Yes, Max Verstappen won again—for the record-extending 18th time this season—but it was an enthralling fight up front as Formula 1 cars raced along Las Vegas’ iconic Strip for the first time.
Verstappen Wins—This Time It Was Fun
Max Verstappen won again, but it was comfortably the most entertaining of his 18 victories this year. The Las Vegas Strip Circuit delivered first time out as Verstappen prevailed in a three-driver fight for the win beneath the lights.
Verstappen took the lead for good on lap 37 of 50.
Verstappen had to fight back from a penalty—for running Charles Leclerc wide into Turn 1 on the opening lap. He also came out on top in a battle with George Russell—one for which Russell was penalized—to stand atop the podium as the clock struck midnight in Las Vegas (3 a.m. ET), having sung Viva Las Vegas on the cooldown lap.
It was the 53rd victory of Verstappen’s career, tying Sebastian Vettel for third on the all-time list.
“It was a tough one,” said Verstappen. “I tried to go for it [with Leclerc] at the start. I think we both braked quite late, then I just ran out of grip and we ended up a bit wide, so the stewards gave me a penalty for that. Of course, that put us a little bit on the backfoot.
"I had to pass quite a few cars, then the Safety Car (came out) again. At the point already there was a lot going on in the race. Once we had the message to the end we could go flat-out. You could clearly see with the DRS around here it was very powerful, so even when you would take the lead, if the guy behind would stay in the DRS, he would still have an opportunity to come back at you. I think it created quite a lot of good racing, so it was definitely a lot of fun.”
Leclerc put in an accomplished performance to grasp the lead from Verstappen prior to the first round of stops, but his prospects were hampered by the timing of the safety car mid-race.
Ferrari opted for track position over fresh tires and Leclerc battled brilliantly, initially prevailing against Perez to hold on up front, before having to cede the lead to the recovering Verstappen. Leclerc went wide at Turn 12, losing second to Perez, but superbly hunted down the Mexican and lunged into Turn 14 on the final lap to re-capture the runner-up spot. It was one of the moves of the season and gave Leclerc a richly-deserved second position.
“I mean what a race,” Leclerc said. “Honestly, I enjoyed it so much. I am of course disappointed to only finish second but at the end that was the best we could do.”
It was a peculiar day for Perez, who started 11th and ran a long stint to benefit when the safety car was called, passed Leclerc for the lead, only to be twice re-passed by the Ferrari driver as well as teammate Verstappen. It marked the second successive race in which Perez has lost a place in a final lap battle. Despite that, Perez secured second spot in the championship, building an insurmountable points advantage over Lewis Hamilton.
Mercedes’ Trio of Incidents Prove Costly
After its dismal weekend in São Paulo, Mercedes had another lackluster result in Las Vegas, though this time it was a sequence of incidents that hampered its prospects.
Lewis Hamilton was hit by Carlos Sainz into Turn 1, costing him places, while during his recovery he made minor contact with Oscar Piastri, though it was sufficient to give him a puncture. Hamilton had to complete a whole lap with damage, re-joining in last place, from where he recovered to seventh.
“It was a really challenging race,” said Hamilton. “I was grateful that I was able to still come back from re-joining in last to score some points. There are strengths in our car but sometimes it's hard to extract all the performance from it. That is what happened in qualifying yesterday but I am pleased we were able to show our pace in the race.”
Russell preserved his grid spot of third during the early stages and was battling for second when he tangled with Verstappen into Turn 12. Russell dropped to ninth after pitting and while he recovered to fourth the time penalty for instigating the Verstappen clash relegated him to eighth at the flag.
“Today was on me; I simply didn't see Verstappen,” said Russell. “He was totally in the blind spot, and we made contact; it was completely my fault. It was a real shame as we were on course for a podium. It changed the dynamic of the race too with the Safety Car. It feels like we've thrown another one away today and I am really disappointed right now. It is the story of our season.”
Mercedes’ bad day means Ferrari is only four points behind the Silver Arrows in the battle for second in the Constructors’ Championship.
Norris’ Run Ends With Nasty Crash
Lando Norris arrived in Las Vegas as one of the in-form drivers, with five podiums from his last six events, and a stirring recovery display in his non-podium result in Mexico City.
