The first Las Vegas Grand Prix offers a spectacle for 50 laps, with a chaotic start, overtaking in every area of the classification and close battles between all the cars on the track. Max Verstappen also had to sweat out this victory, ‘helped’ at the end also by a Safety Car which allowed him to fit new tires – for him and Sergio Perez – and keep a super Charles Leclerc and the best Ferrari of the season at bay which however failed to put it all together and sees pole position slip away once again and finds Carlos Sainz in the middle of traffic for the entire race, even settling for a result below potential.
The fight with Mercedes heats up with the Scuderia from Maranello, reducing the gap to -4. Noteworthy are the performances of Esteban Ocon and Lance Stroll, while Oscar Piastri manages to bring a point to McLaren
Turn 1 ruins Ferrari’s plans, but Leclerc outsmarts Perez and maintains P2. Norris immediately out, Mercedes loses points.
Yesterday’s Qualifying saw Ferrari conquer the front row with Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz separated by just 44 thousandths. The penalty due to the change of batteries due to the problem at the circuit on Friday will, however, see the Spaniard start from P12, moving back ten spaces from the original place, forcing him to make an important recovery in order to aspire to prominent positions, but above all preventing Ferrari to be able to play as a team against Max Verstappen to try to win the second victory of the season, after the one in Singapore. There were also penalties for Lance Stroll, who already started from the back of the grid.
Tire choice favours the Medium compound for most of the cars on the track, with the exception of Lewis Hamilton, Guanyu Zhou and Oscar Piastri, who opt for the Hard while Lance Stroll and Yuki Tsunoda will start on the Soft tyre.
Max Verstappen had a very aggressive start and was better off the line than Charles Leclerc, but at turn 1, he widens the trajectory a lot. He pushes Charles Leclerc completely off the track, provoking a furious reaction via radio from the Monegasque, who asks for the intervention of the race direction to receive back the position. The Dutchman did not take the curve’s apex, arriving curved himself.
At the rear, Fernando Alonso made a difficult start with a spin, which then involved a chain of other drivers, hitting an Alfa Romeo and creating chaos with the drivers behind losing position, like Lewis Hamilton and Carlos Sainz, who came into contact and Spaniard in turn turns around and ends up at the bottom of the rankings. A Virtual Safety Car is briefly displayed to clear debris in Turn 1, and Sergio Perez takes advantage of this to stop.
At the restart, Lando Norris suffers a problem and turns into the barriers, destroying his car and risking also involving the second McLaren, immediately ending his race and causing a Safety Car. Meanwhile, the FIA announced that Max Verstappen’s departure is under investigation. Still, no decision is taken even under the Safety Car regime, in which, in the meantime, Carlos Sainz, Fernando Alonso and Valtteri Bottas take advantage of a pit stop by switching to Hard.
The action was lively on the track, with overtaking and counter-overtaking between Haas, Lewis Hamilton, and Oscar Piastri. Still, also at the back, a very heated fight involving Sergio Perez, Lance Stroll, Daniel Ricciardo, Carlos Sainz, and Fernando Alonso involved in a fight in a DRS train. They tell the Spaniard that the car needs air to avoid any kind of temperature problems.
Max Verstappen was given a five-second penalty for what happened in Turn 1. Still, the Dutchman himself did not care about what was decided by the stewards, having already taken a good margin, around 2 seconds, over Charles Leclerc, who, however pushed and try to keep his pace similar to that of the Red Bull so as not to let him run away. Remarkable start to the race by Pierre Gasly who remains in the exhaust of George Russell, while behind the two Williams they have to face the return of Esteban Ocon and Oscar Piastri.
George Russell returns to the pits on lap 14 to fit Hard tyres, while on the track there is a battle between Max Verstappen and Charles Leclerc with the Dutchman in great difficulty due to front graining and so the Monegasque manages to overtake him on the track and resume the top of the race with the world champion thus returning to the pits to respond to George Russell’s pit stop, who dropped to 11th position.
Puncture for Oscar Piastri and problems for Lewis Hamilton who, in the fight, ended up in contact and both suffer problems, with the Australian coming out of the pit in sixteenth position and Lewis Hamilton, forced into the pits and losing time on the track to get back into the running pitlane, he restarts in last position. Charles Leclerc also began to suffer from graining, thus suffering a drop in performance, and Ferrari reacted by calling him to the pits after two laps and putting him on the Hard tyre.
He returns to the track in third place, behind Sergio Perez and Lance Stroll, with his teammate behind him. About 2 seconds behind them, a battle between George Russell and Fernando Alonso also sees the return of Max Verstappen, who easily overtakes the Spaniard and immediately targets the Mercedes W14.
Carlos Sainz suffers from some graining on his tires, and behind him, George Russell and Max Verstappen both manage to overtake the Spaniard’s Ferrari SF-23 on lap 25 while Charles Leclerc begins to warm up the tires and pick up the pace on the Hard.
