How Verstappen’s collision with Russell helped him win the Las Vegas GP

2023 Las Vegas GP interactive data

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Occasions when Red Bull have faced a rival with the pace to challenge them over a grand prix distance have been vanishingly rare this year.

It happened on the streets of Singapore, where Ferrari won, and the same situation almost unfolded in Las Vegas. Charles Leclerc was quick enough to push the Red Bulls hard.

But just when it was starting to look like Max Verstappen had a real fight on his hands came the development which put him back on course to win: He collided with George Russell.

Verstappen had taken the lead at the start somewhat controversially, running wide at turn one and taking Leclerc with him. The stewards handed him a five-second time penalty to serve at his first pit stop, but surprisingly Leclerc reeled him in and passed the Red Bull before then.

“On the medium tyre we were not as competitive as the Ferrari,” said Red Bull team principal Christian Horner. “We were a bit harder on the tyre. But on the hard tyre the cars came alive a lot more.”

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Verstappen was more competitive on the hard tyre. But his penalty dropped him further back into the pack than he might normally have been, so Ferrari had the luxury of being able to leave Leclerc out longer than usual before bringing him in.

By the time he changed tyres Leclerc had gone further on his original set of mediums than anyone and was able to leave the pits on hard rubber that was five laps fresher than Verstappen’s. On the lap before half distance Leclerc was three seconds up the road from his key rival.

But when Verstappen lunged down the inside of Russell at turn 12 the next time around the Mercedes driver turned in and made contact. This looked like another blow to Verstappen’s victory chances, as he now had a damaged front wing. But race control deployed the Safety Car in order to clear the debris, which was good news for those like Red Bull who had pitted on the early side.

They brought both their drivers in for another set of hard tyres. Ferrari could have done the same with Leclerc, who had another set available, but chose not to. As a result he restarted the race with older rubber than the Red Bull drivers, which tipped the balance against him.

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Red Bull may have been better on the hard rubber than they were on medium, but Ferrari team principal Frederic Vasseur believes their tyre life advantage also flattered them in the second half of the race.

“I think Vertappen had more deg and he destroyed the [medium] tyre before us. But he was leading before this. It meant that we had almost the same pace all the stint but probably that we were better on the tyre management on the first stint with the medium.

“I’m not sure that on the hard it was not exactly the same case because on the hard he pitted and he had the tyres with five or six laps less than on us. And at the end I get the feeling that we were coming back on Perez and the pace was there. I think the tyre management was okay.”

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Over the final stint Leclerc lost places to both Red Bull drivers. But as their tyres began to fade, he caught and passed Perez on the final lap. Leclerc finished two seconds behind Verstappen which, notwithstanding Verstappen saying he backed off slightly to help Perez, must have left the Ferrari driver wondering where he’d finished if he hadn’t lost his lap time and tyre age advantages when the Safety Car came out.

Horner said it was difficult to judge whether the Safety Car played into Red Bull’s hands. “It’s always difficult to say how the tyres would have been at the end of a longer stint.

“I think we made the right call under the Safety Car despite conceding positions with Max and obviously Checo just losing one place to Charles, but then quickly was back in the lead again. But it played a part. Whether it is a decisive part it’s difficult to predict.”

However Pirelli’s head of motorsport Mario Isola believes the second Safety Car period did play in Verstappen’s favour. “If you compare, Leclerc changed tyre at lap 21 and his tyres were five laps older than Max’s and we saw a difference.

“Without changing the tyre, Verstappen was changing at the lap 16, so five laps before Charles. I can imagine that being the difference the same he would have suffered a little bit more with tyre degradation again.

“The point is that if you don’t change your tyres behind the Safety Car at the restart if the tyres are worn, at the restart you struggle a lot more because you struggle to put the energy into the tyre or simply generate heat because you have less rubber.”

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2023 Las Vegas Grand Prix lap chart

The positions of each driver on every lap. Click name to highlight, right-click to reset. Toggle drivers using controls below:

2023 Las Vegas Grand Prix race chart

The gaps between each driver on every lap compared to the leader’s average lap time. Very large gaps omitted. Scroll to zoom, drag to pan and right-click to reset. Toggle drivers using controls below:

2023 Las Vegas Grand Prix lap times

All the lap times by the drivers (in seconds, very slow laps excluded). Scroll to zoom, drag to pan and toggle drivers using the control below:

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2023 Las Vegas Grand Prix fastest laps

Each driver’s fastest lap:

