Max Verstappen makes a comeback to secure victory in an exciting Las Vegas race, thanks to F1’s risky decision that paid off.
Following a tumultuous week for Formula One, filled with anxiety and animosity in Las Vegas, the sport ultimately succeeded on the city’s streets, resulting in a grand gamble that truly paid off.
Max Verstappen emerged victorious at the first-ever Las Vegas Grand Prix, despite the odds being stacked against him. The intense battle for the lead added excitement to the race and fulfilled F1’s desire for a thrilling spectacle.
Verstappen’s performance was exceptional. He overcame a penalty and a collision with George Russell on the track to secure a win. The world champion put on an exciting display, battling it out with Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc, who finished in second place, and his Red Bull teammate Sergio Pérez, who claimed third place.
The excitement leading up to this meeting has been non-stop. For Formula One, who is investing $700m to host this event and serving as both promoter and organizer for the first time, this is their chance to shine. It is like their Super Bowl, a major opportunity to attract the US market, which is their top target for growth.
F1 was determined to hold the race in the heart of the city, specifically on Las Vegas Boulevard, also known as the iconic Strip. This goal was successfully achieved, with the support of the casinos and the backdrop of famous landmarks such as Caesars, the Bellagio, Paris, and the Venetian. These buildings lined the Strip and the track, providing a stunning backdrop for the cars racing at speeds exceeding 200mph. This race became one of Formula One’s most prestigious events, and any failure would have been highly visible to the public.
It was not impossible either. The start of the weekend was met with frustration as fans were only able to witness eight minutes of the first practice on Thursday. The second session, delayed for five hours, was also held without spectators. This left fans feeling extremely let down and upset, especially since many had spent a significant amount of money to attend. As a result, a collective legal case has been initiated.
Even worse, Verstappen had strongly voiced his disapproval of all the festivities, stating multiple times that he felt they were unnecessary. He believed that the focus should be on the actual racing, which he felt the sport was not giving enough attention to.
As the race approached, there was a real sense of worry that Las Vegas may not perform well on the track when it counted. There were worries that the 3.8-mile course would be unexciting, with limited opportunities for passing, resulting in a predictable parade of cars driving around the city while carefully managing their tires. This would be disappointing for fans who had paid a lot of money for Formula 1 to showcase itself as the top level of motor sports.
As the night progressed, the tension continued to increase. The crowd was tightly packed and moving was difficult. Usain Bolt stood out above the crowd, but even he could only move slowly through the crowded space.
As the lights dimmed, the entire Formula One community held their breath in anticipation. However, it soon became apparent that the sport had made the right choice. The track was exceptional, providing enough traction for drivers to push their limits without worrying about tire wear. And push they did, with numerous passes being made throughout the field. At times, three cars were even racing side by side, weaving through the urban landscape with confidence. This surely eased the tension of those in charge of the sport, who had been on edge all weekend.
Max Verstappen took the lead at the start of the race, passing Charles Leclerc who started in pole position. This caused Leclerc to be pushed wide and as a result, the world champion received a five-second penalty which caused him to drop down in the rankings. However, he was able to make a comeback, as did Sergio Pérez who took advantage of a fortunate pit stop during a safety car period. Meanwhile, Leclerc showed great determination for his team, Ferrari. He aggressively drove his car and managed to regain the lead from Verstappen, only to lose it to Pérez, and then ultimately win it back again.
Verstappen, as usual, was unstoppable and quickly caught up to them. Russell’s Mercedes bumped into Verstappen as he passed. By the 37th lap, Verstappen was in the lead again, while Leclerc’s performance was a fitting climax for the race of the year. On the last lap, Leclerc attempted a daring maneuver at turn 14 to pass Pérez for second place. It was a stunning move that perfectly concluded the race.
This was very much the stuff, the weekend’s early woes wiped away with a sensational show that for once lived up to the hype. Verstappen may not have enjoyed the whole extravaganza but by the close even he could not resist joining in. As the team played Viva Las Vegas over his radio he sang along with gusto.
On the final days of the weekend, Verstappen finally had the chance to explore the city while driving. He expressed, “It was a great experience out there. I hope everyone else enjoyed it as much as we did. I can’t wait to return here next year.”
According to his criteria this weekend, that was a strong approval that the F1 community will gladly embrace. To celebrate, there were fireworks displayed throughout the city as the casinos expressed their gratitude at the end. They may also believe that they were a significant part of an event that has potential for the future.
In the film Viva Las Vegas, the King himself stated, “If you witness it once, you will be forever changed…” Therefore, for F1, which may have sparked the transformation of the game in the United States. Truly a lively experience.
Esteban Ocon was fourth for Alpine and Lance Stroll fifth for Aston Martin. Carlos Sainz was sixth for Ferrari. Russell and Lewis Hamilton were in seventh and eighth for Mercedes. Fernando Alonso was ninth for Aston Martin and Oscar Piastri 10th for McLaren.