A badly timed safety car period denied pole-sitter Charles Leclerc of taking a victory at Las Vegas, and enabled freshly-crown three-time world champion Max Verstappen to take his 18th victory of the season. F1Technical's senior writer Balázs Szabò delivers his analysis of the Nevada F1 round.
History - Las Vegas is not a totally unknown territory for Formula One as the pinnacle of motorsport already raced there in 1981 and 1982, albeit in very different circumstances. Back then, the race was held in Caesar's Palace car park, squeezed between concrete barriers and high, wire catchment fences.
Although the races turned out to be title-deciding events, the car park was not suitable for racing, and F1 did not return to Las Vegas in the coming years. However, the 2023 F1 season marked the first time the sport has come to Las Vegas in over four decades.
Finally - Despite having a dominant car, Sergio Perez had to fight for second place in the Drivers' Championship. The Mexican finally clinched the second spot behind his freshly-crown three-time world champion team-mate Max Verstappen at Las Vegas, meaning Red Bull finish one-two in the drivers’ championship for the first time.
Records - The inaugural Las Vegas Grand Prix gave Max Verstappen and Red Bull several more records. The Dutchman clinched his 18th victory of 2023 which is a new record, surpassing his own previous benchmark of 17 wins in the same season.
The Las Vegas win was Verstappen’s 53rd career win which ties him with Sebastian Vettel in the all-time list with only Michael Schumacher (91) and Lewis Hamilton (103) placed further up on this list. Following victories in Miami and Austin, the Las Vegas victory saw Verstappen become the first driver ever to win in the same country three times in a single year.
With Verstappen’s victory at Las Vegas, Red Bull broke Mercedes’ single-season record of 19 wins in a year (set in 2016).
Fastest tyre change – The inaugural Las Vegas Grand Prix turned out to be a very difficult race for McLaren after Lando Norris lost control of his MCL60 running over a bump and crashed violently into the barriers. His team-mate Oscar Piastri had a contact with seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton in the opening part of the race, and could only score two points.
At least McLaren came out on top in the pit stops. No other crew changed tyres faster than the mechanics in Papaya-colored overalls: 1.99 seconds for Oscar Piastri's last stop.
AlphaTauri performed the second-fastest tyre change as they serviced Yuki Tsunoda in just 2.20s, followed by Ferrari (2.25s) and Red Bull (2.45s). In the past months, Mercedes were consistent in terms of pit stop work, but they were unable to compete with the fastest teams in that regard. But the Anglo-German team picked up their performance in Las Vegas, completing the fifth-quickest tyre change with a time of 2.58s.
Private settlement - The opening session at the Las Vegas Grand Prix was red-flagged after just eight minutes of running when Carlos Sainz came to a halt. While it was first believed that he encountered a power unit-related issue, it quickly became obvious that a loose drain cover caused the damage to the Spaniard’s SF23.
Ferrari’s investigation showed that the car has sustained excessive damage, with the survival cell, internal combustion engine, energy store and control electronics having been “damaged beyond repair following an impact with a foreign object.”
The Scuderia confirmed that they will discuss the matter with the event’s stakeholders as previous precedents open the possibility of a compensation. Previously, Haas were granted a compenstation after an incident at the 2017 Malaysian GP, where Romain Grosjean's Haas sustained serious damage due to a loose manhole cover.
Commenting on the incident, Team Principal Fred Vasseur said: "This will be a private discussion that I will have with the stakeholders of this event,” Vasseur said.
"There is no provision into the budget or cost cap, for excluding the crashes. For sure you have a lot of extra costs. The loom was damaged, the gearbox was damaged, the battery was damaged, the engine is dead. We have a lot of consequences on the financial side, on the sporting side, and even on the stock of spare parts, and on the budget side for sure it's not an easy one.”
Driver of the Day - It may not have been the win he wanted, but Charles Leclerc certainly pushed Red Bull all the way in Las Vegas, leading much of the race. However, a safety car in the middle part of the race put the Monegasque into a difficult position as he was left with older tyres out on the track while his rival pitted for fresh tyres.