Rank#DriverCarLap timeGapAvg. speed (kph)Lap no.
181Oscar PiastriMcLaren-Mercedes1’35.490229.9747
21Max VerstappenRed Bull-Honda RBPT1’35.6140.124229.6744
316Charles LeclercFerrari1’35.6690.179229.5450
444Lewis HamiltonMercedes1’35.7160.226229.4348
511Sergio PerezRed Bull-Honda RBPT1’35.9390.449228.940
655Carlos Sainz JnrFerrari1’35.9840.494228.7947
763George RussellMercedes1’36.0710.581228.5844
814Fernando AlonsoAston Martin-Mercedes1’36.5591.069227.4342
918Lance StrollAston Martin-Mercedes1’36.5841.094227.3745
1031Esteban OconAlpine-Renault1’36.6371.147227.2447
1110Pierre GaslyAlpine-Renault1’36.9131.423226.5937
123Daniel RicciardoAlphaTauri-Honda RBPT1’37.1081.618226.1450
1323Alexander AlbonWilliams-Mercedes1’37.3571.867225.5650
1424Zhou GuanyuAlfa Romeo-Ferrari1’37.3751.885225.5232
1520Kevin MagnussenHaas-Ferrari1’37.4551.965225.3350
1677Valtteri BottasAlfa Romeo-Ferrari1’37.5622.072225.0949
1727Nico HulkenbergHaas-Ferrari1’37.5652.075225.0843
1822Yuki TsunodaAlphaTauri-Honda RBPT1’37.5872.097225.0345
192Logan SargeantWilliams-Mercedes1’37.7402.250224.6832
204Lando NorrisMcLaren-Mercedes1’59.32723.837184.032

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2023 Las Vegas Grand Prix tyre strategies

The tyre strategies for each driver:

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2023 Las Vegas Grand Prix pit stop times

How long each driver’s pit stops took:

Rank#DriverTeamComplete stop time (s)Gap to best (s)Stop no.Lap no.
181Oscar PiastriMcLaren20.535243
222Yuki TsunodaAlphaTauri20.6190.084110
322Yuki TsunodaAlphaTauri20.8940.359221
423Alexander AlbonWilliams21.2420.707116
563George RussellMercedes21.2570.722115
655Carlos Sainz JnrFerrari21.2610.72613
71Max VerstappenRed Bull21.3230.788226
82Logan SargeantWilliams21.3670.832115
911Sergio PerezRed Bull21.5681.033226
1077Valtteri BottasAlfa Romeo21.5751.04224
1120Kevin MagnussenHaas21.6111.076114
1231Esteban OconAlpine21.7631.228120
1320Kevin MagnussenHaas21.8681.333226
1463George RussellMercedes21.9521.417226
1527Nico HulkenbergHaas22.1541.619112
1624Zhou GuanyuAlfa Romeo22.1551.62126
1718Lance StrollAston Martin22.2221.68713
183Daniel RicciardoAlphaTauri22.2421.707117
1910Pierre GaslyAlpine22.2621.727117
2044Lewis HamiltonMercedes22.5081.973226
2116Charles LeclercFerrari22.5592.024121
2218Lance StrollAston Martin22.572.035226
2355Carlos Sainz JnrFerrari22.632.095226
2414Fernando AlonsoAston Martin23.2142.679226
2581Oscar PiastriMcLaren23.2692.734116
2644Lewis HamiltonMercedes25.0474.512117
2727Nico HulkenbergHaas25.4534.918226
281Max VerstappenRed Bull26.6866.151116
2914Fernando AlonsoAston Martin29.3048.76911
3011Sergio PerezRed Bull33.59913.06411
3177Valtteri BottasAlfa Romeo43.91423.37911

2023 Las Vegas Grand Prix

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Author information

Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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22 comments on “How Verstappen’s collision with Russell helped him win the Las Vegas GP”

  1. That was a divebomb – he should have lost the race there but there are no stewards (or at least impartial ones)…

    1. Russel himself admitted it was fully his fault.

      1. How does that matter and why would Russell do that?

        Max is overtaking and he needed to make a clean pass – it’s obvious that he didn’t. You don’t push the other car off track to make an overtake in a corner where there’s only room for 1 car.

        I found all of Russell’s comments extremely strange.

      2. What does George Russell know, when we have the world’s topmost Maxfaultology expert here?

        Somehow Max is also guilty of Carlos’ practice accident with the valve cover. But those clown-stewards failed to see it.

        And of course the 1955 Le Mans disaster was also Max’s fault. And the Chernobyl incident, the Middle East crisis beginning with the 1948 Naqba, and the Great Cambric extinction. But only our prescient Maxfaultologist can see it, oh so blindingly clear.

