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F1 Las Vegas GP: Verstappen survives penalty, damage to take 18th win of 2023

Max Verstappen won a thrilling Las Vegas Grand Prix ahead of Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc, who made Red Bull work hard for the victory and passed Sergio Perez on the last lap. 

Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB19

Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB19

Andrew Ferraro / Motorsport Images

Verstappen overcame a penalty for clashing with Leclerc on the first lap and had to drive around damage picked up in another incident with Mercedes driver George Russell

Leclerc showed Ferrari’s race pace potential was true, but was ultimately undone by the second of two safety cars losing a tyre advantage he had accrued over Verstappen and with the neutralisation helping Perez recover from picking up front wing damage in a Turn 1 melee. 

At the start, polesitter Leclerc found Verstappen quickly alongside him. But when they arrived at the Turn 1 hairpin the Red Bull ran the Ferrari to the edge of the track and off – each soon arguing that they had their front axles ahead at the apex per the racing rules of engagement since early 2022. 

In the pack behind, Fernando Alonso spun solo on the low-grip surface and got hit by Valtteri Bottas, who in turn was struck by Sergio Perez, with Carlos Sainz understeering into Lewis Hamilton

The ensuing debris left behind meant the virtual safety car was activated at the end of lap one of 50, with Verstappen already over a second clear anyway. 

His gap was up to 1.6s when the race went back to green flag racing conditions at the start of lap three, which did not last long as Lando Norris – having made good gains in the early chaos from his lowly grid spot – crashed hard at Turn 12. 

He had actually lost the rear of his McLaren solo following team-mate Oscar Piastri in the preceding corner and when things snapped suddenly sideways Norris could not catch it back up again on the slippery surface and he slammed rearwards into the Turn 11 exit wall and then shot down the track to the barriers well behind Turn 12 – nearly collecting Piastri as he did so. 

Charles Leclerc, Ferrari SF-23, George Russell, Mercedes F1 W14

Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images

Charles Leclerc, Ferrari SF-23, George Russell, Mercedes F1 W14

The safety car was called out as Norris climbed out of his wrecked car, with the neutralisation lasting until the start of lap seven. 

Verstappen was already out of DRS threat by this point as he had dropped Leclerc just before Turn 14 at the end of the long Strip straight, then braked for the right-hander, which Leclerc called “dangerous”. 

At the start of lap nine when Verstappen’s lead had reached 2.0s with his pace in the early laps, the stewards determined he was at fault for the Turn 1 incident with Leclerc and handed him a five-second penalty. 

Red Bull told the Dutchman to concentrate on extending his gap to above the penalty duration before his first pitstop, to which he glibly replied his team could, “give them [the stewards] my regards”. 

But Leclerc pressed on – pegging the gap to the leader and reversing any gains Verstappen made as he lapped in the mid-1m38s. 

Behind, Russell briefly threatened Leclerc with his Mercedes but was soon coming under close attention from Alpine’s Pierre Gasly and so the top two rather escaped as the race approached the one-third distance mark. 

But approaching lap 16, Verstappen’s pace dipped as his tyres degraded, which meant Leclerc got DRS on the following tour and used it to pass Verstappen into Turn 14 – just after Red Bull had told its charge he would be pitting. 

The Safety Car Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB19, Charles Leclerc, Ferrari SF-23, George Russell, Mercedes F1 W14, the rest of the field

Photo by: Glenn Dunbar / Motorsport Images

The Safety Car Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB19, Charles Leclerc, Ferrari SF-23, George Russell, Mercedes F1 W14, the rest of the field

Verstappen came in and served his penalty before switching the mediums he and Leclerc had started on for hards – the whole service lasting 7.7s and with Verstappen rejoining back in the pack and even behind Russell, who had stopped a few laps earlier. 

Ferrari initially left Leclerc out to build a gap while Verstappen lost more time fighting slower rivals and getting through the hard tyre’s tricky warm-up phase before Leclerc finally pitted at the end of lap 21. 

He rejoined third – behind Aston Martin’s Lance Stroll and Perez, who had both gained stopping after the lap one chaos and early safety car. 

Leclerc took a few laps to make sure he did not overstress his new hards – fitted at a pitstop that ran at least a second long due to a slow right front change – then he charged down and passed Stroll into Turn 14 on lap 25. 

A little further behind, Verstappen and Russell, who had both been making progress in the pack back towards their previous positions, clashed when Verstappen dived to the inside of Turn 12 and Russell turned in. 

The contact smashed Verstappen’s right front endplate and Russell’s left-hand side, with the debris left on the track requiring another safety car to clear up. 

Red Bull pitted net leader Perez and Verstappen for more hards, while Leclerc was left out again and his previous tyre off-set was gone at a stroke. 

Charles Leclerc, Ferrari SF-23, battles with Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB19, ahead of George Russell, Mercedes F1 W14, Pierre Gasly, Alpine A523, Alex Albon, Williams FW45, Logan Sargeant, Williams FW45, the rest of the field at the start

Photo by: Lubomir Asenov / Motorsport Images

Charles Leclerc, Ferrari SF-23, battles with Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB19, ahead of George Russell, Mercedes F1 W14, Pierre Gasly, Alpine A523, Alex Albon, Williams FW45, Logan Sargeant, Williams FW45, the rest of the field at the start

When the race restarted on lap 29 – just before which Russell was handed a five-second penalty for the Verstappen contact – Leclerc dropped Perez nicely but was soon under pressure. 

