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2023 Las Vegas GP Review

 

All hail the Las Vegas Grand Prix.  22 Nov. Written By Clare Gething lewis

If you woke up and saw the Las Vegas Grand Prix results, and were put off watching on catch up, I urge you to reconsider.

This half a billion dollar extravaganza was set up to fail. And, make no mistake, a lot of people wanted it to. With drivers visibly cringing at parading themselves in the Hunger Games-esq opening ceremony and Friday’s shambolic practice sessions caused by a loose drain cover, you could practically hear critics of the event giddying themselves up for a spectacular flop.

But, it wasn’t. Vegas only went and pulled it off.

Even Max, with a face like a slapped arse all weekend, who said the Grand Prix was 99% show, 1% sporting event, after the race claimed he already couldn’t wait for next year. And if you were still bleary eyed at 6am on the formation lap, you would have been wide awake as soon as the lights went out. It was honestly, such a blast. A fabulous fight for first in an epic location.

Here are my five takeaways from the 2023 Las Vegas Grand Prix:

There is nothing Red Bull aren’t good at

Ferrari were quick but Red Bull were quicker. They may have struggled to get tyres up to temperature during qualifying, but the challenge just made Max want it even more.

It wasn’t a simple win. Far from it. Whilst Max Verstappen nipped Charles Leclerc off the line into first place, he was seriously challenged for almost the whole race. Leclerc retook position on lap 18, then Sergio Perez came from NOWHERE to take the lead on lap 32, before Leclerc stole it back again. Max eventually caught back up and retook them both, but it wasn’t made easy for him.

That was his 18th win of the year. Only Michael Schumacher and Lewis Hamilton are ahead of Max now in terms of total race wins.

For the second Grand Prix running, it was a horse race finish for Perez who was nipped to the post on the final lap again – with wheel to wheel racing against Leclerc to the line for second place. Luckily for the Ferrari driver on pole, he just about kept the Mexican off him.

It looked like Red Bull would only have their main man on the podium this weekend, but Sergio Perez proved again he is King of the Streets by fighting back from qualifying in 12th, to finishing in the final podium position. Checo managed all of this, despite getting caught up in Alonso’s lap one spin and falling back into 18th. Yes, he did benefit from a cheap pit stop after Russell collided into Verstappen mid-way through the race, but his reputation precedes him on these types of circuits. He is a freak on the streets.

Five second time penalties are misused

On the first lap, Max Verstappen was deemed to have been in the wrong when he gained track position by going down the inside and pushing Leclerc off the track. He then received a five second penalty for his misdemeanor, to which Max scoffed at, sending the stewards his regards.

We have seen it before where taking the added time is a small price to pay for gaining the race lead and clear air, and often Verstappen wins these races by such a large margin it’s so much more advantageous just to take the penalty. In IndyCar, the default in these situations is to just give the place back – and this seems so much fairer. Not to mention easier. It is difficult to tell how the race would have panned out had Verstappen given Leclerc the lead back, but at least it would stop Ferrari fans from feeling cheated.

Sometimes these penalties work. We saw a five second penalty later in the race given to George Russell for his safety car inducing collision with Verstappen on lap 25. The Mercedes driver was the one who suffered from the damage caused in that incident and did not gain track position, so in that scenario, a time penalty was appropriate. It turned a solid fourth position on his part into eighth. But, the FIA need to be more sensible about when they dish out these penalties, and, for the most part, a simple giving the place back is all that is needed.

Reverse fortunes for Williams and Alpine

Williams would be strong here, they said. Alpine will struggle.

It was, sadly, a pointless result for both Williams’ drivers, despite the super impressive qualifying and Albon and Sargeant starting in P5 and P6 respectively. The long straights and hard breaking corners of the Las Vegas circuit made it well suited for the British team, but tyre graining and the timing of both safety cars completely destroyed their chances of a double points finish. Why both drivers are put on the same strategy and left to the mercy of a safety car, I never understand.

Alpine, however, thrived here! More to say on Ocon, but both drivers, had it not been for Gasly’s potential battery issue and his hard tyres dying off earlier than expected, would have finished in the points, despite it being a potentially challenging track for them. Gasly, at some points, even looked set for a podium.

Sky Sports Coverage: Influencing our DoTD

This is how the break down of the Driver of the Day contest looked:

  • Charles Leclerc – 21.6%
  • Sergio Perez – 19.1%
  • Oscar Piastri – 13.4%
  • Max Verstappen – 13%
  • Lewis Hamilton – 6.2% doesn’t get enough credit – another bad qualifying starting in 14th and finished 5th.

Where on earth on this list were Lance Stroll and Esteban Ocon?

Esteban Ocon was racing like a man possessed. He went from getting knocked out of Q1 on the Friday night and starting the race in 16th to finishing 4th. He did some of the best overtaking I have ever seen in a very mediocre car. He has his days, does Esteban, and I think it can be said, Saturday was one of those days.

Lance Stroll, who’s name has been very much dragged through the mud recently with his comparative performance being so far away from his teammate, outperformed Fernando Alonso at Vegas and drove a quietly determined race, taking himself from 14th to 5th. But, where was he on our screens?

The Canadian gained ten places at the start, whilst the other Aston Martin was driving in circles. At one point during the race, Lance Stroll was in second. Yes, we want to see action and overtakes, and clearly Stroll drove a lonely race with no one to challenge him or to challenge. But, at the end of the race, I was actually shocked to see where Stroll came in, despite having watched the whole thing. Because I didn’t see him on my screen. Not once. Going back through the highlights, it’s the same story.

My point is this. If we had seen and heard more about Ocon and Stroll’s fight in the race from Sky Sports, it is incredibly likely they would have had a look in on Driver of the Day. Instead, we get two Red Bulls and a Ferrari – aka, the best cars on the grid.

Mercedes might not finish second in championship

The Silver Arrows went from a 24 point safety net after Brazil to a meagre 4 points after Las Vegas, in the fight with Ferrari for P2 in the Constructor’s Championship. Toto Wolff was visibly rattled, urging George Russell in a rare radio interference to push for overtakes, and was, understandably, unimpressed with what should of been a podium position, tumbling down to eighth after Russell’s penalty was applied.

Hamilton, albeit having his fair share of bad luck during the course of the Grand Prix, managed, as usual, to mop up as many points as he possibly could, but having a Ferrari finish in P2 and P6 was not going to help Mercedes’s cause. Especially when Carlos Sainz started the race outside the top ten.

Abu Dhabi and the season’s finale will be, what it all boils down to. And, I’m not complaining.

The track temperature here, being hot and humid, is not, what Ferrari desire from a racetrack, but with Mercedes being so unpredictable as of late, it really is anyone’s guess who will take that runner-up spot in the championship.

So, with everybody suspectedly exhausted from a stupidly crazy week in Sin City, it’s time to drag everyone back over to the other side of the world for the season Finale… See you in Abu Dhabi!

 

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