But his Las Vegas weekend was one to forget as a Q1 exit in qualifying was followed by a nasty crash in the opening stages of the race. Norris hit a bump through the high-speed left-hander of Turn 11 and was pitched into a heavy impact with the wall, before sliding along the track until suffering a second, less violent, impact with the TecPro barriers deep into the Turn 12 run-off.
Norris was taken to a hospital as a precaution though was discharged a few hours later after being given the all-clear.
“There’s a bump in that place,” said McLaren team principal Andrea Stella. “There’s a bump and you can see all cars spark when they go through this bump, and I think the combination of this bump and the cold tires might have surprised him. Otherwise we don’t see any issue with the car or of a different nature.
"It’s the same bump for everyone. So it just depends on your speed, the condition of your tires, how your car is positioned over the bump there, the position of the car ahead, so there are multiple factors. Just maybe Lando made the assumption that there was enough grip, but it’s a very tricky place. I’m sure all drivers will comment that that’s something that needs to be fixed.”
Norris’ exit, combined with Oscar Piastri only rounding out the top 10, trimmed McLaren’s advantage over Aston Martin to 11 points in the battle for fourth in the championship.
Williams Goes From Third Row to No Points
Williams locked out the third row of the grid after one of its strongest performances in qualifying for several years, and held position through the early stages of the race. But its prospects unraveled as the first stint progressed and it slipped out of contention for points. Alex Albon started fifth but fell to 12th, while Logan Sargeant relinquished 10 places as he dropped from sixth to 16th by the checkered flag.
“I suffered quite badly from graining today, it was difficult for us and the Safety Car didn’t help with most getting a pitstop with little consequence,” said Albon. “It’s one of those races that we’ll need to review after as I thought we were managing quite well but after the Safety Car in the middle of the race, I was racing everyone on old tyres. I could just about manage my own race, but I had to push a bit more and it creates this cycle which is difficult to manage.”
Sargeant agreed that the mid-race neutralization hampered any chance Williams had of leaving with points.
“I don’t think there’s a lot we did wrong today,” said Sargeant. “As a team, we came around fifth and sixth after the first lap which was the goal. I felt like we managed that first stint relatively well but as expected the quicker cars started to come through towards the end of it. We went with our strategy and boxed for the Hard tyre with the plan to take us to the end. I don’t think we were in a bad position until that second Safety Car came out and it killed any chance we had.”
Fortunately for Williams, its opportunity missed did not prove fatal in its defence of seventh in the standings, with none of its rivals scoring. That should be the backmarker battle wrapped up given that Abu Dhabi’s Yas Marina Circuit rarely turns the order on its head.
F1 Las Vegas Grand Prix
Max Verstappen, Red Bull, 50 laps
Charles Leclerc, Ferrari, +2.070 seconds
Sergio Perez, Red Bull, +2.241
Esteban Ocon, Alpine, +18.665
Lance Stroll, Aston Martin, +20.067
Carlos Sainz, Ferrari, +20.834
Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, +21.755
George Russell, Mercedes, +23.091
Fernando Alonso, Aston Martin, +25.964
Oscar Piastri, McLaren, +29.496
Pierre Gasly, Alpine, +34.270
Alex Albon, Williams, +43.398
Kevin Magnussen, Haas, +44.825
Daniel Ricciardo, AlphaTauri, +48.525
Zhou Guanyu, Alfa Romeo, +50.162
Logan Sargeant, Williams, +50.882
Valtteri Bottas, Alfa Romeo, +1:25.350
Yuki Tsunoda, AlphaTauri, +4 laps
Nico Hulkenberg, Haas, +5 laps
Lando Norris, McLaren, +48 laps
Constructors' Championship Standings
Red Bull 822
Aston Martin 273
Alfa Romeo 16
Max Verstappen 549
Sergio Perez 273
Lewis Hamilton 232
Carlos Sainz 200
Fernando Alonso 200
Lando Norris 195
Charles Leclerc 188
George Russell 160
Oscar Piastri 89
Lance Stroll 73
Pierre Gasly 62
Esteban Ocon 58
Alex Albon 27
Yuki Tsunoda 13
Valtteri Bottas 10
Nico Hulkenberg 9
Daniel Ricciardo 6
Zhou Guanyu 6
Kevin Magnussen 3
Liam Lawson 2
Logan Sargeant 1
Nyck de Vries 0