Verstappen overcomes penalty and damage to win Las Vegas Grand Prix

Formula 1

Posted on

| Written by

Max Verstappen recovered from an early time penalty and front wing damage to pass Charles Leclerc and win the first Las Vegas Grand Prix.

Over an eventful inaugural race around the Las Vegas Strip Circuit, Verstappen chased down the Ferrari driver and overtook him with 13 laps remaining to win. Leclerc beat Sergio Perez to second place after overtaking him on the final lap.

Prior to the start of the race, nearly the entire field lined up on the grid on medium tyres, with tenth-placed Lewis Hamilton the only driver in the top 16 starters to opt to start on hard tyres.

When the lights went out, pole winner Charles Leclerc found Max Verstappen alongside him on the run into turn one. The pair both ran wide into the first corner, with Verstappen taking the lead despite both cars running off track. Further back, Fernando Alonso appeared to spin by himself, while Carlos Sainz Jnr also spun after hitting Lewis Hamilton into the first corner.

The Virtual Safety Car was deployed as the stewards announced that the first corner was under investigation. When the race resumed at the start of lap three, Lando Norris suddenly lost control of his car in turn 11, crashing heavily into the barriers at the following corner. The full Safety Car was deployed, with Norris able to climb out of the car unassisted.

The race resumed at the start of lap seven, with Verstappen leading from Leclerc, George Russell in third and Pierre Gasly in fourth. Verstappen pulled out a lead of almost two seconds on the first green flag lap. However, the stewards announced that Verstappen would be handed a five second time penalty for forcing Leclerc off the track at the start.

Leclerc kept with the leader who began to struggle with his tyres. Eventually, Leclerc caught and overtook the Red Bull down the straight to take the lead down the Strip, with Verstappen immediately pitting for hard tyres and to serve his penalty. Behind, Hamilton clashed with Oscar Piastri into turn 14, with both drivers suffering punctures as a result.

Advert | Become a RaceFans supporter and go ad-free

Leclerc eventually pitted for hard tyres at the end of lap 21, emerging in third, comfortably ahead of Verstappen in seventh and behind Perez and Lance Stroll, who had both pitted under the early Virtual Safety Car for hards.

Verstappen made his way through the cars ahead until attempting to pass Russell into turn 12. The pair collided, causing debris to be jettisoned across the circuit. The Safety Car was deployed, with Perez pitting from the lead and allowing Leclerc back into the lead. Verstappen also pitted with minor front wing damage.

The Safety Car allowed Perez to leap up into second place and he followed Leclerc at the restart with Gasly sitting third and Piastri in fourth. Leclerc held the lead at the restart as Piastri muscled by Gasly to take third place. When DRS was activated, Perez was well within a second of the leader as, behind Verstappen used his rear wing flap to get by Gasly for fifth.

On lap 32, Perez had a slipstream down the Strip and passed the Ferrari into turn 14 to move up to the lead of the race for the first time. However, Leclerc stuck with the new leader and eventually reclaimed the lead with a dive down the inside into turn 14. A lap later, Verstappen moved ahead of his team mate and then managed to slipstream past Leclerc along the Strip to take back the lead of the race.

Verstappen managed to keep the Ferrari outside of the one second he would need for DRS, while Perez was able to stay within a second of Leclerc ahead. However, a lock-up into turn 12 on lap 43 by Leclerc allowed Perez through into second place.

Verstappen remained out in the lead until the final lap, when he was asked to back off and offer a tow to Perez behind, who was trying to hold off Leclerc. While Verstappen obliged, Leclerc picked up a slipstream down the Strip and dived to the inside into turn 14 for the final time, snatching second back from Perez.

At the chequered flag, Verstappen took victory with Leclerc securing second by a tenth of a second. Esteban Ocon took fourth place, 16 seconds behind the podium finishers, with Russell crossing the line in fifth but demoted to eighth after he was handed a five second penalty for the clash with Verstappen.

That promoted Stroll up to fifth ahead of Sainz in sixth and Hamilton in seventh, with Alonso and Piastri completing the top ten.

Advert | Become a RaceFans supporter and go ad-free

2023 Las Vegas Grand Prix

Browse all 2023 Las Vegas Grand Prix articles

Author information

Will Wood
Will has been a RaceFans contributor since 2012 during which time he has covered F1 test sessions, launch events and interviewed drivers. He mainly...