After overtaking the Ferrari, Verstappen also attacks George Russell, and the two come into contact with the two drivers. Charles Leclerc, meanwhile, easily overtakes Lance Stroll and takes second position with Sergio Perez, first, 11 seconds behind him.
Safety Car on track on lap 26 due to some debris on the track, and Sergio Perez, Max Verstappen, Lance Stroll, George Russell, Carlos Sainz, Fernando Alonso, Kevin Magnussen, Nico Hulkenberg and Lewis Hamilton all took the opportunity to stop immediately for a second set of Hard tires. It was a penalty for George Russell due to contact with Max Verstappen, 5 seconds for the Mercedes driver.
Clean restart for Charles Leclerc, but Sergio Perez, after a not-positive start, remains glued to the Ferrari driver and uses his new tire to stay in the Monegasque’s tow to be able to attack him and behind them. Oscar Piastri immediately gets rid of Pierre Gasly and climbs into third position. On lap 31, with the use of DRS, Max Verstappen managed to quickly overtake Pierre Gasly and move into fourth position.
At the same time, Charles Leclerc defended himself from Sergio Perez with the fastest lap, improved immediately afterwards by Oscar Piastri, who tried to keep within reach of the two, also waiting for the Dutchman to return behind him.
Sergio Perez manages to take the top by overtaking Charles Leclerc. At the same time, Max Verstappen gets rid of Oscar Piastri and climbs to third position, closing in on the Monegasque, who struggles a lot in the central sector and then recovers in the first and third sectors.
The two Alpines are in fifth and sixth position. They are the authors of a battle for position, which the team intervenes to stop immediately and give priority to tire management and, above all, to avoid the risk of losing important points given the important positions.
Charles Leclerc manages to return to the DRS zone. He overtakes Perez during the 33rd lap, with Max Verstappen not far behind.
He begins to stretch the Dutchman with an advantage, especially in the second sector, with both the Dutchman and the Monegasque starting to experience a bit of graning, with Sergio Perez still trying to fight for second position with Charles Leclerc.
Oscar Piastri lost ground but kept his fourth position stable, while behind them, Lance Stroll overtook Pierre Gasly and climbed to sixth position, also trying to catch Esteban Ocon in fifth.
It’s then a three-way fight between George Russell, Carlos Sainz and Fernando Alonso for points, with Lewis Hamilton also attached to the rear of the Aston Martin Spaniard.
With an error on lap 44, which led Charles Leclerc to go wide due to a blockage, he lost the position to Sergio Perez, who thus rose to second position.
The Monegasque managed to avoid worse damage and tried to get back in the hunt for the Mexican driver. At the same time, Oscar Piastri was forced to stop for medium tyres, returning to eleventh position. Carlos Sainz also overtakes Pierre Gasly and climbs to seventh position, falling behind George Russell by around 2 seconds, while on the following lap, Fernando Alonso will also get rid of the Alpine, also opening the door to Lewis Hamilton’s attack with Gasly collapsing in tenth position.
Five more laps to go, and Charles Leclerc managed to get back on Sergio Perez’s rear, thus regaining the availability of the DRS, with Max Verstappen pulling away and thus not offering support to his teammate, not even in terms of the slipstream.
Behind, Lewis Hamilton managed to take the position of Fernando Alonso with George Russell, who has closed on Lance Stroll for fourth position, with Carlos Sainz still about 2 seconds behind him.
Retirement at the end of the race for Nico Hulkenberg and Yuki Tsunoda, who managed to take their cars to an escape route and avoid the risk of a yellow flag.
George Russell manages to take the position from Lance Stroll and thus climbs to fifth position, also attached to Esteban Ocon and thus aiming – as his team had told him many laps ago – for the final fourth place, leaving Lance Stroll in the clutches of Carlos Sainz which will try to get back in the wake of its Mercedes rival.
It was a steamy final lap with Red Bull trying to work as a group, asking Max Verstappen to slow down in order to help his teammate in the fight with Charles Leclerc. Still, the Monegasque has no problem throwing his Ferrari SF-23 into turn 14 and taking the position of Sergio Perez for P2.
At the same corner, but already thanks to the use of DRS, George Russell manages to take the position on Esteban Ocon and thus finishes in fourth position, which becomes eighth once the 5-second penalty is added.
Red Bull thus fails to close the Grand Prix with a one-two, with the party ruined by Ferrari with Charles Leclerc showing enthusiasm for the fight and second position and regretting how the race went, convinced that he could play it with ‘use of a new tire at the end, which however he did not have available, and the various VSC and SC did not ‘help’ the Red.
Esteban Ocon and Lance Stroll thus celebrate Super Fourth and Fifth positions ahead of Carlos Sainz, who helps Ferrari gain valuable points over Mercedes. Closing out the Top 10 are Lewis Hamilton, George Russell, Fernando Alonso and Oscar Piastri, who brought 1 point to McLaren in a very unlucky race, especially for Lando Norris, who was taken to a medical centre near the circuit for further checks.
Author: Paolo D’Alessandro
Translation: Jaden Diaz-Ndisang