Max Verstappen Takes the Crown at Las Vegas Grand Prix with a Stunning Victory
Max Verstappen, the three-time reigning Formula One world champion, had initially expressed a strong disdain for the Las Vegas Grand Prix, criticizing the excessive focus on opulence rather than the sport itself. However, his perspective drastically changed after securing his 18th win of the season in a dramatic fashion.
As Verstappen cruised past the checkered flag, serenading the crowd with a rendition of Viva Las Vegas! in honor of the city’s famous catchphrase, it became evident that his initial reservations had been replaced with genuine excitement. Wearing an Elvis-inspired firesuit, he triumphed on the iconic Las Vegas Strip, conquering the very race he had openly criticized.
In a post-race interview, Verstappen admitted, It was a fun race. I enjoyed it. This statement was a sharp departure from his previous stance. Throughout the event, Verstappen showcased his dominance by overtaking Charles Leclerc at the start and overcoming a penalty to eventually secure victory. He expressed eagerness to return to Las Vegas next year and recreate this memorable experience.
Following the race, Verstappen, Leclerc, and Sergio Perez, the top three finishers, were chauffeured to a stage near the Bellagio. Originally expecting a visit to the nightclub, they were surprised by a mesmerizing display of the casino’s iconic fountain show. While the extravagant show failed to capture their attention fully, it added to the grandeur of the occasion.
The Las Vegas Grand Prix, organized by Formula One and owner Liberty Media, faced substantial criticism in the lead-up to the event. Verstappen, in particular, had been vocal about the excessive focus on creating a neon extravaganza rather than enhancing the sporting element. Tickets were exorbitantly priced, hotels along the Strip inflated their rates, and the event was overshadowed by a myriad of celebrities, musical acts, and Elvis impersonators wandering through the paddock. Furthermore, there were concerns regarding the event’s budget, with speculation suggesting that Liberty had exceeded its initial spending plans.
The negative sentiment surrounding the race reached its peak when Carlos Sainz Jr. hit a water drain valve cover during the first practice session, causing significant damage to his Ferrari. Consequently, the 3.85-mile circuit had to be closed for inspection, forcing disappointed fans to leave early. F1’s response to this incident was met with disappointment, as they offered only $200 credits to the LVGP merchandise store for affected ticket holders. As a result, a class-action lawsuit was filed against the Las Vegas Grand Prix.
The success of the event hinged on delivering an exceptional race on Saturday night. Despite Verstappen’s record-breaking sixth consecutive victory, the race itself proved to be one of the most thrilling and spirited of the season. The circuit layout, previously likened to a flying pig, received praise for providing an exhilarating race experience.
Lewis Hamilton, the seven-time F1 champion, commended the track, stating that it provided a better race than most of the tracks we go to. Reflecting the festive atmosphere throughout the weekend, Logan Sargeant of Williams remarked, I don’t think the music stopped this entire weekend in the paddock.
While Leclerc and Sainz secured the front row in qualifying, an unfortunate penalty pushed Sainz to the back of the starting grid. Verstappen seized the opportunity, overtaking Leclerc to claim the lead. Although Leclerc demanded Verstappen to relinquish the position, the penalty handed to Verstappen was a mere five seconds. Despite serving the penalty during a pit stop, Verstappen’s dominance kept him in contention throughout the race.
In a thrilling climax, Leclerc regained the lead with 17 laps remaining, but Verstappen fought back, surpassing his teammate three laps later to secure the victory. Although Perez briefly held second place, Leclerc ultimately reclaimed the position at the finish line, denying Red Bull Racing their seventh 1-2 finish of the season.
Leclerc expressed his satisfaction with the race, stating, I wanted that win so bad… There is no better race for the first race in Vegas. With Hamilton finishing in seventh place, Perez solidified his second position in the season driver standings behind Verstappen.
Ferrari’s strong showing, particularly with Leclerc’s second-place finish, allowed them to reduce the gap to Mercedes in the constructor championship to just four points before the final race in Abu Dhabi.
Despite the initial criticisms and doubts surrounding the Las Vegas Grand Prix, the event provided a thrilling race that captivated fans. The city’s extravagant nature fused with the fervor of Formula One, resulting in an unforgettable experience. As the drivers and spectators enjoyed the post-race celebrations, it became clear that the Las Vegas Grand Prix had defied expectations and left a lasting impression on the motorsport world.