Got a potential story, tip or enquiry? Find out more about RaceFans and contact us here.

83 comments on “Verstappen overcomes penalty and damage to win Las Vegas Grand Prix”

  1. I think they need to work on the ending a bit. 5 minute car ride, a water show and another 5 minute car ride back. No trophy in sight yet. All a bit weird.

    1. I think they need to work on the ending a bit.

      I was thinking: The end of the track? Or the last few laps?

    2. I thought it was brilliant to hear the three debriefing in the limo. Much better audio than a normal cool-down room.

      1. +1. Happy if they’d do it every race. Would have been quite eventful in 2021 ;-)

  2. Ha ha, the trophy presentation, couldn’t think of the name. All gone a bit flat after they had a tour of the town.

  3. The race was a golden opportunity for Perez to win the race after 7 months,but despite the fact that he had fresh tyres,took the lead and broke the DRS of Leclerc at one time,he only managed to take P3….

    Curious to see what exactly happened to Norris,as from the replay it seemed like a suspension failure (similar to Magnussen in Mexico). Williams had high degradation and couldn’t keep their initial pace,solid race from Stroll as well

  4. Fascinating race. The fact that everyone survived the restarts with such cold tyres puts a bit of a hole in the argument against banning tyre warmers.

    1. There has never been a good argument against banning tyre warmers.

      1. I don’t agree, tire warmers improve safety and performance out of the gate. In a sport that prides itself as being the pinnacle of motorsport performance, I feel that being able to bring the cars at their top level immediately (while being fair and equal to all teams) is the way to go.

        I remember watching a DTM race a couple of years back and because they don’t use warmers, those who just pitted were real safety hazards for other cars, as they drove on “ice” for most of the first 2 laps after pitting. I mean, it was interesting to watch a car lose ~10 seconds over the course of a single lap, but there was a significant risk involved with them being so slow and still trying to defend positions.

        1. I don’t agree, tire warmers improve safety and performance out of the gate.

          Not really – they encourage drivers to push immediately at full pace.
          Cold tyres, on the other hand, require them to take a more cautious and patient approach for a lap or two – building themselves up to maximum pace over time.

          In a sport that prides itself as being the pinnacle of motorsport performance, I feel that being able to bring the cars at their top level immediately (while being fair and equal to all teams) is the way to go.

          Apart from the fact that I think there is no pinnacle of motorsport (and even if there was, F1 isn’t it) – I don’t think how close to maximum performance cars are on the first lap after a pit stop would have any bearing on that. Not in a technical sense, nor a sporting one.

          I mean, it was interesting to watch a car lose ~10 seconds over the course of a single lap, but there was a significant risk involved with them being so slow and still trying to defend positions.

          You think it came as a surprise to any of their competitors?
          They all know that cars that have just pitted will be slower, and they approach that fact accordingly. Almost every racing series in the world that features tyre changes works on this exact principle and dynamic, actually.

  5. They really should have a look at that 5 sec penalty for forcing another driver of track. As already mentioned before this year, the risk/reward means the penalty isn’t significant enough for the faster car to avoid the risk.

    1. Agreed.

      We have seen this on a number of occasions this year. Unless something is done, we will see more and more of drivers opting for the off track, 5 second penalty “option”.

      1. Michael Counsell
        19th November 2023, 10:32

        5 seconds was actually worse than giving the place back for Verstappen. Giving the place back would have only cost him 2 or 3 seconds . With the 5 second penalty he ended up behind Russell with whom he collided losing an wing endplate. He still won but the 5 second penalty didn’t help. Additionally his error was smaller and caused less inconvenience than Alonso who massively outbreaked himself spinning into the path of Bottas, Perez and others yet Alonso went unpunished.

      2. I dont think VER push him off. I think they both understeered off the track in sync on cold tires.

    2. The stewards are a lost cause. They’ve been selected by the FIA precisely because they’ll go along with the circus of “let them race”. People who in junior categories show some desire to enforce the FIA Code will never get picked for officiating duties in F1. This is deliberate.

      What F1 needs is a Montoya. Someone who won’t lie down and take Verstappen’s (and others’) antics. Push me off? Race done. Tough. The second Rosberg started biting back against Hamilton’s trademark “convenient bout of understeer” it put him on a path to be champion.

