as celebrities, musical performances, a succession of people dressed as Elvis passing by the grounds and a wedding chapel where former F1 champion Jacques Villeneuve was married this week.
Liberty had hoped to spend $500 million on its first self-initiated grand prix, but speculation in the paddock before Saturday’s race was that Liberty had far gone over its budget. Everything almost fell apart nine minutes into the first practice session, when Carlos Sainz Jr. ran over a culvert on the track, causing serious damage to his Ferrari, and the 6.2-kilometer (3.85-mile) circuit had to be closed. which used a large part of the Strip, to review it.
Fans were forced to leave at 1:30 a.m. Thursday after watching just nine minutes of activity. The second practice began at 2:30 in the morning and lasted until 4 in the morning, and F1 only offered $200 in credits in its official merchandise store to ticket holders who had only purchased access for Thursday. A class action lawsuit was filed against the Las Vegas Grand Prix on Friday.
This was crucial for F1 to deliver a good race on Saturday night, and Although it was Verstappen’s sixth consecutive victory, it was one of the liveliest events of the season.
Leclerc and teammate Sainz placed first and second on Friday, but Sainz received a 10-place grid penalty because Ferrari was forced to change cars due to damage caused by the manhole cover. That left Verstappen second at the start, although he soon took the lead.
The Dutchman forced Leclerc off the track by overtaking him, and although Leclerc claimed that Verstappen be forced to return the position, he was only given a five-second penalty. He complied during a later stop, but his Red Bull was so powerful that he stayed in the race the entire race.
Leclerc overtook the Mexican Sergio Perez to take the lead with 17 laps remaining, and three laps later Verstappen overtook his teammate to place second. He and Perez collaborated so that Verstappen could catch up with Leclerc with 13 laps to go.
Perez had managed to get into second position, but Leclerc regained it at the end and denied Red Bull its seventh 1-2 podium of the season.
“I really wanted to win,” lamented Leclerc. “But what a race. Honestly, there’s nothing left.”.
Still, Lewis Hamilton finished seventh, with Perez virtually securing second place behind Verstappen in the overall standings.
Verstappen, Leclerc and Perez were driven by limousine to the podium.
“Let’s go straight to the nightclub,” Verstappen told his podium companions during the walk.
Leclerc helped Ferrari close the gap on Mercedes in the team championship to four points ahead of next week’s final in Abu Dhabi.
McLaren’s Lando Norris was involved in an accident early on and was taken to a local hospital as a precaution.