      3. How much of that was because he didn’t want to argue with the stewards about something he couldn’t change?

        1. Mercedes are, of course, well known for quietly accepting decisions from race control that go against them.

    2. Are you talking about the start? That was naughty, but not dangerous, so the 5 seconds is correct. I think Max should’ve returned the position though, because he forced Charles off. (Max kept it marginally on track with one front tire.
      But I guess your comment is on the George-Max incident. Sure it was a divebomb, but well executed, and to be expected, so George is at fault… I would’ve gone for “race-incident” with no-one penalties for George though.

    3. The hype is making you cope every weekend. It’s excellent to watch.

    4. Honest question, what’s your opinion on Silverstone 2021?

      1. @J3d89
        Don’t go there. I mean it. Weeks ago I made the mistake of trying to enter in a discussion with him. It ended with him saying Verstappen should have d1ed in that incident for what he did, not once but twice in one post. To me that is beyond everything. In my book that is hate speech and should result in a permanent ban. It didn’t, only some sentences from his post were modded away. He honestly believes Verstappen steered into Hamilton and he did it on purpose as well. It’s better to ignore certain people around here

    5. @freelittlebirds that was not a dive bomb. Watch Max’s onboard: he was alongside for about 4 seconds. Russell had ample time to realize Max was there, didn’t look, turned in as if Max wasn’t there. Max targeted and held the apex just fine, which is his responsibility to make a clean pass.

      You can’t just state the onus is on the passing driver to make a clean pass and imply any and all damage happening is the fault of the passing driver. The latter one can be at fault just as well – which was the case here.

    6. @freelittlebirds
      It going to be even harder to take you seriously after that statement.
      You are at the point of trying to defend a Mercedes driver even after they have admitted fault on a few occasions now.

    7. Yes, and when Schumacher turned in on Villeneuve in Jerez 1997 it was also Villeneuves fault ;)

  2. Ferrari clearly learned nothing from Silverstone last year – at a track where passing is straightforward it makes sense to give up track position to ensure being on the right tyre. We’ve seen it plenty of times over the years. As soon as he didn’t pit and everyone else did, it was pretty clear the win had gone. I don’t even think you can call it bad luck – it’s a street circuit and this is F1 in 2023, there are almost guaranteed safety cars at the drop of a hat – so the team must have strategised this.

    1. But what could they have done? They had just switched to new hard tires that were just 5 laps old when the safety car came out. They were perfectly fine until the end of the race as Leclerc was able to repass perez (twice) and set his fastest lap at the very end. It wouldn’t have changed anything if they’d gone for a new set except that they would have lost track position. It was only Verstappen’s pace on hards that made all the difference.

      1. Yeah, I disagree too, they were just unlucky having pitted for hards only a few laps before. Giving up position for a very minor difference in tyre age which would surely have made no differene in the end was not such a great option.

      2. Charles told his tyres were spend (his rears) as you saw onboard he had problems putting the power through his rears. Also it was very hard to keep his hards on temperature while the new hards had not that problem so much. Sainz pitted also for new hards but we will never know what would happen if Charles pitted for new hards but he would have the tyre to respond beter on attacks.

      3. @roadrunner

        But what could they have done? They had just switched to new hard tires that were just 5 laps old when the safety car came out. They were perfectly fine until the end of the race as Leclerc was able to repass perez (twice) and set his fastest lap at the very end. It wouldn’t have changed anything if they’d gone for a new set except that they would have lost track position.

        Charles on fresh tyres would have been P2 behind Checo at the restart. He would have made quick work of Checo and probably made a bit of a gap. Sure Max would have probably still caught up, and I’m not saying Max wouldn’t have won, but at least Charles would have had more of a fighting chance.

        The fact that his tyres went to the end and he set his fastest lap at the end doesn’t really negate this point: with 5 laps newer tyres, this fastest lap would have been faster :)

        Either way, the choice for track position over tyres is only really valid on a track where you can’t overtake. That was not the case here.

  3. Yup, 100% got lucky with the 2nd SC. The Ferrari was surprisingly good on its tyres and there was no way Max on 5-lap older tyres would have caught and passed the Leclerc. And in fact there was a chance he might have had to pit again given that quite a few drivers that went long on the hards were struggling at the end!
    So yes, he was extremely lucky or given that he played a part in the deployment of the SC, one could say he made his own luck!!!

  4. I’m still not convinced the safety car was needed to clear that debris, should have been a VSC.

    1. I had a similar thought. Previously we were able to ask the race director about decisions like that (and did) but the FIA stopped arranging post-race media sessions with them in late 2021.

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