Red Bull Racing ticked another box in a season full of milestones at the inaugural Las Vegas Grand Prix, with Max Verstappen’s sixth win in succession seeing the team set a record with its 20th win in a single campaign.
While Verstappen’s 18th win of the season was in keeping with the 2023 narrative, the Saturday night race in Sin City was no stroll down The Strip for the Dutchman. Verstappen had to overcome a five-second penalty for pushing pole-sitter Charles Leclerc (Ferrari) off the track and gaining an advantage at the start, and later suffered damage in a clash with George Russell (Mercedes) before taking the lead for good with 13 of the 50 laps remaining.
The win was his 53rd, seeing him draw level with another Red Bull Racing multiple champion – Sebastian Vettel – for third in the all-time record books.
Second went the way of Leclerc after a superb fightback against Verstappen’s teammate Sergio Perez, who had come from the back after damage on lap one to lead as deep into the race as lap 34. Perez held onto second from lap 43 until the final corners, when a brave Leclerc overtake stole the spot by 0.171secs at the chequered flag.
Despite losing out on securing Red Bull’s eighth 1-2 finish of the year, the result ensured Perez will finish second in the drivers’ standings after nearest rival Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) finished seventh. Despite Red Bull winning the drivers’ title seven times, 2023 is the first year its drivers have locked out positions 1-2 in the standings at the end of a season.
The race – which featured two safety cars and a virtual safety car – was chaotic and compelling, which was a welcome relief after a stuttering start on Friday when a loose drain cover damaged Carlos Sainz’s Ferrari and Esteban Ocon’s Alpine, causing the cancellation of much of opening practice and delaying a revised 90-minute second practice until 2.30 am local time while track repairs were hastily carried out.
Oscar Piastri was in electrifying form for McLaren on race day in Las Vegas, the Australian recovering from a disastrous qualifying to finish 10th on Saturday night, setting the fastest lap for the second time in his rookie season to earn a further world championship point.
Points looked like a pipedream for Piastri after he qualified just 19th, McLaren left to rue a decision to use just one set of tyres in Q1 for the Australian and teammate Lando Norris, with both cars failing to make it out of the first qualifying session on Friday night.
Piastri made the best of a bad spot by expertly picking his way through a first-corner mess sparked by Fernando Alonso’s spinning Aston Martin soon after the start to be 13th after lap one, but copped a puncture after a lap 16 clash with Hamilton that saw both drivers come into the pits for new rubber.
The earlier-than-planned stop left Piastri committed to a two-stop strategy. While he ran as high as fourth for 12 laps, he fell to 11th when he made his final mandatory stop with eight laps left, passing Pierre Gasly (Alpine) to sneak back into the points and setting the fastest lap of the race with four laps remaining.
Daniel Ricciardo’s weekend was far more muted for Scuderia AlphaTauri; the team was never able to switch on its tyres to provide adequate grip for Ricciardo and teammate Yuki Tsunoda as the Australian slithered to a 14th-place result, ending AlphaTauri’s recent points-scoring streak at three races.
Ricciardo qualified 15th and gained a spot on the grid when Lance Stroll (Aston Martin) was penalised five grid positions for overtaking under yellow flags in qualifying, but never ran higher than 12th in a difficult weekend for the team, Tsunoda qualifying last and failing to finish the race.
Esteban Ocon and Lance Stroll did the most with the least in Vegas, the Alpine and Aston Martin drivers rolling the dice to come up with top-five finishes from bottom-five starting spots in Vegas to dramatically turn their weekends around.
Ocon qualified just 17th after a run-in with Verstappen in Q1, while Stroll snuck into Q2 but was demoted to second-last on the grid after his yellow flag infraction. Ocon used a one-stop strategy to finish fifth on the road and Stroll made two stops – the first of them under the safety car on lap three after Lando Norris (McLaren) crashed out – to finish sixth, and both gained a place after the chequered flag once Russell’s five-second penalty for colliding with Verstappen was applied.
Stroll’s 10 points – along with another two for Alonso (ninth) – keeps Aston Martin in the hunt for fourth in the constructors’ standings, McLaren leading their battle by 11 points after their worst weekend in the past seven events.
Number to know
20: Oracle Red Bull Racing’s 20th victory this year broke Mercedes’ record set in 2016 for the most wins by one team in a single F1® season.
Second place with a lot of fights, I honestly enjoyed it. I gave it all. There was no better race for a first race in Vegas, the energy around the city was incredible.
Las Vegas Grand Prix: top 10
- Max Verstappen (Red Bull Racing) 1hr 29mins 08.289secs
- Charles Leclerc (Ferrari) +2.070secs
- Sergio Perez (Red Bull Racing) +2.241secs
- Esteban Ocon (Alpine) +18.665secs
- Lance Stroll (Aston Martin) +20.067secs
- Carlos Sainz (Ferrari) +20.834secs
- Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) +21.755secs
- George Russell (Mercedes) +23.091secs
- Fernando Alonso (Aston Martin) +25.964secs
- Oscar Piastri (McLaren) +29.496secs
Standings (top 5)
- Max Verstappen (Red Bull Racing) 549 points
- Sergio Perez (Red Bull Racing) 273 points
- Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) 232 points
- Carlos Sainz (Ferrari) 200 points
- Fernando Alonso (Aston Martin) 200 points
- Red Bull Racing (822 points)
- Mercedes (392 points)
- Ferrari (388 points)
- McLaren (284 points)
- Aston Martin (273 points)
Round 22: Abu Dhabi, Yas Marina Circuit (November 24-26)