With a record 18 wins in a single season, Max Verstappen and Red Bull claimed victory in the first ever Las Vegas Grand Prix as teams battled cold temperatures and bright lights for what was considered by many to be one of the best races in 2023. Teammate Serio Perez stamped another podium finish with his 3rd place result, keeping him at arms length from Lewis Hamilton as teams head to Abu Dhabi for the season finale. Pole sitter, Charles LeClerc, matched the Red Bulls on pace to bring home second place as the Scuderia look to overtake Mercedes for second place in the constructors championship.
In what started as a much maligned and difficult weekend for Formula 1, Sunday’s race proved to provide a spectacle much like Baku as the low temperatures created slippery track conditions, forcing many teams to adopt unconventional tire strategies in order to remain competitive as the race progressed. This change in typical procedures created multiple battles for position across the entire field including a storming fight for the lead between Verstappen, Perez, and LeClerc – something that Formula 1 was desperate for all season as Verstappen trounced off to victory ahead of his competition with ease.
The weekend though started n a sour note when 9 minutes into Free Practice 1, a loose drain cover – knocked out of place by the Alpine of Esteban Ocon as the concrete surrounding the drain failed – was collected in spectacular fashion by the Ferrari of Carlos Sainz. This cover situated between turns 13 and 14 – a significantly fast portion of the track – was then sucked into the Ferrari resulting in a mass of sparks and a totaled car, as Sainz admitted the damage caused by the cover punctured into the cockpit. Red Flags were thrown and the first session was abandoned, leaving many fans soured by the initial experience.
The night only worsened for Formula 1 as the 2nd practice session was delayed for the track officials to have worked continue repairing the damage in order for more running to continue, forcing officials to request all fans leave the track prior to the start of practice. Formula 1 was cited as making the request with the assistance of local law enforcement as they would not have the time to clear the track ground with a fan Prescence in time for circuit workers to return the track back to usable streets for day-time traffic along the Las Vegas Strip. the resulting negative PR for the evening has resulted in a Class-Action Lawsuit against Formula 1 by the fans.
However, fans and news outlets alike basked in the bright lights as Sunday’s unpredictable and entertaining race proved the doubters wrong, that the “upside-down pig” of a track would not provide interesting racing, and that drivers would hate being there during such late hours. Instead, we were treated to what could become America’s “Monaco” on the streets of “Fabulous” Las Vegas. Verstappen’s victory – in which he sang “Viva Las Vegas”; on the cooldown lap, seemed to change his mind as the Dutch driver was perhaps the most pessimistic during the weekend practice and qualifying sessions, often mentioning how boring the circuit was or more famously how this is “99% show and 1% racing”. But, his win in on the streets was yet another notch in the belt, pushing him on par with 4-time World Champion Sebastian Vettel for the 4th most wins of all-time with 53.
The penultimate race in Las Vegas proved to be at the end of the day, a rousing success as teams gear up to move to Abu Dhabi for the final round in the 2023 season. Max Verstappen and Red Bull will be looking to add to their already illustrious season with another win, putting their RB19 monster at the top of the list for the most successful F1 Car of all time, and pushing Verstappen into the realm of legends with 19 wins in a single season.