FormulaNerds Cut To The Race Podcast

Max Verstappen claims victory at the inaugural Las Vegas Grand Prix

The teams headed to Las Vegas for the penultimate round of the 2023 Formula 1 season

Latest Episode | Cut To The Race Podcast

Max Verstappen took his 18th victory of the year at the highly anticipated Las Vegas Grand Prix. 

Max Verstappen, Red Bull
Verstappen drove a superb race to win the Las Vegas Grand Prix as he celebrated under the lights in a special Elvis inspired Red Bull race suit. Credit: Mark Thompson via Getty Images

After an enthralling 50 lap race, Verstappen would go onto finish on the top step of the podium at the Las Vegas Grand Prix as the Dutchman picked up his 53rd career win in the sport. Charles Leclerc pipped Sergio Perez for second place on the final lap as Red Bull confirmed their 1-2 status in the Drivers’ Championship for 2023.

A recap of the weekend so far

It is the race that everyone has been waiting for as F1 hosts its first race on the strip of the Las Vegas streets since 1982 for the penultimate round of the 2023 campaign.

To celebrate the sport being in the entertainment capital of the world, a majority of the teams including Red Bull and Ferrari ran special one-off liveries on their cars.

The weekend began with an opening ceremony on Wednesday evening in Nevada as F1 looked to put on a show for the thousands of fans in attendance.

The event kicked off with an array of musical guest performances and would feature all 20 drivers being introduced to the Vegas crowd.

However, there has been some cause for concern coming into the Las Vegas Grand Prix, with cold forecasts expected across the weekend as temperatures are predicted to dip as low as three degrees Celsius during qualifying.

These temperatures and unique desert conditions could provide more of challenge out on track for the drivers, despite the tyres selected by Pirelli being the three softest compounds in their range. Bearing that in mind, let’s see how the teams got on in practice and qualifying.

A chaotic first day of practice in Las Vegas

Free Practice One in Las Vegas saw Leclerc top the timesheet with a 1:40.909. However, It took less than 10 minutes into the hour for the first red flag to be brought out after the Monegasque driver’s team-mate Carlos Sainz stopped on track due to hitting a manhole cover.

Around ten minutes later, the FIA announced that the first practice session would not be resumed as repairs needed to be made to multiple drains around the circuit. A certainly eventful start to the weekend in Las Vegas.

After a two-and-a-half-hour delay, Free Practice Two saw Leclerc top the session once again with a much-improved time of a 1:35.265. Despite Sainz receiving a 10-place grid penalty due to having his Energy Store replaced after FP1, the Spaniard ended the day in second. Fernando Alonso would complete the top three in FP2.

Second practice in Vegas was extended to 90 minutes after having a shortened FP1. The 6.201-kilometre, 17-turn Las Vegas Strip Circuit featured many lock-ups from the drivers as they continued to get used to the layout of the track in a delayed session that would go well into the early hours in the morning in Nevada.

Many people in attendance seemed disappointed after day one of action in Vegas and disapproved of the decision by the event’s organisers to have the fan area’s closed at 1:30am local time. This meant that the grandstands were completely empty for the whole duration of FP2 due to logistical considerations.

Ferrari on pole for the race

After a chaotic first day, the final practice session of the weekend saw George Russell finish top of the classification in Free Practice Three with a 1:34.093. Oscar Piastri would end FP3 in second with Logan Sargeant rounding out the top three.

However, the session ended early once again as with less than six minutes remaining in third practice, the red flag was brought out after Alex Albon made contact with the barrier and lost his rear tyre in the process.

In Qualifying, Leclerc took his fifth pole position in 2023 with a 1:32.726. His Ferrari team-mate qualified in second. However, due to Sainz’s 10-place grid penalty, he would start the race from 12th. This meant that the now three-time world champion in Verstappen would line-up on the front row as Russell would compete the top three.

Williams impressed everyone with their pace in the session, as both Albon and Sargeant qualified in sixth and seventh, with the American rookie making it into Q3 for the second time in his F1 career. The pair will start a place higher in fifth and sixth on Sunday.

However, McLaren, who have been flying lately, struggled in qualifying around the Las Vegas circuit as both Piastri and Lando Norris were knocked out in Q1.

After qualifying, Lance Stroll who made it into Q2 was given a five-place grid penalty for overtaking under yellow flag conditions. This meant he would start the Grand Prix towards the back of the grid in 19th.

With this being a very eventful weekend so far, everything was set up for a great race on Sunday.

The starting grid

A chaotic start in the opening laps

Verstappen got a great start off the line as the Dutchman dived into Turn 1 and took the lead of the race . There was carnage going into the first corner with the yellow flag being shown after many cars went wide, with Alonso and Sainz taking a spin. Leclerc was heard on the radio to his engineer afterwards demanding that the Red Bull driver needed to give the place back.

