No-nonsense Verstappen wins in Vegas


It's a sad fact that no matter how good today's race - and it certainly has the potential - it will forever bear the stigma of the seemingly endless barrage of hype we have been subjected to in recent weeks and months.

As is so often the case these days, the media has been bought and happily follows the narrative, even the likes of Martin Brundle forgetting those windswept tracks where he first fell in love with the sport, as he now spins the spin for a city that proudly boasts the epithet 'Sin City'.

City races are rapidly becoming the norm, as are night races, but the likes of Singapore have a certain class, something sadly lacking in this garish, neon hell-hole.

Watching the opening ceremony on fast forward (x30) we were still left open-mouthed, and like the Netflix Cup golf tournament, it appears Max is right, the drivers are being treated like clowns.

But hey-ho, if that's what the new breed of fan wants and the teams and drivers are happy to go along with it, who are we to argue, for at least we have our memories of 'the good old days'.

Even without the cruel penalty meted out to Carlos Sainz we have a nicely mixed up grid what with Charles and Max starting side-by-side ahead of Russell.

Then it gets a little crazy, what with Gasly, the Williams pair, Bottas, Magnussen and Alonso, not forgetting Hamilton and Perez.

We are promised plenty of overtaking opportunities but we'll believe it when we see it, then again a few more cat-and-mouse battles as witnessed at Interlagos courtesy of Alonso and Perez wouldn't go amiss.

Though, for one reason and another, there have been precious few practice starts, Helmut Marko believes that drivers on the left-hand side of the grid will struggle for grip and therefore expects Verstappen to lose positions - the downside of inheriting second from Sainz.

While Max has the title safely sewn up there remains the battle for runner-up, not only in terms of drivers but teams also, while the multi-million scrap for seventh between Williams, AlphaTauri and Alfa Romeo should be fun.

As with the opening ceremony we'll fast forward the pre-race nonsense as it has all the prospects of making Miami look like a class act... and as for Donny Osmond signing the anthem... any chance of another class action las suit?

According to Pirelli the hard and medium are the compounds best suited today. There are various options on the table, both in terms of which sets the teams will choose to give back at the end of the day, and based on the impact of graining, which was significant yesterday because of the condition of the track.

If the track rubbers in as it should, a one-stop should be quickest, otherwise a two-stop could prove to be competitive. However, the choice of which compound to use the most will also depend on choices made yesterday and could yet open a window for the softs for the final part of the race.

Doing our best to avoid the pre-race shenanigans which involved shouty introductions of the drivers by Bruce Buffer - brother of Michael Buffer, remember him - it's worth noting that an issue with the car taking Oscar Piastri and Lando Norris around the track in order that they could wave to the crowds developed an oil leak which has left residue on the grid and which, despite the best efforts of the marshals, has not pleased a number of drivers, most notably Verstappen for the resulting cement dust is just in front of his grid slot. Indeed, it's understood that another of the cars - thought to be the one carrying Charles Leclerc - also developed a leak.

The pitlane opens and the drivers begin to head out. Worryingly, with 50 minutes to go before the start, the timing screens insist that the race is 6 laps in and Norris leads, Leclerc and Hamilton. Indeed, we're in Las Vegas but the data being shown is from the recent United States Grand Prix at COTA.

"It felt terrible on the way to the grid," admits Norris. "The grip should come back towards us, the track should improve throughout the race. Starting down the back, not much is going for us."

Ahead of the start, the air temperature is 19 degrees, while the track temperature is 20 degrees.

They head off on the formation lap but sadly the live timing isn't available.

All are on mediums bar Hamilton, Zhou and Piastri who are on hards, while Stroll and Tsunoda are on softs.

The grid forms.

They're away! As they head into Turn 1 Leclerc and Verstappen are side-by-side with the Dutchman on the inside. However, as they round the corner the Dutchman forces the Ferrari wide and off track and actually does well to get back ahead of a charging Russell who is looking to take advantage.

Further back, despite a great start, as he struggles for grip Alonso spins right across the track, clipping the rear of Albon's Williams and spinning 180 before being hit by Bottas... twice, who in turn was hit by Perez as he and Hamilton are among those trying to take avoiding action. Just behind, Sainz also spins as he struggles for grip, clouting Hamilton in the process .

Leclerc complains that Verstappen forced him off the road. Alonso, who has dropped to 19th reports that he has damage.

As the VSC is deployed Perez pits for a new front wing, as does Alonso.

Verstappen is assured that he was ahead of Leclerc, however the Ferrari driver insists he was ahead at the apex and demands the position be handed back.

Verstappen, leads Leclerc, Russell, Gasly, Albon and Sargeant as the VSC is withdrawn.

Norris is off and in the barrier at Turn 12, the Safety Car is deployed.

The McLaren driver appears to lock-up under braking for the corner which has caused issues all weekend. Indeed, reply shows he lost the car long before the corner and was virtually a passenger.

