Max Verstappen had to dig deep and fight to win his 18th grand prix of the season in a race featuring multiple safety cars and lead changes.
Chaos ensued at the start of the race with multiple events occurring at the same time. Verstappen and Leclerc both went deep into turn 1, with Verstappen forcing Leclerc wide to take the lead of the race, an action that would see him receive a 5 second penalty. Whilst this was happening, Alonso manages to spin his car, giving damage to himself, Bottas, and Perez. Sainz had also gone too deep and tag Hamilton’s rear. The debris left from the opening lap carnage would bring out the Virtual Safety Car, softening the blow for Perez, Bottas and Alonso who all needed to pit for repairs.
The incidents at the start also opened up the opportunity for some drivers to make some major gains if they were able to navigate the chaos well. Ocon was able to move up to 8th after starting 16th, whilst Lance Stroll was able move up to 9th from 19th.
Green flag running would get back underway shortly, but would only be short lived as Lando Norris would lose the rear of his car at turn 12, crashing into the barrier and bringing out a Safety Car, allowing the field to bunch back up. Despite the safety car coming in so early, both Stroll and Sainz elected to use this opportunity to pit onto new tyres.
So many times this season Verstappen has been able to drive off into the distance and have a comfortable controlled race, however that was not the case today, as Leclerc was able to stay close throughout the first stint, especially as Verstappen’s tyres were beginning to struggle. He would pit at the end of lap 16, but not before Leclerc would overtake him for the lead at turn 14.
As this was happening, Hamilton and Piastri would make contact at that same corner, causing both drivers to receive damage. This dropped Piastri to 15th and Hamilton to 19th after a slow pitstop.
The time penalty meant that Verstappen had dropped to 7th after everyone had made a pitstop. Russell was his main competition ahead, and the two would make contact on lap 25 after Verstappen attempted a move at turn 12. Russell had turned on the reigning world champion, and both drivers picked up damage as a result. Russell was handed a 5 second time penalty for the incident.
The debris that came from Russell’s and Verstappen’s coming together would cause the safety car to be brought out, which played perfectly into the hands of those who stopped early on, such as Lance Stroll and Sergio Perez, who now looked like a possible contender for the win with Leclerc opting to stay out, now with 5 lap older tyres than what both Red Bull cars have.
Racing resumed on lap 29, and it would only take Perez three laps to get past Leclerc and take the lead, having been 18th at one point in this race. However, he would find that, just like he did with Verstappen earlier, Leclerc would stick close by to Perez, and would take the lead back on lap 35.
Alpine had been running one of their best races of the season up to this point, with Gasly and Ocon in 5th and 6th respectively. Alpine had asked Ocon to hold position for the time being, though this was ignored as he would take 5th from his teammate at turn 5. This was in retrospect the right move for Ocon, as Gasly would later suffer from a battery issue that would see him fall to 11th, whilst Ocon would finish in 4th after Piastri made another pitstop.
After the battling between Perez and Leclerc, Verstappen was now able to join in on the fight for the win. Just one lap after losing the lead to Leclerc, Perez lost second place to Verstappen down the Las Vegas strip. One lap after that, Verstappen was back into the lead, and unlike before, Leclerc was no longer able to keep up, and Verstappen would avoid any more challenges before the end of the race.
Whilst victory may have slipped out of the grasp of Leclerc and Perez, the fight for 2nd was still very much on, and it was a fight that Leclerc had almost conceded after making a mistake at turn 12 on lap 43. However, he was able to fight back, and would retake 2nd into the final braking zone on the final lap of the race.
Victory for Verstappen means he has now tied Sebastian Vettel for the third most wins in F1 history with 53 wins, with only Michael Schumacher and Lewis Hamilton winning more. Red Bull have now secured the most wins by a constructor in a season with 20 wins so far in 2023.
After leading 29 laps of the Las Vegas Grand Prix, Verstappen has guaranteed himself the record for highest percentage of laps led in a single season, currently with 75.06%. This breaks a 60 year old record set by Jim Clark, whose percentage was at 71.47%.
F1 only has one race remaining this season, with the finale taking place in Abu Dhabi from 24th-26th November.