‘The problem for Leclerc is that Verstappen is in that one Red Bull’

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'The problem for Leclerc is that Verstappen is in that one Red Bull'

After all the show elements in Las Vegas, there was also racing in the gambling paradise of the United States. The race ultimately turned out to be a true spectacle, with even a fight for victory. Ultimately, the usual candidate was the winner of the Las Vegas Grand Prix, namely Max Verstappen. Charles Leclerc, Sergio Pérez and George Russell did everything they could to make it as difficult as possible for the Red Bull Racing driver.

Verstappen shows his racing brain again

Verstappen had to work hard during the Grand Prix of Las Vegas. The Dutchman passed Leclerc at the start, but in the eyes of the stewards he did not do so in a legal manner. From that moment on, Verstappen had to hunt. “Verstappen’s race in Las Vegas was not straight forward, and those are always the races in which Verstappen’s racing brain is working phenomenally,” says editor Shanna Lutgert. ‘That five-second time penalty ultimately did nothing for him, because Red Bull did that pit stop perfectly and then victory was within reach, even though he returned to midfield. With a half broken front wing he drove like nothing was wrong and made the car look perfect.’

Verstappen sustained that damaged front wing after a crash with Russell. The Red Bull driver put his car next to Turn 12, something Russell did not see coming at all. The Mercedes driver turned in and damaged not only his own car, but also that of Verstappen. The safety car that followed was Verstappen’s salvation. ‘In the incident with Russell he could perhaps have waited a bit. I think Russell realized that Verstappen was there, but he did not expect Verstappen to put him next to him in that corner. I cannot really judge whether the safety car played perfectly into Red Bull’s hands, because the pace on the hard tire was extremely good.’

Verstappen quickly found a connection with Leclerc and Pérez, who were fighting with each other. The three-time world champion was significantly faster and Pérez also seemed to make Red Bull’s party even more fun. ‘All in all, Red Bull responded strategically as we are used to: excellent. I thought the moment at the end where he wanted to help Pérez was nice to see, and at the same time it was a kind of sign of his dominance that he could simply drop to 2.5 seconds ahead of Leclerc to help his teammate, and then still cross the finish line as a winner.’

Verstappen’s attackers show themselves

Before the final round, Pérez seemed to be the candidate to take second place. The Mexican started in eleventh position after a mediocre qualifying, but was helped considerably by the safety cars. As a result, he suddenly found himself in second place behind Leclerc. Which he also managed to catch up with. Ultimately he had to settle for third position. ‘Pérez drove a good race after the blunder in qualifying that forced him to start eleventh. At the end I suspected that some insecurity played a role. He wanted to get that P2 in the race, but also that P2 in the championship. Leclerc was unexpected a few times in this race, and I thought it was a shame that Pérez let it happen to him twice. Then Verstappen also offers his help, but he still doesn’t succeed. On the other hand, if he had defended a lot and had gone off with Leclerc, he would also have received a lot of criticism for throwing away his P2 in the championship.’

So Leclerc took second place. The driver had excellent speed at the start of the race, as he was able to attack the medium Verstappen. A victory seemed like a realistic option for the Monegasque, but once again it was not to be. “Leclerc is absolutely right in his statements that this was the maximum achievable,” says editor-in-chief Mike van Weert. ‘But the fact that you are still faster than one of the Red Bulls is simply very impressive. Pérez easily gave away second place, but it was also a very smart overtaking move by Leclerc. He took action at the last moment, leaving the Mexican unable to respond. Leclerc also did little wrong and shows that he really has the talent. The problem is that Verstappen is in the other Red Bull.’

Max Verstappen Red Bull Racing Las Vegas Sergio Perez Charles Leclerc
For the eighteenth time this year, Max Verstappen was allowed to uncork the champagne as the winner.

Russell also competed for podium positions in the early stages of the race, but after the crash with Verstappen and the associated time penalty, his chances were lost. The Mercedes driver raised his hand after the race. Due to the penalty, the single race winner ultimately did not get further than eighth place. ‘Russell drove a great race, but the crash is a major blemish on his Grand Prix. I could have lived with it if the stewards had said it was a racing incident, but Russell showed again that his spatial awareness sometimes goes a bit wrong. I didn’t look in my mirrors: that’s what someone like Russell has to do. Everything is good in terms of speed, but he needs to manage his races better; that has nothing to do with missed opportunities. This is an open goal miss.’

Ocon and Stroll manage to impress

Behind the top three were not the usual candidates in P4 and P5. In fourth place was Esteban Ocon. The Alpine driver started from P16, after a disappointing qualifying. In the end he managed an excellent catch-up race. “I’m curious to see what Ocon was served for breakfast on Saturday in Las Vegas, because the Frenchman really delivered an impressive performance during the race,” says editor Lieke Jabobs. ‘With some luck he managed not to get caught up in the chaos at the start, and the few overtakes looked very neat in my opinion. After the safety car there was some disagreement within the team when he ended up behind Gasly, but ultimately I think it was a blessing in disguise that Ocon didn’t fully understand the message. Ocon was a lot faster than his teammate, so I wasn’t fully convinced of Alpine’s team orders. In the end, Ocon managed to maximize things again, and I think Alpine can be very happy with that.’

Lance Stroll has had a difficult season alongside Fernando Alonso, but the Canadian has increasingly shown his talent in recent races. Once again the Aston Martin driver finished above his teammate. This time Stroll crossed the line fifth after starting nineteenth. ‘It initially seemed an impossible task to convert the grid penalty that sent him to nineteenth starting position into success, but the Canadian was fortunately able to avoid the incidents shortly after the start. I do not assume that Stroll would have been able to achieve the same result if he had been involved in an incident, but attentiveness is and remains a crucial factor in Formula 1. Stroll has also held almost all positions at one time or another during the race, but in the end he managed to hold his own. After the safety car, he was given the opportunity to overtake Albon and Gasly on the track, so in my opinion the result was partly achieved on the strength of Stroll and the team.’

Figures GP Las Vegas


Figures GP Las Vegas

1. Charles Leclerc


2. Max Verstappen


3. Esteban Ocon


3. Lance Stroll


5. Oscar Piastri


6. Carlos Sainz


7. Sergio Perez


8. Pierre Gasly


9.Lewis Hamilton


10. Fernando Alonso


11. Kevin Magnussen


12. Alexander Albon


13. Logan Sargeant


14. Nico Hulkenberg


15.Zhou Guanyu


16. Valtteri Bottas


17.Daniel Ricciardo


18.George Russel


19. Yuki Tsunoda


20. Lando Norris


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