After 4 laps, and still under the Safety Car, Verstappen leads Leclerc, Russell, Gasly, Albon, Sargeant, Ocon, Magnussen, Hulkenberg and Tsunoda. Perez is 16th, Sainz 17th and Alonso 18th.

The Safety Car is withdrawn at the end of Lap 6.

However, at a time drivers were already struggling for grip, these laps under the Safety Car will not help the situation.

Verstappen is advised that though the first corner move on Leclerc is currently with the stewards he should hold on to the lead for the time being.

The race resumes. Piastri makes a great move on Tsunoda to claim tenth. Hamilton subsequently goes around the outside of the Japanese to claim 11th. Piastri passes Hulkenberg for ninth.

Verstappen is given a 5s time penalty for forcing another driver off track, but doesn't have to hand the position back.

"You're already 2s ahead so you just have to eek out that lead," the Dutchman is told.

"Yeh, that's fine, give them my regards," says the world champion.

Piastri passes Magnussen for 8th but the Dane promptly reclaims the position.

In quick succession Piastri passes Magnussen and Hamilton passes Hulkenberg.

Sainz makes a great move on Alonso for 16th.

"That was dangerous," says the Ferrari driver, "he stopped and went again."

Gasly is all over the back of Russell. "I can't do this management and keep Gasly behind," says the Briton.

"We need to cool the car," Sainz is urgently warned, the Spaniard advised that otherwise he will be forced to retire.

Alonso passes Ricciardo for 16th and sets off after his Spanish countryman.

Sargeant is under intense pressure from Piastri.

Check out our Race Day gallery from Las Vegas here.

Perez is up to 12th and is closing on Zhou, as a struggling Sargeant is unable to fend off the charging Piastri.

The medium runners are clearly struggling and that includes Verstappen, though not Leclerc who is now just 0.486s down on the race leader.

"My tyres are going to get really ****," says Verstappen as Leclerc sails by to take the lead.

The Dutchman subsequently pits as do Piastri and Albon.

As Hamilton reports a puncture, following contact with Piastri, Verstappen rejoins in 11th, having served his penalty, Piastri in 16th and Albon in 13th.

"Car's not stopping," says Hamilton as he drops to tenth.

Gasly pits at the end of Lap 17, promoting Perez to third behind Leclerc and Ocon.

Perez makes short work of Ocon to claim second, the Mexican 14.4s down on the leader.

The stewards deem that no further action is warranted in terms of the Piastri/Hamilton clash.

Having lost time behind the Alfa, Verstappen eventually storms past Zhou in Turn 11 to claim 8th. When Ocon subsequently pits the Dutchman is promoted to seventh.

After 20 laps Leclerc leads, with the cars pursuing him all on hards.

The Monegasque pits at the end of Lap 21, rejoining in third, 1.6s down on Stroll and 0.95s ahead of Sainz. Alonso is fifth and Russell sixth.

Tsunoda makes his second stop of the race as Russell passes Alonso for 5th with Verstappen closing in.

Indeed, the Dutchman makes short work of the Aston Martin and sets about closing the 0.5s gap to Russell.

Elsewhere, following his little drama, Piastri is back in the points.

Russell is in a quandary, as he seeks to make a move on Sainz he is himself under pressure from Verstappen.

In a great move, making full use of the double DRS, Russell and Verstappen both pass the Ferrari.

Verstappen makes a move on Russell in Turn 12, they clash and there is obvious damage.

Elsewhere, Leclerc has passed Stroll for second.

"Mate, he just turns in on me," complains Verstappen, "check my tyre and front wing." The Dutchman is told his tyre is OK.

Onboard footage suggests the move was dubious... to say the least.

Again, the Safety Car is deployed, which is good news for those who stopped at the start not least Perez, though Stroll, Verstappen, Russell, Sainz, Alonso and a whole load of others take advantage to take on fresh rubber.

Though he now leads, Leclerc is on older rubber.

As Verstappen and Alonso almost clash in the pitlane, after 26 laps, Leclerc leads Perez, Gasly, Piastri, Verstappen, Ocon, Stroll, Albon, Russell and Sainz.

During his stop Red Bull opted not to change Verstappen's front wing feeling that the loss of aero performance was not worth the extra time the change would involve.

Russell is given a 5s time penalty for causing a collision.

The Safety Car is withdrawn at the end of Lap 28.

Piastri catches Gasly napping to claim third, the Australian a man on a mission.

Verstappen has been noted for an unsafe release as Leclerc has a major wobble. "My tyres are cold," he complains.

As Verstappen lines up Gasly, Perez closes in on Leclerc.

At the start of Lap 32, Perez makes a bold move on Leclerc at Turn 1 to take the lead. However, teammate Verstappen is just a couple of seconds behind.

Woo-Hoo we have live timing as Verstappen posts a new fastest lap (36.956).