The five-time F1 race winner received 21.6 per cent of the votes, followed by Sergio Perez (19.1 per cent), Oscar Piastri (13.s per cent) and Max Verstappen (13 per cent).
Curfew –Operational personnel are currently subject to three curfews on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday evenings, which are known respectively as Restricted Periods one, two and three, during which they cannot work on the cars and must leave the paddock.
Teams have two individual exceptions during the 2023 F1 season. Mercedes and Red Bull mechanics, who are associated with the operation of the car, were in their teams' garages, working on their cars. With both outfits having used their first of their two individual exceptions, no action was taken.
Deleted lap time – A total of 16 lap times were deleted at the Las Vegas Grand Prix with drivers having exceeded the track limits at Turns 1, 4, 7, 8, 12 and 17.
Sergio Perez, Fernando Alonso, Lance Stroll, Logan Sargeant, Alexander Albon and Charles Leclerc failed to stay within the track confines on one occasion. Valtteri Bottas, Esteban Ocon, Kevin Magnussen, Lewis Hamilton, Pierre Gasly, exceeded the track limits twice.
Power unit changes - With the season coming to a close, many drivers are on the verge of the exceeding their power unit allocation. At the Las Vegas Grand Prix, Nico Hulkenberg, Esteban Ocon and Pierre Gasly received a new exhaust system. With all of them having used seven EXs up to this point of the season, they were entitled to use a new unit as drivers have an allocation of eight exhaust systems across the season.
Carlos Sainz’s Ferrari SF23 was fitted with a new energy store after his highly unusual and extremely unfortunate incident that happened in the opening part of Free Practice 1. With the Spaniard having already used both of his permitted energy stores, the change triggered a 10-place grid drop for the race which meant that his excellent second starting position was converted into a P12 on the grid.
Tyres - Pirelli opted for the softest compounds for the inaugural Las Vegas Grand Prix. As for the longest stints, Williams driver Logan Sargeant did 35 laps on a set of Hards. The fastest lap on the white-walled tyres was recorded by race winner Verstappen, who clocked a 1m35.614s on Lap 44 which was his 18th lap during that final stint.
Bottas did 26 on the Medium tyre and also noteworthy, considering the fuel load at that point, was Leclerc’s 21 laps on the set of C4 he used from the start. Despite finishing down in P10, Oscar Piastri clinched the additional point for the fastest race lap which the Australian achieved on the medium on Lap 47 on five-lap-old tyres following his last-minute pit stop.
As predicted, the soft tyres were not favoured in the race as they had shown graining during the practice sessions. In fact, only Yuki Tsunoda and Lance Stroll used the red-walled compound, with the Japanese driver completing a ten-lap stint in the opening stages of the race. The AlphaTauri racer clocked a 1m41.561s on the ninth tour of the 50-lap race before throwing the C5 compound away for a fresh set of hards on the next lap.
Fastest lap - After running a very different strategy to most of his rivals due to a contact with Lewis Hamilton on Lap 16, Oscar Piastri pitted on Lap 43 for fresh medium tyres to comply with the mandatory change to a different compound.
The Australian driver fell back to P10 due to the late stop, but his new tyres enabled him to record a time of 1:35.490 minutes which gave him the additional point for the fastest lap.
Fighting for the victory all race long, Max Verstappen and Charles Leclerc set the second and third quickest time respectively, clocking almost identical times with only 45 thousands of a second separating them.
Constructors' Championship - While Red Bull lead the Constructors’ Championship by over three hundred points from Mercedes, the fight for P2 is ramping up between the Anglo-German squad and Ferrari with the Scuderia having closed in on their biggest rival. The two teams are now only separated by four points, meaning that Ferrari will have every chance in Abu Dhabi to end the season on a high note following a very difficult start to 2023.
McLaren have leapfrogged Aston Martin recently, but a disastrous Las Vegas Grand Prix means that the Woking-based outfit have only a slight advantage of eleven points coming into the season-closing Abu Dhabi race.
Alpine sit sixth in the standings, having collected a total of 120 points so far. Williams lead the way in the lower end of the field, having collected a tally of 28 points, followed by AlphaTauri (21), Alfa Romeo (16) with Haas bringing up the rear of the field (12).