Verstappen wins inaugural F1 Las Vegas Grand Prix

by IANS |

Las vegas, Nov 20 (IANS) Red Bull's Max Verstappen overtook teammate Sergio Perez, twice passed Ferrari's Charles Leclerc and survived both a time penalty and a collision with Mercedes' George Russell to win an entertaining Las Vegas Grand Prix.

Starting second on the grid, Verstappen passed Leclerc at Turn 1, but was slapped with a five-second time penalty after being adjudged to have forced the Ferrari off the track, as the drivers struggled with low grip in the cool conditions of the Las Vegas evening, reports Xinhua.

Verstappen's tyres appeared to be graining at a faster rate than those of Leclerc, who took back the lead on Lap 16, prompting the Red Bull to dive into the pits for fresh rubber.

Scything his way through the field after his pit stop, Verstappen dived inside Russell for fourth on Lap 25, but the Briton appeared not to see the Dutchman and turned in, causing damage to Verstappen's front wing and prompting the deployment of the Safety Car to allow marshals to clear the resultant debris.

While Leclerc stayed out, most of the leading runners chose to pit for new tyres, with the big winner being Sergio Perez, who vaulted up to second place after having started 11th and made an early pit stop during a Virtual Safety Car period to clear Lando Norris' stricken McLaren.

Though Leclerc's high top-end speed made it difficult for Perez to overtake, the Mexican made it through on Lap 32, but appeared unable to pull away, and the Monegasque retook the lead just three laps later.

Perez's slightly larger rear wing appeared to be costing him outright speed, and it proved costly as Verstappen made it past into second place on the following lap, and the Dutchman made quick work of Leclerc to take the lead on Lap 37 of 50, after which he was never headed.

Perez eventually made it past Leclerc on Lap 43, but just when it appeared as if a Red Bull 1-2 was in the offing, Leclerc dived inside the Mexican to retake second place on the final lap.

"It was a tough one. I tried to go for it at the start. We [himself and Leclerc] both braked quite late and I just ran out of grip, so we ended up a bit wide," said Verstappen afterwards.

"The stewards gave me a penalty for that and it put us on the backfoot. I had to pass quite a few cars and there was the Safety Car, so at that point there was a lot going on.

"Then we went flat out. I had to pass a few cars to get into the battle with them. The DRS around here was very powerful. Even when you would take the lead, if the guy behind stayed in the DRS, he would still have the opportunity to come back to you, so it created a lot of good racing today. Definitely a lot of fun."

Behind the top three, Esteban Ocon took a strong fourth place for Alpine, ahead of Lance Stroll's Aston Martin and Leclerc's teammate Carlos Sainz.

Lewis Hamilton and George Russell finished seventh and eighth on a poor day for Mercedes, with Stroll's teammate Fernando Alonso taking ninth after a spin on Lap 1, and Oscar Piastri rounding out the top ten in his McLaren, also taking the bonus point for fastest lap.

Piastri's teammate Lando Norris was an early casualty, spinning off into the barriers at high speed on Lap 3. Yuki Tsunoda and Nico Hulkenberg were the other two drivers to fail to see the chequered flag.

Following his 18th win of 2023, Verstappen's ever-increasing record points total now stands at 549. Perez has assured himself of second place in the standings with 273 points.

In the Constructors' standings, Red Bull's 1-2 puts them on 822 points. The battle for second place remains close, however, with Mercedes leading Ferrari by 392 points to 388.

The 22nd and final round of the 2023 F1 World Championship is next weekend's Abu Dhabi Grand Prix at the Yas Marina Circuit.

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