Update: 11/19/2023 10:27 a.m.
Issued by: 11/19/2023, 08:58
Las Vegas – Dutch driver Max Verstappen of Red Bull dominated the Formula 1 Las Vegas Grand Prix, improved his own record with the eighteenth triumph of the season and tied Sebastian Vettel for third place in the standings all times with his 53rd victory. career. The three-time world champion beat Ferrari driver Charles Leclerc by more than two seconds, who overtook Sergio Pérez on the last lap, in the “city of sin”. The Mexican Red Bull driver nevertheless definitively secured second place in the championship ahead of the seventh Mercedes Lewis Hamilton of the day.
Verstappen, 26, won the sixth race in a row and the sixteenth in the last 17. In historical statistics, according to the number of triumphs, only Michael Schumacher (91) and record holder Hamilton (103) are ahead of him. In the penultimate stage of the season, he succeeded after starting from the second row. Pérez returned to the podium after six races.
“It was a lot of fun. The fans were great and I hope they enjoyed it. We certainly did. I can’t wait to come back here next year. I hope it’s the same,” said Verstappen said in a television interview.
Leclerc reacted the same way. “It was a race. I enjoyed it. I’m disappointed to have finished second, but it was the most we could get,” said the Monegasque driver.
The F1 championship returned to Las Vegas after 41 years. The race started at 10 p.m. local time on Saturday and was the first time since the 1985 South African Grand Prix that it did not start on a Sunday. Many celebrities from the world of sport and show business have visited it, such as David Beckham, Usain Bolt, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Brad Pitt, Kylie Minoque and Rihanna.
Leclerc, winner of qualifying, did not stay in the lead for long. After the start he fought with Verstappen, the Red Bull driver pushed him off the track and replaced him in the lead. The Dutchman then received a five-second penalty. “It was difficult. I tried at the start, but we both braked late and I had no grip. We went off track. I got a penalty and had to catch up,” Verstappen said.
Numerous clashes took place at the back of the peloton. Fernando Alonso skidded, Pérez had to change wings and Carlos Sainz also had problems. The Spanish Ferrari driver qualified second, but due to an innocent battery change after the first practice session and a penalty, he started ten places lower. After the collision, he fell further, his car overheated and he was in danger of not finishing the race. He finally finished sixth.
On the third lap, McLaren’s Lando Norris crashed after a skid and the safety car went off track. Verstappen remained in the lead after the restart, but Leclerc was trailing. On lap 16, Verstappen reported tire problems, but before returning to the pits, Leclerc overtook him. “We saw that the DRS was very strong here. Even if you took the lead, the driver behind you still had a chance to come back thanks to it,” Verstappen said.
The Dutchman served a penalty in the pits and returned to eleventh place. On lap 25 he fought with George Russell, there was a collision and the pace car returned to the track. This time, Russell received a five-second penalty.
Verstappen put on new tires and finished fifth. Leclerc stays on track and returns to the lead. Pérez, who was leading at the time of the accident, gained money thanks to the safety car, returning from the pits he was second and attacked the leader Leclerc on the 33rd lap. But the Monegasque fought back against Pérez two laps later, and Verstappen then overtook the Mexican.
“We were unlucky with the safety car as we didn’t pit. But we didn’t know what the others were going to do and instead we tried to hold on to first place on the track. In the end, it was difficult because of the tires,” Leclerc said.
With twelve laps to go, Verstappen was ahead of Leclerc, who then complicated the fight for second place after going off the track on the 44th lap, leaving Pérez in front of him. Eventually he caught the Red Bull driver and overtook him after a fight on the final lap.
The Mexican thus lost a better result for the second time in a row. At the previous Sao Paulo Grand Prix, he lost the fight for third place to Alonso on the last lap. “It was very windy at the end and it was difficult. I braked several times, but I stayed on the track. Finally, Charles arrived. I wasn’t expecting him, he was seven tenths behind second behind me and he caught me in the braking zone. With Max they did a good job,” added Perez.
The World Championship will end next week with the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
Las Vegas Grand Prix, Formula 1 World Championship race.
1. Verstappen (Netherlands/Red Bull) 1:29:08.289, 2. Leclerc (Mon./Ferrari) -2.070, 3. Pérez (Mex./Red Bull) -2.241, 4. Ocon (Fr./Alpine ) – 18.665, 5. Stroll (Can./Aston Martin) -20.067, 6. Sainz (Sp./Ferrari) -20.834.
Fastest lap: Piastri (Austria/McLaren).
Current World Championship standings (after 21 of 22 races): 1. Verstappen 549, 2. Pérez 273, 3. Hamilton (Brit./Mercedes) 232, 4. Sainz 200, 5. Alonso (Sp./Aston Martin) 200, 6. Norris (Brit./McLaren) 195.
Manufacturers’ Cup: 1. Red Bull 822, 2. Mercedes 392, 3. Ferrari 388, 4. McLaren 284, 5. Aston Martin 273, 6. Alpine 120.
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