It was far from straightforward, but Max Verstappen got his 18th win in 21 races in 2023 at the Las Vegas Grand Prix.
Verstappen took the lead for good on lap 37 out of 50 when he passed pole-sitter Charles Leclerc. Verstappen then kept a gap to Leclerc and Sergio Perez over the final 13 laps as neither driver could get close enough to mount a serious challenge. Leclerc ended up finishing second thanks to a last-lap pass of Verstappen's Red Bull teammate.
The already crowned 2023 champion got the lead entering the first corner by pushing Leclerc wide and off the track. Race stewards assessed Verstappen a five-second penalty for the move and he ended up losing track position when he served the penalty ahead of his first pit stop.
But Verstappen had a fast enough car to make it back up even after contact with George Russell. Verstappen suffered a damaged front wing when he collided with Russell on a pass attempt as the Mercedes driver turned down into him.
A subsequent safety car for the debris from the contact between the two drivers allowed Red Bull to check Verstappen’s front wing and put a new set of tires on his car; he rejoined the race in fifth.
Verstappen then moved his way past Pierre Gasly and Oscar Piastri before passing Perez on the way to chasing down Leclerc.
The win only extends Verstappen’s grip on the most dominant F1 season of all time. Verstappen has won the most races in a single season in series history and has also set the all-time mark for best winning percentage in a single season.
Lando Norris crashes out
McLaren’s Lando Norris lost control of his car on lap four in a hard crash. Norris was the first car out of the race and McLaren said that he had been taken to a local hospital for precautionary reasons. Norris radioed to his team after the crash that he was OK and climbed from the car under his own power.
Early Sunday morning, Norris posted to Instagram that he was doing well.
— Formula 1 (@F1) November 19, 2023
Norris’ crash came after a virtual safety car for debris in Turn 1 right after the start. Fernando Alonso spun after trying an inside move on the slick track and had contact with Valtteri Bottas after he got turned around. Right behind Alonso, Carlos Sainz made contact with Lewis Hamilton and spun around.
Sainz had started 12th after qualifying second because of a 10-place grid penalty for a new battery. Ferrari had to replace the battery on Sainz’s car after it sucked up a drain cover off the track during the first practice session.
Lewis Hamilton’s tire puncture
Lewis Hamilton dropped to 14th on the first lap after contact from Sainz but worked his way up to sixth in the early part of the race after starting on the hard tires. But Hamilton lost all that track position when he got a tire puncture after contact with McLaren's Oscar Piastri.
Hamilton fell to 17th after the puncture but worked his way back into the top 10 before the checkered flag. He finished ahead of Russell because of a penalty assessed to Russell for the collision with Verstappen. However, Perez's finish guaranteed that Hamilton can't catch Perez for second place in the drivers' standings as Red Bull's drivers will finish 1-2 for the first time ever.
Las Vegas Grand Prix results
1. Max Verstappen, Red Bull
2. Charles Leclerc, Ferrari
3. Sergio Perez, Red Bull
4. Esteban Ocon, Alpine
5. Lance Stroll, Aston Martin
6. Carlos Sainz, Ferrari
7. Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes
8. George Russell, Mercedes
9. Fernando Alonso, Aston Martin
10. Oscar Piastri, McLaren
11. Pierre Gasly, Alpine
12. Alex Albon, Williams
13. Kevin Magnussen, Haas
14. Daniel Ricciardo, AlphaTauri
15. Zhou Guanyu, Alfa Romeo
16. Logan Sergeant, Williams
17. Valtteri Bottas, Alfa Romeo
Not classified: Lando Norris, Nico Hulkenberg, Yuki Tsunoda