- Viva Las Vegas!
- The masked singer of F1 struck again
- Leclerc was on fire
- What was that taxi ride about?
- Ocon stormed from 16th to 4th
- Stroll strolled through the chaos
- Mercedes had a miserable time
- F1 blocked views of the race and the fans weren’t having it
- Norris had to go to hospital
Viva Las Vegas!
F1 couldn’t have got off to a worse start on Thursday: with FP1 cancelled after nine minutes because of a faulty drain cover and FP2 delayed so late that fans had to be kicked out of the stands, the event had unmistakable farce vibes early on. Not helped by the reigning world champion calling it “99 per cent show and one per cent sporting event”. Ouch.
But qualifying was unpredictable and the race even more so, with the lack of grip turning most of the circuit into one big overtaking zone and the extreme tyre demands keeping us guessing right until the very end. Throw in a couple of safety cars and boom, instant chaos.
And while the track looked indistinguishable from, say, Singapore or Jeddah, who can deny that the sight of the F1 grid ploughing down the Strip at 200mph looked wicked? Oh who are we kidding, probably lots of you in the comments. Ya cynics.
The masked singer of F1 struck again
As part of the entertainment in Vegas (this isn’t just a race remember) we got a V6-powered edition of The Masked Singer right after the chequered flag.
Yup, a character dressed head to toe in Elvis gear began singing ‘Viva Las Vegas’ over the team radio. Who could it be? The only clues were that he was driving a Red Bull and had a Dutch accent…
Lo and behold the mystery performer was soon unmasked as Max Verstappen, for the second race in a row after his Tom Jones antics in Brazil. What are the odds he does ‘My Way’ in Abu Dhabi?
Leclerc was on fire
Not literally, don’t panic. Charles Leclerc had great pace in the Ferrari from the off, and he made it count in quali with a lap four whole tenths quicker than Verstappen could manage. Was a surprise win on the cards?
It was. Well, eventually. Verstappen shoved Leclerc aside at the start and was later given a five second penalty for it, but rather than charge off into the distance he was kept honest by Leclerc before the Monagasque steamed back past him for the race lead.
It was all looking rosy until the second full safety car, when Ferrari kept their man out as Red Bull pitted both drivers for fresh rubber. That, it turned out, was a mistake.
Cue a mighty battle between Leclerc and Perez for the race lead, which went this way and that before Verstappen wrenched it off the pair of them and pulled clear.
Cue a mighty battle for second and third. Leclerc seemed to have thrown it away when he locked up and let Perez through near the end, but he clung on and dived back past on the very last lap. Magnifique!
What was that taxi ride about?
We’re used to F1 doing things a bit differently in the US (who recalls the Miami GP police escort to the podium?) but this was… weird.
No sooner had Verstappen, Leclerc and Perez clambered out of their cars, they all piled into a taxi to be whisked off to the Bellagio Hotel. Turned out this was for a post race debrief with famed Vegas hype man David Coulthard, plus a fountain-and-lights show. Okay then.
Then it was straight back in the taxi to the podium ceremony. Who dreams this stuff up?
Ocon stormed from 16th to 4th
Esteban Ocon was sporting a Deapool themed helmet (Ryan Reynolds is an Alpine investor, d’uh) but even a special lid couldn’t protect his pride, knocked out of qualifying in Q1. Oops.
Little did we know that he was merely setting himself up for a comeback charge. The carnage at the start meant the Frenchman was up to eighth place within a couple of laps, and a cheeky move on Williams’ Logan Sargeant on lap 14 meant he was running sixth, just a few seconds behind teammate Pierre Gasly, who’d retained his starting position of P4.
By lap 34 he and Gasly were fighting over the same bit of asphalt, and although the team instructed Ocon to hold position, the call went unheeded as the duo went at it through the first sector.
Ocon prevailed and cruised home to P4, while Gasly dropped off with a battery issue and grained tyres, eventually finishing with no points at all. One of this season’s more intense teammate battles, no?
Stroll strolled through the chaos
While Ocon was getting his elbows out, no one noticed that Lance Stroll was having a stellar race for Aston Martin. The Canadian driver gained a whopping 10 positions on the opening lap, and that gave him a platform to drive a great race as the excrement hit the wind machine around him.
After his mini bust-up in Qatar – after which many were questioning his future in F1 – it has to be said that Stroll has performed rather well. That’s two P5s in a row now and he drove well to seventh place in the US GP. Has he finally cracked the AMR23?
Mercedes had a miserable time
Not much to cheer about this weekend if you’re of a Silver Arrows persuasion. Lewis Hamilton was knocked out of quali in Q2 and although George Russell’s second row start showed promise, the younger Brit’s race went sideways when he collided with Max Verstappen halfway through.
That earned him a five-second penalty, and although he finished fourth on the road the punishment demoted him to eighth in the classification. He’s not had much luck this year, has he?
Meanwhile Hamilton also had a testing time out there, losing places at the start after being tagged by Carlos Sainz and caught behind the pirouetting Aston Martin of Fernando Alonso, before his comeback was derailed by contact with McLaren’s Oscar Piastri.
That meant he had to drive an entire lap with a puncture, and although the second safety car brought him back into play, he could only manage seventh come the chequered flag.
There are now only four points between Mercedes and Ferrari with one race to go. $10 million of prize money is on the line, who are you backing?
F1 blocked views of the race and the fans weren’t having it
F1 has not been at all popular with the locals in the build-up to the race – the insane traffic disruption and temporary grandstands made sure of that – but it did its best to annoy ticket holders too. Which seems… unwise.
After forcing people out after having only witnessed a few minutes of first practice on Thursday night (and only offering $200 of online store vouchers as compensation, wth!) organisers also made every effort to block off public views of the racetrack, much to the annoyance of said public.
There are safety reasons for this, of course: you can’t have bridges rammed with spectators or you’ll block access across the track, and anywhere with a clear view of the track is somewhere you can get hit by bits flying off. So there’s that.
But still. Some fans took matters into their own hands and simply tore down the material blocking their view of the action, and no doubt some casual passers-by caught a glimpse too. Quite the spectacle if you’re just taking the dog for a walk, huh?
Norris had to go to hospital
Lando Norris might not remember much about F1’s return to Las Vegas: the McLaren driver got a massive tankslapper on lap 3, which sent him flying into the barrier and out of the race in a blaze of sparks and tyre smoke. Ouch.
It looked like a big impact and so it was: Norris was audibly winded on the team radio, although he was able to tell his race engineer that he was otherwise ok.
He was whisked off to the medical centre and then moved to a nearby hospital for precautionary checks, but later released with no major damage done. Except to his car, obviously.
While Norris was being checked over, his team pointed out that there’s a bump on the corner where he crashed and maybe – on a street track with no margin for ever – that’s not such a good idea. Expect some resurfacing ahead of Vegas 2024…
Keyword: Nine things we learned from the Las Vegas Grand Prix