After months of anticipation, the Las Vegas Grand Prix finally came as the penultimate round of the 2023 Formula 1 season. While the event might have had a cold start and reception from the fans and even the current world champion, the Las Vegas Strip Circuit still created enough racing action under the nightly and bright Nevada skies.
1. What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas. Liberty Media’s quest to bring F1 to the North American crowd continues with the glitz and glamour of Sin City. However, fans and drivers alike hadn’t been warming up to the track and the event planning overall—even reigning world champion Max Verstappen (Red Bull) famously calling it a “99% show, 1% sporting event.”
The first free practice didn’t go as smoothly as it usually operated as Carlos Sainz (Ferrari) and Esteban Ocon (Alpine) encountered a loose drain cover, damaging the floor of their respective cars and grinding the first Free Practice session to a halt.
Due to the extent of the damage on Sainz’s SF23, the entire power unit had to be replaced, which went against the regulations, resulting in a 10-place grid-drop penalty. The team in red was denied exemptions.
2. Red Bull finished with a mic check in the championship. A first-lap kerfuffle saw Max overshooting the first corner and sending Charles Leclerc (Ferrari) off track limits. As a result, the champion received a five-second penalty and sent the stewards his regards.
Meanwhile, Sergio Perez (Red Bull) started at the back in P12, but even with a front wing change, he managed to climb up to P1 by Lap 32. However, there was no rest for the Dutch lion as he passed his Mexican teammate subsequently and maintained the lead till the end.
Thanks to his P3 finish, Checo is now classified under Max in the world drivers’ championship, solidifying a Red Bull 1-2 finish for the season.
3. Charles Leclerc almost hit the jackpot. The Monégasque was elated to start in front of the grid, and the first-lap incident helped him in charging to retake the lead. Halfway through, Checo kept popping into Charles’s peripheral view, creating a game of cat-and-mouse for the two throughout the rest of the laps.
In the most movie-like fashion, Charles took the lunge, overtook Checo at the end of the Las Vegas Strip, and defended his position until the end.
Despite the disappointment of finishing in P2, the Ferrari driver surprised and pumped everyone with his heroic move.
4. Lando Norris’s premature retirement was frosty. The freezing conditions didn’t favor the track surface and the tire grip, and on Lap 4, Lando Norris (McLaren) was the first to retire after losing control in one of the bumpy sections of the street circuit with cold tires. The accident caused him to spin, touch the concrete barrier, and slam the soft cushions at attack speeds.
His teammate fared much better as Oscar Piastri (McLaren) managed to reach up to P3, but ultimately finished in P10. The Aussie even achieved the fastest lap, awarding him two points in total.
5. A weekend to forget for George Russell and company. While the bulls and a prancing horse competed for the top, the others didn’t have smooth sailings. On the first lap, Fernando Alonso (Aston Martin) locked his brakes and spun around to see Valtteri Bottas (Alfa Romeo) in front.
George Russell (Mercedes-AMG) collided with Max while cornering on the outside, resulting in a spray of debris across Turn 14 and a five-second time penalty for causing a collision.
Yuki Tsunoda (AlphaTauri) and Nico Hulkenberg (Haas) both exited at the last hour of the race with gearbox and engine failures, respectively, but as both drivers passed the 90%-completion mark, their names were counted as finished.
Despite having the driver and constructor champions already crowned, stay tuned for the 2023 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix (November 26) for the deciding factor between Mercedes-AMG and Ferrari.