    3. I think that in general 5 seconds for pushing someone off is enough.
      Having said that, I believe that the consequences of a move should be taken into consideration when applying a penalty.
      If for example Leclerc had lost more positions or got damage because of Verstapppen’s move then a harsher penalty than the usual 5 seconds would be more appropriate.

    4. Well, to be fair, it did have quite a large effect in the race at the time, as Verstappen came out from his first stop quite a long way further behind Leclerc than he was before he pitted. But the tyre advantage he had, coupled with pitting again for another set under the safety car (with Leclerc opting to keep track position. Not dissimilar to Abu Dhabi 2021 in that regard, except for it was Pérez directly behind Leclerc, not Verstappen) meant that Verstappen was simply lapping significantly faster than Leclerc all the way until the end of the race.

      1. Another sure win lost to strategy for leclerc. Had the faster car today.

        1. Not fast enough

        2. To be fair there was another dead cert penalty that should have been applied to Vertappen that was not even investigated as far as I can tell… He brake tested Leclerc during the restart of the first safety car in order to get away. It was obvious and Leclerc also reported it on the radio but nothing seems to have happened about it!

        3. Leclerc’s tyres were only five or so laps old and he’d been nursing them from the start and given the struggles warming up fresh tyres, I thought they made the right call at the time. After the safety car, they weren’t beating Max regardless.

    5. I’ve made the argument before for a form of ‘restorative justice’ in incidents like this, where the penalty is 5 seconds plus whatever the gap between the cars is at the time the penalty is issued. So the 5 seconds is effectively the punishment for the offence, but you also make it impossible for a driver to effectively game the system as they know they won’t be able to keep any advantage they’ve pulled out. That would have amounted to a penalty of about 8 seconds for Max in this case, although in practice he’d probably have given the position back straight away as there would be no advantage to staying in front.

    6. To me there are two offences in cases like this, that are currently treated as one and which often seems to lead to injustices. The first was pushing another driver wide and/or gaining a position off-track, and the second was to not pay the appropriate price and give the place back. At the moment this is treated as a choice for the offending driver – they can simply decide which punishment they prefer. But I would like that treated as an offence in its own right.
      Personally I’d like to see cases of the first offence, where a driver gains a position unfairly, always result in the offender having to drop back behind the other driver by the end of the following lap. Of course that might sometimes be a really big penalty, if for instance the incident ended with the other driver retiring, or if they immediately pit. Tough: it at least means it is the offender who suffers.
      For the second offence, where a driver doesn’t pay the price of the first, a simple time penalty seems fine. The point is that it should not be seen as an easy option for the offender, but a punishment for not remedying the original offence.

      1. Now that is a good idea and would encourage drivers to give back the place as early as possible

    7. Probably so, BUT in this race the 5 sec penalty has cost Max more than having to give the place back during the first lap. If he did give the place back, he wouldve probably lost 1 – 2 sec, while with 5 sec at the pitstop (which usually is even more in real terms as they can not perfectly time the crew reaction) he fell behind slower cars like Russell.

  6. I think Hamilton threw away a possible podium with his careless attempt at passing Piastri. The Merc seemed to have the pace today, and with the SCs and what not, I think Lewis was in with a great chance of getting on the podium – I think he was already up to 8th or so when he went hard on Oscar and then dropped to pretty much dead last, before recovering late on.
    Wasted opportunity.

    1. It was Piastri again unnecessarily putting his car into the position, which caused the contact. He still has to learn, cause this also spoiled his race.

      1. I think you need to go to Specsavers

        1. I think you need to get an education, let me guess another ‘new’ f1 fan. That was on Piastri all day long, unless you got those special specs on – we all know which ones.

          1. What is this supposed to mean? Don’t imply it. If it’s something ugly, just say it and suffer the consequences (as small as they may be).

          2. @CP If by “‘new’ F1 fan” you are suggesting that I’m here due to Netflix, be assured that I’ve never watched a single episode of DtS. No idea why I would need to. I’ve been watching Formula 1 full time since I was 12 in 1989. Heck, I’ve been a paid subscriber of this site since it was F1Fanatic, back in 2014.

