Max Verstappen delivered a thrilling victory at the Las Vegas Grand Prix, defying penalties and overcoming a dramatic on-track tussle to secure his 18th win of the 2023 Formula 1 season in what stands as one of his hardest-fought triumphs yet. This brings his 53rd career victory, putting the Dutchman on par with the great four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel.
Starting from second on the grid, Verstappen engaged in a heated opening-lap battle with Charles Leclerc, the pole sitter. A daring signature block pass move from the Dutchman at Turn 1, pushed both cars off track. Despite Leclerc’s protests, Verstappen emerged in the lead, albeit with a pending five-second penalty hanging over him.
The stewards’ decision penalised Verstappen for his aggressive manoeuvre, but Leclerc soon took advantage, passing Verstappen before the first pitstop. As Leclerc led the race, Verstappen served his penalty, dropping behind George Russell’s Mercedes as Sergio Perez, Verstappen’s Red Bull teammate, surged through the field after an early pitstop due to a collision.
The race saw multiple interruptions, including Lando Norris’s crash triggering the first safety car, and, later, a collision between Verstappen and Russell that damaged both cars. Verstappen, with a compromised front wing, continued his pursuit amidst the ensuing chaos. Russell picked up a five-second penalty for the collision.
Verstappen’s relentless determination paid off as he steadily climbed back up the ranks. Sergio Perez momentarily secured the lead but couldn’t maintain it as Leclerc swiftly regained the top spot. Verstappen, charging ahead, overtook both Leclerc and Perez to reclaim the lead, steering clear thereafter despite his wing damage.
In a tense battle for second place, Perez initially secured the position from Leclerc, who managed to regain it on the final lap, denying Red Bull a 1-2 finish. Verstappen’s victory margin was momentarily reduced as he was asked to slow down on the final lap to assist Perez in his fight to fend off Leclerc.
Leclerc wasn’t having any of it as he sent a breathtaking move down the inside of the Mexican in front in the final sector to snatch a well-deserved second place. However, the Monegasque ace was visibly disappointed after the flag, leaving Ferrari’s pursuit of a second victory in the 2023 season unfulfilled. Perez, despite losing second place on the final lap, clinched third and solidified his second-place finish in the drivers’ championship, a first 1-2 in the standings in RedBull’s history despite all their title success in the past decade.
George Russell crossed the line in fourth but faced a penalty that relegated him to eighth, promoting an ecstatic Esteban Ocon to fourth place after starting 16th. Lance Stroll secured a solid fifth for Aston Martin, Carlos Sainz finished sixth despite an early spin, and Lewis Hamilton, following a clash with Oscar Piastri, recovered to claim seventh.
The race showcased intense battles and strategic pit stops, including a tense team order discussion at Alpine. However, Pierre Gasly, initially in podium contention, struggled with pace and slid down to 11th place.
While Verstappen’s triumph marked an exceptional display of skill and resilience, the Las Vegas Grand Prix provided an action-packed spectacle despite a shaky controversy-ridden start to the inaugural event in Sin City.