As Verstappen worked his way by Pierre Gasly and another second safety car non-stopper Piastri, Perez closed in and passed Leclerc for the lead into Turn 14 on lap 32 after initially failing to get by the Ferrari with DRS the first time it was reactivated after the race neutralisation on the previous lap. 

But Leclerc was able to stay with Perez even as Verstappen roared up behind him – the Monegasque driver pouncing at Turn 14 and surprising Perez to retake the lead on lap 35 at Turn 14. 

Verstappen then demoted his team-mate at the same spot on the following tour, then immediately on lap 37 he retook the lead with a DRS blast down the Strip and then sealed the position at Turn 14’s apex after Leclerc had come off the brakes and tried to make a fight of it. 

Leclerc again initially stayed with Verstappen, with Red Bull urging the leader to find a way to break the tow to his pursuer, with Perez unable to pass Leclerc again despite his tyre advantage thanks to the Ferrari’s smaller, lower-downforce rear wing. 

Verstappen’s superior pace in the low-1m36s did get him clear of immediate threat from Leclerc as the race entered its final laps, before on lap 43 Leclerc outbraked himself at Turn 12 and went very deep. 

Perez shot through and from there the top three ran Verstappen shot clear, with Leclerc recatching Perez and gamely pursuing the second Red Bull over the final tours. 

Sergio Perez, Red Bull Racing RB19, Fernando Alonso, Aston Martin AMR23

Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images

Sergio Perez, Red Bull Racing RB19, Fernando Alonso, Aston Martin AMR23

On the last lap, with Verstappen having dropped back from a nearly five-second advantage to just over two to try and help Perez with a long-distance slipstream at Red Bull’s request, Leclerc made a surprise dive at Turn 14. 

He got alongside Perez late and stole second at the apex, then defended from Perez coming back at the final corner, ending up 2.0s behind Verstappen and 0.1s ahead in second. 

Russell charged back to fourth on the road with a series of late passes – including a move into Turn 14 on Esteban Ocon on the last lap – but his penalty dropped him to eighth in the final results. 

Ocon, who had battled by team-mate Gasly a few laps after the second safety car in a tough but fair intra-Alpine scrap, therefore got fourth back, with Stroll fading only to fifth after his earlier gains – the Canadian like Perez also making use of a stop under the second safety car. 

Sainz recovered from his Turn 1 contact, damage and first stop under the VSC to finish sixth, with Hamilton ending seventh having had a bruising race that included contact with Piastri in the midfield action just before the first round of pitstops. 

Alonso also battled back to finish ninth on an effective one-stopper after his lap-one incident and pitstop later on that tour, while Piastri came home in the final points-paying position. 

He dropped back from his late high position behind the leaders as he was on a two-stopper and did not gain from stopping under either safety car, while Gasly dropped back himself as he appeared to not be able to make the one-stopper work as well as Ocon. 

Yuki Tsunoda and Nico Hulkenberg were late non-finishers as they both pulled off in the Turn 14 runoff with technical problems in the closing laps. 

Las Vegas Grand Prix results

 
 
         
Driver Info
 
 
 
   
Cla Driver # Laps Time Interval km/h Pits Points Retirement Chassis Engine
1 Netherlands M. Verstappen Red Bull Racing 1 50

-

    2 25   Red Bull Red Bull
2 Monaco C. Leclerc Ferrari 16 50

+2.070

2.070

2.070   1 18   Ferrari Ferrari
3 Mexico S. Perez Red Bull Racing 11 50

+2.241

2.241

0.171   2 15   Red Bull Red Bull
4 France E. Ocon Alpine 31 50

+18.665

18.665

16.424   1 12   Alpine Renault
5 Canada L. Stroll Aston Martin Racing 18 50

+20.067

20.067

1.402   2 10   Aston Martin Mercedes
6 Spain C. Sainz Ferrari 55 50

+20.834

20.834

0.767   2 8   Ferrari Ferrari
7 United Kingdom L. Hamilton Mercedes 44 50

+21.755

21.755

0.921   2 6   Mercedes Mercedes
8 United Kingdom G. Russell Mercedes 63 50

+23.091

23.091

1.336   2 4   Mercedes Mercedes
9 Spain F. Alonso Aston Martin Racing 14 50

+25.964

25.964

2.873   2 2   Aston Martin Mercedes
10 Australia O. Piastri McLaren 81 50

+29.496

29.496

3.532   2 2   McLaren Mercedes
11 France P. Gasly Alpine 10 50

+34.270

34.270

4.774   1     Alpine Renault
12 Thailand A. Albon Williams 23 50

+43.398

43.398

9.128   1     Williams Mercedes
13 Denmark K. Magnussen Haas F1 Team 20 50

+44.825

44.825

1.427   2     Haas Ferrari
14 Australia D. Ricciardo AlphaTauri 3 50

+48.525

48.525

3.700   1     AlphaTauri Red Bull
15 China Z. Guanyu Alfa Romeo 24 50

+50.162

50.162

1.637   1     Alfa Romeo Ferrari
16 United States L. Sargeant Williams 2 50

+50.882

50.882

0.720   1     Williams Mercedes
17 Finland V. Bottas Alfa Romeo 77 50

+1'25.350

1'25.350

34.468   2     Alfa Romeo Ferrari
dnf Japan Y. Tsunoda AlphaTauri 22 46

 

    2     AlphaTauri Red Bull
dnf Germany N. Hulkenberg Haas F1 Team 27 45

 

    2   Retirement Haas Ferrari
dnf United Kingdom L. Norris McLaren 4 2

 

        Retirement McLaren Mercedes

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