            First race I remember watching was the Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka that year when Prost and Senna collided. Followed memorably the floowing season when Senna didn’t even wait until Turn 1 before spearing Prost into the gravel, thereby ensuring that that year he won the championship, not Prost.

            MadMax seems to have an issue with two drivers: one is Piastri, the other is Verstappen. You have to take that into account when your read their posts, as the bias infects everything they write.

            Incidentally, before you presume country-bias on my part, full disclosure is that I’m British, just not a Hamilton fan. No particular reason, just don’t like his personality either during races or out of the car.

          3. @David for a long term F1 fan you got pretty bad perception of whos fault the incident was.

          4. Not bad, David from 1989, but I am watching regularly F1 since 1969, I missed the great Jim Clark but Jackie Stewart was my childhood hero.

            The fault for the contact is plain as day. Oscar Piastri left plenty of room.

            putting his car into the position,

            is totally ridiculous. If the other driver lost control and understeered into him, how is it Oscar Piastri’s fault? And that’s a benevolent assumption, that the driver in question just can’t drive. This driver has a signature move, conveniently understeering into rival drivers, often wrecking them while sustaining little or no damage. Well maybe this time it was just incompetence and not malevolence, but uncharacteristically got significant damage. Poetic justice.

          5. @black melanos: your brain seems to understeer, cause nobody else understeered.

      2. Agreed, for me that was more Piastri’s fault but racing incident overall.

      3. Good to see Piastri stand up for himself I reckon. Lewis had washed off plenty of speed and could easily have left more room but chose to do his normal intimidation, (which I have no issue with). So that’s twice with Oscar, I expect it to happen again too. At some point they’ll both learn to give each other room. Two alpha males trying to show each other who’s boss, proper combat, none of this rolling over and letting people past without a fight.
        Stewards obviously agreed too; the accident could have been avoided by both parties but both chose not to give in.

    2. Agreed – that was entirely down to Hamilton. Before I saw your comment I was just wondering to myself how many races the Mercedes pair have ruined for other drivers in the past few years. More than a few!

      1. Hamilton in particular seems to have lost a bit of wheel-to-wheel ability over the last year or two. Russell has always been scruffy in that area.

        1. Max simply pushes people off rather than employ any skill. While Alonso seems to be spinning everywhere,

          1. Who’s speaking about Max

          2. And who’s speaking about alonso? But just seeing the 2 letters I remember well the agenda of that account.

        2. Certainly. For such an incompetent driver, Sir used to have a consummate skill: conveniently understeering into a rival driver’s car, wrecking it while sustaining no damage. But lately Sir seems to have lost the touch.

          1. nothing but hate and stupidity from your side as always

    3. Hamilton was passed. Piastri left his foot in. It was pretty much the same as Max on Russell and Russell got the penalty.

      1. Regardless of whose fault it was – Lewis had so much more to lose than Oscar, and for me it would have been trivial for him to wait and pass Oscar easily on the looong straight. There was virtually nothing to gain passing Oscar where he did, while the risk was significant given their history together – some big-picture thinking was needed there from Hamilton, but was missing.
        With 2nd spot in the Manufacturers’ still in play, and with Hamilton’s experience, and given how young the race, I just didn’t see why he was so impatient.

  7. Suddenly also fans of the negative bully like the track? Bit opportunistic… lol

    1. This negative bully has a win percentage of 78.23% allready this season with one race to go. Diva never achieved this kind of numbers 😉

      1. The bully got a car 1s+ faster than the rest, no technical problems all year long and a teammate not allowed to compete with him. So he more got a lose percentage of 21.77% then. lol

        1. False in all three accounts, as usual

          1. you describe yourself pretty well

        2. It’s OK to not be a fan of Max and to recognise he is one of the best drivers to have ever driven a Formula One car. It’s also OK to not be a fan of Lewis and recognise he is one of the best drivers to have ever driven a Formula One car. Watching Max drive this season is as close as I’ll probably come to witnessing something as special as Jim Clark’s 1965 season.

          1. That’s a good comparison with clark, after all he was also really dominant but spent all career on lotus, which was often the best car.