Ocon passes Gasly but the former AlphaTauri driver isn't having it and fights back. However, Ocon is equally up for it and retakes the position (5th).

On Lap 36, Perez appears to be caught napping in Turn 14 as Leclerc reclaims the lead.

After 36 laps, it's: Leclerc, Perez (+ 1s), Verstappen (+ 0.5s), Piastri (+ 2.7s), Ocon (+ 3.5s), Gasly (+ 0.8s), Stroll (+ 1.9s), Albon (+ 1.5s), Russell (+ 0.4s) and Sainz (+ 0.3s).

Having lost out to Leclerc, Perez is passed by his Red Bull teammate also.

As the Mexican is told that he and Verstappen will work together, using double DRS, the Dutchman appears to catch Leclerc on the back foot and takes the lead, passing the Ferrari with ease in Turn 14.

In the process the world champion posts a new fastest lap (36.100).

Russell is all over Albon, but the Williams driver stands his ground.

Nonetheless, the Mercedes driver passes the struggling Williams, as Sainz, Alonso and Hamilton close in as they battle for 9th.

Albon runs wide in Turn 9 and loses two positions, and subsequently another to Hamilton.

While Verstappen is out of DRS range of Leclerc, the Ferrari driver is only 0.5s ahead of Perez.

"Make sure you protect that front-right," Verstappen is warned.

Stroll passes Gasly for 6th who is still unhappy following that scrap with his alpine teammate.

"My tyres are gone," reports Leclerc. Told that he's doing a "good job", the Ferrari driver snaps: "I don't care about doing a good job, my tyres are gone!"

He subsequently runs wide in Turn 12 and Perez doesn't wait for an invitation.

At the end of Lap 43, Piastri makes his second stop of the race, subsequently rejoining in 12th.

Sainz passes Gasly for 7th.

"George we are still playing P4," Toto Wolff tells Russell, who is currently sixth and has yet to serve his 5s penalty.

Gasly's day goes from bad to worse as he is well and truly nailed by Hamilton, thereby dropping to 10th.

Meanwhile, leading by 4s, Verstappen posts a new fastest lap (35.614).

Hamilton makes short work of Alonso on the Strip to claim 8th.

Hulkenberg pulls off track on Lap 47 to become the second retirement of the night.

Piastri posts a new fastest lap (35.585), as he hunts down tenth-placed Gasly.

Oh dear, they're dropping like flies as Tsunoda slows to a halt.

Russell passes Stroll and Piastri, courtesy of his fresh rubber, nails Gasly as the surprises look set to continue right up to the flag.

Check out our Race Day gallery from Las Vegas here.

Indeed, as Leclerc closes in on Perez, Verstappen is told to close the gap in order to assist his Red Bull teammate.

For the second successive race, Perez loses out on the final lap as Leclerc nails him in Turn 14, a brilliant move from the Ferrari driver who came from way, way back.

Elsewhere, Hamilton passes Russell for 7th.

Verstappen takes the flag, insisting that he did all he could to assist his teammate.

"Ah, I wanted that win so much," says Leclerc. "Oh, my God!"

"It was a really difficult race with a lot of damage," says Perez, "initially we broke the front wing so I went to the back of the grid.

"We had strong pace in that first stint, and with the Safety Car, that brought us into the race," he adds. "I overtook Charles, but I couldn't pull away, I had too much rear wing so I couldn't pull away.

"It was quite difficult with the gusts of wind, rear locking and then in the end with Charles, I wasn't expecting him, he was 0.7 back, and then in the braking zone, he was there, so well done to him and to Max."

"What a race," grins Leclerc. "Honestly, I enjoyed it so much.

"I'm disappointed to be second, but it's the best we could do. We were really strong overall, we got a bit unlucky with the Safety Car.

"We went for track position and keeping that first place, but second place with a lot of fight... I'll take it.

"I'm so happy the weekend ended that way, there was no better race for a first race in Vegas."

"It was a tough one," admits Verstappen. "I tried to go for it at the start, but I ran out of grip. That put us on the back foot and earned us the penalty.

"I had to pass quite a lot of cars, there was quite a lot going on. The DRS was very powerful, even when you took the lead, the guy behind could come back at you.

"It's never ideal," he says of the damage to his car following the clash with Russell, "but luckily we could still win the race."

OK, not a bad race, but there is much that can be done to make it better.

Ignoring the obvious call for F1 bosses to focus on the substance as opposed to the style, the lack of grip due to the cold temperatures added to the drama.

Though no fan of the increasing tendency towards street tracks, this track ensured that the race had its moments. That said, the focus has to be on the quality of the racing not the supposed puling power of those watching from hospitality.

After the drama of FP1 the sport did well to recover, though lessons must be learned.

Nonetheless, despite everything, it was yet another win for V Max and one wonders how the new breed of fan is going to deal with this continuing domination.

Check out our Race Day gallery from Las Vegas here.

Article from Pitpass (

Published: 19/11/2023
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