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HomeClassic Car InvestVerstappen takes Las Vegas win as safety car compromises Leclerc's chances

Verstappen takes Las Vegas win as safety car compromises Leclerc’s chances

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Three-time world champion Max Verstappen secured his 18th victory of 2023 in Las Vegas, beating Ferrari driver Charles Leclerc, whose chances were massively compromised by a safety car period. F1Technical’s senior writer Balázs Szabó reports on the Nevada F1 race.

Max Verstappen had a slightly better launch at the start than pole-sitter Charles Leclerc, which enabled him to attack at the first corner. However, the Dutchman braked very late into Turn 1 and forced Leclerc off the track.

Verstappen emerged as leader as the pair came out of Turn 1, but the incident left Leclerc to fend off his second place from George Russell. The stewards investigated the incident and imposed a five-second time penalty to Verstappen for forcing Leclerc off the track.

There was a brief virtual safety car period after the start as some debris needed to be cleared up at Turn 1. Carlos Sainz, Sergio Perez, Lewis Hamilton, Valtteri Bottas and Fernando ALonso were all involved.

At Lap 4, Lando Norris lost control of his McLaren and crashed from P13 down at Turn 12. He crashed into the barriers at the end of the run off area, and the safety car was deployed.

The safety car came back into the pit at the end of Lap 6 with Verstappen trying to pull away from Leclerc. The Dutchman built up a gap of 2 seconds by Lap 10, but the Monégasque managed to close in on his rival and retook the lead with a sensational move on Lap 16.

On the same lap, Verstappen decided to pit for new hard tyres as his medium started to heavily degrade. With his penalty, the tyre change took 7.7 seconds, which meant that he rejoined the track behind George Russell, who his tyre change two laps earlier.

Ferrari called Leclerc into the pits on Lap 21 with the tyre change taking 3.9s. The Monégasque rejoined the track in front of his team-mate Carlos Sainz.

Following Leclerc’s pit stop, Perez found himself at the front of the field with his early pit stop, followed by Lance Stroll, Leclerc, Sainz, Russell, Alonso, Verstappen, Zhou Guanyu, Pierre Gasly with Oscar Piastri bringing up the rear of the top ten.

Russell and Verstappen managed to pass Zhou and Alonso before also picking off Sainz on Lap 25. The next lap saw the Dutchman and the Briton make contact as they duelled for position. While the damage was not huge for Verstappen and Russell, the safety car was called to enable the marshals to clear the track.

It was a perfect timing for Perez to pit for fresh hards. While Leclerc stayed out, Verstappen, Stroll, Russell, Sainz, Alonso, and Zhou all came in for new tyres.

During the safety car period, the stewards confirmed that Russell was given a five-second penalty for causing a collision. Verstappen was also investigated for an unsafe release as he rejoined the fast lane directly ahead of Sainz, but the stewards decided against imposing a penalty.

On Lap 32, Verstappen picked off Pierre Gasly, using DRS. In the meantime, Perez closed in on race leader Leclerc and passed the Monégasque down the Strip into Turn 14. The next lap saw Verstappen pick off Piastri which meant that Leclerc was sandwiched in the two Red Bull drivers.

Verstappen quickly closed in on Leclerc, but the Monegasque did not look back, rather forward, and retook the lead from Perez with a brilliant move into Turn 14.

It only took two laps for Verstappen to pass his team-mate, and he took the lead on the next lap as he passed Leclerc into Turn 14.
On Lap 43, Leclerc ran wide at Turn 14 which enabled Perez to take over P2.

In the meantime, Russell overtook Albon, who struggled on pretty old hard tyres. Sainz and Alonso made use of the moment as they also picked off the Thai driver. The Mercedes driver was hurried up by Team Principal Toto Wolff, and managed to overtake Gasly and Stroll to take P5.

Yuki Tsunoda and Nico Hulkenberg both retired from the race in the dying stages of the Las Vegas Grand Prix, but they could both park down their cars in a place that did not trigger any action but only a yellow flag period.

With 4 laps to go, Leclerc closed the gap to Perez as he was eager to regain the position that he lost at Turn 14. The Monégasque managed to get within the crucial one-second gap to Perez, albeit he looked unable to make the pass on his much older hard tyres. However, taking huge risks, Ferrari’s ace finally picked off Perez on the final tour with a brilliant, ambitious and risky overtaking manoeuvre.

Verstappen crossed the line to secure his 18th victory of 2023 with Leclerc and Perez completing the rostrum in the inaugural Las Vegas Grand Prix.

Starting from the back of the field, Esteban Ocon took fourth for Alpine with Lance Stroll securing P5 for Aston Martin. Having started from P12 due to a penalty, Sainz grabbed sixth place for Ferrari, followed by Hamilton and Russell, who lost four places due to his five-second penalty. Fernando Alonso could manage a P9 with Oscar Piastri picking up the last championship point on the spectacular Las Vegas Strip Circuit.

Commenting on his third US victory in 2023, Verstappen said: “It was a tough one. I tried to go for it [with Leclerc] at the start. I think we both braked quite late, then I just ran out of grip and we ended up a bit wide, so the stewards gave me a penalty for that. Of course, that put us a little bit on the backfoot, I had to pass quite a few cars, then the Safety Car again. At the point already there was a lot going on in the race.

“Once we had the message to the end we could go flat-out. You could clearly see with the DRS around here it was very powerful, so even when you would take the lead, if the guy behind would stay in the DRS, he would still have an opportunity to come back at you. I think it created quite a lot of good racing here today, so it was definitely a lot of fun.”

Results

Pos. No. Driver Car Laps Time Pts
1 1 Max Verstappen Red Bull Racing Honda Rbpt 50 1:29:08.289 25
2 16 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 50 +2.070s 18
3 11 Sergio Perez Red Bull Racing Honda Rbpt 50 +2.241s 15
4 31 Esteban Ocon Alpine Renault 50 +18.665s 12
5 18 Lance Stroll Aston Martin Aramco Mercedes 50 +20.067s 10
6 55 Carlos Sainz Ferrari 50 +20.834s 8
7 44 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 50 +21.755s 6
8 63 George Russell Mercedes 50 +23.091s 4
9 14 Fernando Alonso Aston Martin Aramco Mercedes 50 +25.964s 2
10 81 Oscar Piastri Mclaren Mercedes 50 +29.496s 2
11 10 Pierre Gasly Alpine Renault 50 +34.270s 0
12 23 Alexander Albon Williams Mercedes 50 +43.398s 0
13 20 Kevin Magnussen Haas Ferrari 50 +44.825s 0
14 3 Daniel Ricciardo Alphatauri Honda Rbpt 50 +48.525s 0
15 24 Zhou Guanyu Alfa Romeo Ferrari 50 +50.162s 0
16 2 Logan Sargeant Williams Mercedes 50 +50.882s 0
17 77 Valtteri Bottas Alfa Romeo Ferrari 50 +85.350s 0
18 22 Yuki Tsunoda Alphatauri Honda Rbpt 46 DNF 0
19 27 Nico Hulkenberg Haas Ferrari 45 DNF 0
NC 4 Lando Norris Mclaren Mercedes 2 DNF 0




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