        3. The +1sec seasons (2014-2020) seems to be easily forgotten by those Diva fans… So glad Mercedes has lost it’s strongest weapon…their engine. Luckely more equal in power now 😉 19th win for negative bully in Abu Dhabi 👌🏻

          1. never was the Merc as dominant as the RBR car is in the last 2 seasons.

          2. Check proves otherwise 😉 At least Bottas and Rosberg were much closer to Sir in de same car.

  8. Aaaaaaaaaand again a low DRS effect (because of the skinny rear wings) gives us a good race. The overtakes weren’t too easy (well, some were, but not the best part of them), and you could fight the lap after being overtaken.

    I think Liberty and the FIA should take notes on that. We need less downforce and less DRS effect. If you are ahead, you can defend and/or repass; if you are behind, you can follow and overtake; and if you are on the grandstands or watching the TV, you can see a good fight.

  9. Worth the watch, mega overtake by Leclerc at the end. I’m not sure if I’m on a different planet but so many of the strategies seemed really strange, even Red Bull just asking max to drop back to 2.5 on the very last lap, why not into DRS range for the last few…

    Russell not arguing the penalty with Max going on the inside like that was also a surprise, Max wasn’t even half way in front, Max’s front wheel literally hit the sidepod… Seen or not I don’t think Max should have been there unless I’ve missed something about overtaking having changed. Are you expected to just let the faster guy through now? I guess this late in the year with nothing really at stake there’s no point.

    Anyway really strange all up I thought. Q3 in qually were generally not near the top 10 in the end, I wonder if that was setup or conditions related… None of these things really discussed, just back-pats all round and getting ready for the nightclub. Viva viva.

    1. +1 on the Verstappen/Russell incident. Waiting to see what’s said.

      1. Nothing really, Russell just said it was his fault in the post-race so moving on…

        1. It was his fault because the other car was fully alongside and he turned in early much before the corner and caused a collision.

          1. It wasn’t fully alongside though… The front wheel hit the sidepod, since when has that been fully alongside? It’s only half the way up.

            I understand Russell’s accepted it for whatever reason but it doesn’t change the facts.

    2. Russel was punished because of the rule about being overtaken has changed. 2022: “In order for a car being overtaken to be required to give sufficient room to an overtaking car, the overtaking car needs to have a significant portion of the car alongside the car being overtaken and the overtaking manoeuvre must be done in a safe and controlled manner, while enabling the car to clearly remain within the limits of the track,” read the FIA’s guidelines.

      “When considering what is a ‘significant portion’ for an overtaking on the inside of a corner, among the various factors that will be looked at by the stewards when exercising their discretion, the stewards will consider if the overtaking car’s front tyres are alongside the other car by no later than the apex of the corner.”

    3. To the front wheel hitting sidepod (and the front half of sidepod that is) that’s as much alongside as you need to be entitled for racing room. Maybe shouldn’t have called it fully alongside. Verstappen as the overtaking driver had to do his move cleanly, which he did. George didn’t give him racing room by closing the door and hence a penalty.

      A similar incident happened between these two at Baku. The difference there was Verstappen was the car ahead, George the car trying to overtake. And Verstappen gave George racing room, and didn’t close the door. George just drove into the former and caused a collision. The key difference was racing room provided by the driver on the outside, and in Vegas the outside guy didn’t give enough room.

  10. Crazy race quite enjoyed it. Juan wonders whether Hamilton is going the way of Rossi….missed the time to retire with dignity. Seems he is slipping away to obscurity. struggling to beat his team mate (although he has struggled with this in the past too) wouldn’t be surprised if he hangs up his helmet at the end of next year

    1. Are we seeing different championship points? 232 vs 160…

      1. +1 the stupidity of the detractors sometimes is astonishing

        1. The irony is lost in this one. Maybe you’re just not bright.

          1. you lost your iron?

    2. Pretty good season for Hamilton–took P3 in the standings in a car that wasn’t clearly second best. At one point even challenged for P2 in the standings. There is no second best car this year—Ferrari, McLaren, Merc are all more or less evenly matched overall. It changes from track to track. Even AM was second best for a for a good portion of the year.

    3. Are you thick or something? He has 72 points on his teammate.

    4. Also which team mate has he struggled to beat?
      Alonso when he was a rookie? Nope
      Rosberg – 5 to 1….doesn’t look like it
      Button – quite even in a very unfortunate few seasons for Lewis, but he destroyed him in quali.
      Bottas – lol

      I really wish people who have just started watching F1 would stop spouting such rubbish for obvious reasons.

