Forty-one years later Las Vegas once again hosted a Formula 1 Grand Prix on a totally new circuit in both location and layout. A track that lived up to expectations by giving us an exciting race full of overtaking and duels in which the drivers certainly did not hold back.
An eventful initial phase: Verstappen (starting second next to poleman Leclerc) came wide receiving a 5” second penalty; Fernando Alonso spun and struck Lewis Hamilton forcing him to both a pit-stop and a nice comeback.
As it was easy to predict, the safety-car made the difference, especially on the second entrance during the 26th lap with some drivers having already made their stop. One of these was precisely Charles Leclerc who crossed the finish line with the tyres worn more having covered 5 laps more than Verstappen and Perez. The two Red Bull drivers had made their pit-stops precisely in the regime of the SC.
It was a last lap to be applauded by Leclerc who “snatched” second place from Sergio Perez also setting his best performance. It was a result that meant a lot for the driver from Monte Carlo, and also for Ferrari which reduced the gap from Mercedes to only four points. Ferrari completed the weekend with sixth place for Carlos Sainz, he too the author of a nice comeback after a penalty that I did not find very correct, starting from twelfth place on the grid after having finished qualifying behind his team-mate.
Once again, the track, in conditions with little grip and very fast, Ferrari managed to defend a fantastic pole position and second place behind the elusive Verstappen who scored his eighteenth win in twenty-one starts. For the first time, in addition to the title Red Bull placed both drivers in first and second place in the driver’s title.
It was an excellent race also by Esteban Ocon, fourth across the finish line, he too “victim” of the manhole cover and protagonist of a nice comeback from seventeenth place on the grid. From nineteenth place on the grid to tenth place for Oscar Piastri who was penalized by the tyre change. After two stints with the “whites” he had to mount the yellows in the final laps losing a few positions (partially recovered).
Nice comebacks also by Fernando Alonso (9°) and Lewis Hamilton (seventh) despite the initial pit-stop, with the Aston Martin taking 5° place with Lance Stroll.
The Las Vegas Circuit exceeded all expectations, despite an uphill start with problems during free practice which certainly conditioned the weekend of Sainz and Ocon. As always, in the case of new developments, the evaluations will be made at the end of the event. If, on the one hand, the show can be questionable (this is subjective), the circuit demonstrated that it is valid, giving us a lot of overtaking, duels and braking.
We are heading to Abu Dhabi with a hard-fought fight between Mercedes and Ferrari for second place and between Fernando Alonso and Carlos Sainz tied on 400 points each for fourth place. It is also an open battle between McLaren and Aston Martin for fourth place. The team led by Mike Krack reduced the gap to sixteen points.
Gian Carlo Minardi