The virtual safety car came out as the drivers entered lap two. Valtteri Bottas, Alonso and Perez all came into the pits for early stops, with Checo having his front wing replaced after sustaining damage. Stroll found himself in P9 at the start of lap three after gaining 10 positions in the first two laps.

The race resumed after the VSC but not for long after Lando Norris crashed into the wall at Turn 12, which sent him into the barriers down at Turn 13. The McLaren driver was out and this subsequently brought out the full Safety car as we approached lap four of the Las Vegas Grand Prix.

Racing got going once again on lap 7. Piastri made a move onto Yuki Tsunoda into Turn 1 as he put himself up into the points. The drivers began to find more comfort in their tyres after struggling for grip in the opening exchanges of the Grand Prix. Lewis Hamilton then made his way past the Japanese driver and up into P11.

A five-second time penalty for Verstappen

Verstappen was handed a five second time penalty on lap eight by the stewards for forcing Leclerc off the track. After the first ten laps, the three-time world champion led the race by two seconds over the Ferrari driver. Piastri continued to gain positions as he moved up to P8.

Tsunoda came into the pits on lap 11 changing his warn soft tyres for the medium compound. Sainz also made his way past Alonso and up to P16. However, Sainz was told by his engineer on lap 13 to control his pace or they would have to stop the car. The Spaniard still showed how quick the Ferrari was as he moved up into P14.

On lap 15, Verstappen complained about graining on his medium tyres as Leclerc was continuing to hunt the Dutchman down. The Monegasque driver had caught up with the Red Bull driver and on lap 16, he overtook him for the race lead.

More pitstops for the medium runners

Verstappen and many of the medium runners started to make their way into the pits for the hard tyre. Hamilton complained of a puncture on lap 18 after he made contact with Piastri as he started to be overtaken by the cars around him. He made his way into the pits as we entered lap 19. However, his stop was a slow one and he came back out in P19.

Perez who had pitted on lap two, found himself in P2 as we approached lap 20. His team-mate who had earlier led the race, moved up to P7 on lap 21 but was still 27 seconds off Leclerc, who had not pitted yet.

However, a lap later, Leclerc pitted for hards and re-entered onto the track in third place behind Perez and Stroll. Lap 24 saw a battle ensue for P4 between Sainz, Russell and Verstappen as the Spanish driver would lose two places on the long straight before Turn 14.

As we hit the halfway mark in the race, Verstappen made the move up to P4 on the Mercedes man but both drivers made contact, with some debris from the cars being left scattered on the track.

A second Safety car

The debris from that incident brought out a second Safety car in the race on lap 26 as Perez made his second stop of the race alongside many other drivers.

By pitting under both Safety car’s, the Mexican driver found himself in a very advantageous position in P2. Leclerc continued to lead from the front with Pierre Gasly sitting in third.

Russell was given a five second time penalty before the action resumed on lap 29. Piastri then made his way up into the podium places after getting past Gasly on the Safety car restart.

Over the next couple of laps, Perez was keeping up the pressure on Leclerc and on lap 32, with the help of DRS, he made his way into the lead of the race on the long strip straight.

A lap later, Verstappen moved ahead of Piastri and up into P3. The Australian driver still needed to pit again after using two sets of hard tyres.

On lap 35, Leclerc regained the lead after Perez was caught napping into Turn 14. Verstappen was now right behind his team-mate and a lap later, the Dutchman moved up to P2.

Verstappen takes the lead of the race

On lap 37, Verstappen made his way into first place after getting past Leclerc into Turn 14, which was becoming a very popular place for overtaking.

With less than 10 laps remaining in the race, Verstappen had moved out of the DRS of Leclerc behind him whereas Perez continued to gain on the Monegasque driver once again.

On lap 43, Leclerc nearly hit the barrier into Turn 13 as Perez would go past him and up into P2. Piastri made his way into the pits a lap later and came back out onto the track in P12.

The closing stages

With 5 laps to go in the race, both Verstappen and Perez were over a second clear of Leclerc in third. The yellow flag came out on lap 47 after Nico Hulkenberg made his way off the track and stopped in a safe place. The German driver was out of the race. A lap later Tsunoda did the same thing as Hulkenberg, as engine issues ended his race late on.

As we headed into the final lap of the race, Verstappen had a two second lead over his team-mate. The Dutchman would take the Checkered Flag as the winner of the race.

Leclerc made a fantastic late move on Perez into Turn 14 as he took P2 on the last lap. Checo would round out the podium places in third and confirm a Red Bull 1-2 in the Drivers’ Championship for the first time in their history.

Full Classification

Feature Image Credit: (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Zeen is a next generation WordPress theme. It’s powerful, beautifully designed and comes with everything you need to engage your visitors and increase conversions.

Back to the top