  11. Can somebody explain to me why Perez didn’t even defend on the last lap?

    1. It was a dive bomb from a long way back and Perez ran a compromised wing for defending on a straight so yes it was more that Ldclerc did something great.

      1. He had been told to back Leclerc into max as far as I can tell. There was a message from max to ask them to work together to get Leclerc

    2. Why should he take the risk? Hamilton was his only problem not LeClerc

  12. Passing off track?
    FIA stewards need to give themselves a penalty.
    I’m over F1.
    Formula One has become World Wrestling.
    Max was right.
    It’s all about everything except the actual sport.

  13. I think las Vegas presented another example of fia’s inability to dkrect races in a reasonable manner. 2021 which ended in fireworks with no different in what we see now in many races. The main difference is we have no two contenders neck to neck that will complicate things radically.
    Those who will easily say that controversies existed in the past and bad decisions were made back then too, I’ll say it’s different because nowadays like it or not social media will amplify a thousand times every small little detail and every wrong decision that has been made. So there is a greater reason to find a solution instead of recalling what happened between Senna and Prost to make ends meet.
    Another very bad weekend for the directors who just can’t make up their minds whether we let them race or we’re raised by the book or we decide with fairness and common sense. I won’t start giving examples of this race or this weekend because everyonw Woodstock morning according to who they favour. But it was a disappointing weekend.
    New spectators are thrilled by the chaos while the old ones are massively disappointed and puzzled.

  14. That was a Draconian penalty for Max’s masterful overtake on turn 1 at the start of the race. As the head of the FIA, Christian Horner, correctly instructed the driver to not give the position back. Once the stewards were all dealt with for their insubordination, Max was given a small reprimand to make sure the stewards don’t have to wear red noses and big shoes to identify as clowns in attire as well as in their decisions.

    1. I posted under the other article that Horner and Red Bull were calling for HAM to be suspended for the same move at Silverstone a few years ago. In that move HAM managed to stay on the track whereas today VER was completely off the track. The other difference is that LEC went wide and avoided the collision whereas at Silverstone, VER tried to stay on track. The 5 sec penalty today was warranted as was the 10 sec penalty at Silverstone.

  15. Aston Martin 11 points behind Mercedes going into the final race. It is possible to get 4th in the championship back! Fingers crossed. And arms. And legs. And eyes.

    1. I think they had a chance to equalize or even get ahead this race. If only Alonso could make two good races in a row, that would be enough.

      What Alonso should’ve done:

      1) Qualify 4th.
      2) Lead from the start.
      3) Lead the race, keep his possibilities high to finish on podium.
      4) Finish on podium. Or 4th at worst.
      This would get Aston equal on points with McLaren with chances for next race.

      What Alonso did:

      1) Made an error in Q3 costing him several places at the start.
      2) Made a ridiculous attempt to overtake multiple cars into the first corner. On the dirty inside line. With no grip. On cold tyres.
      3) Had a very bad race pace. At one point, Stroll gained about 10 seconds to Alonso. When Alonso was less than a second behind at the beginning of their stints.

      It feels that Alonso has had only two good weekends after the summer break. Starting at least from Singapore, Alonso was making mistakes almost every week end.

      Alonso hasn’t lost his fighting spirit or relentlessness. He isn’t as fast as he was five or six years ago, that’s for sure. He also lost his ability to drive impeccably for a race after race, which is more important than speed (Alonso is still faster than half of the field).

      Now, he spins or crashes or whatever nearly every weekend. For any other driver, it’s OK to have several bad races in a row. Not for Alonso.

      Aston Martin have no chance against McLaren with Alonso driving like this. Although, they must be happy with Stroll picking up some pace.

      The only chance they might have is if both McLarens fail to finish, and at least one Aston finishes in top 4. In Abu-Dhabi, I don’t think that’s possible.

      1. Yes, i’ve noticed the spinning habit that Alonso is acquiring.

    2. Fun end to the WCC at least. The only two teams that are sure of their position with 1 race to go are Red Bull and Alpine, everyone else can still either gain or drop places.

      Will be fun to wath in AD.

Comments are closed.