Max Verstappen says he never had an issue with the quality of racing that could be provided at the Las Vegas Grand Prix, after following up his criticism of the event in the days leading up to the race by fighting his way to victory.
The three-time world champion has been openly critical of much of the hype surrounding the race in Las Vegas, saying after qualifying that the race lacked passion and emotion. Verstappen then went on to win a thrilling race as he had to fight back from penalties and damage to win, and joked he’ll need lessons after singing ‘Viva Las Vegas’ over team radio on the cool-down lap.
“I always expected it to be a good race today — it was just long straights, low-speed corners, you don’t lose a lot of downforce, so that has never been my issue,” Verstappen said. “Today was fun, that is the only thing I want to say about it. I think today was fun, I hope everyone enjoyed it.
“I think the DRS effect was strong but good — it made for fun racing out there. Christian (Horner, team principal) put me on the spot so I can’t leave him hanging, so I have to sing. I definitely need some lessons so I need to go to Geri (referring to Horner’s wife Geri Halliwell, the former member of the Spice Girls) and book an appointment I guess.”
Verstappen’s victory came in the face of a first-lap penalty for forcing Charles Leclerc on track, and then damage sustained in a collision with George Russell.
“I just kept on going,” he mused. “It was a bit hectic, of course. At the beginning a five-second penalty and then when we stopped because of the (tire) deg — we were not very good on the medium somehow – and I got into traffic and then I had to be patient going through that traffic ahead of me. We were on a good track, then I had my little get-together with George — I think he didn’t see me and I damaged my front wing.
“But luckily the structure was still in place so that was very important, and then the safety car came, so we pitted again for the second set of hard tires and then it was very fun. I had a McLaren and an Alpine in between Checo (Perez) and Charles, but once I cleared them I could join the fight and it was basically flat out to the end and that was really cool.”
Despite a sarcastic message over team radio at the time, Verstappen says he accepts his time penalty for the error he made at the start of the race.
“The start was good — we both braked quite late to defend the position but I was a bit on the inside on the dirt I guess, and as soon as you are a bit off-line here it’s just super low grip and that’s what happened. I braked and there was no grip — I didn’t mean to push Charles off the track but I couldn’t slow down, I kept sliding on four wheels wide. That’s why we had to go wide.
“At the time I was full of adrenaline and I was not happy with the decision but looking back on it it was probably the right call. After that, with that five seconds, it was definitely a bit harder to come back to the front.”