F1 set unlikely record at Las Vegas Grand Prix despite Verstappen criticism

The historic Las Vegas Grand Prix may have suffered a nightmare start to life with Formula 1 in practice, but the race itself certainly lived up to its immense billing. Three-time world champion Max Verstappen emerged victorious from an action-packed thriller that featured the most overtakes in any Grand Prix this season. 

F1 owners Liberty Media are believed to have spent around $500 million to bring a Grand Prix to Las Vegas. With the excitement and intrigue provided over the race, it might be considered money well spent. 

Including Verstappen’s pass on Ferrari rival Charles Leclerc on lap 37 to take a lead the Red Bull would not relinquish, the 2023 Las Vegas GP had 99 overtakes. This is the highest amount of overtakes in a dry race since the 2016 Chinese Grand Prix, which featured 170.

Mercedes icon Lewis Hamilton led the way with 15 – the most in a single race by any driver this season. Meanwhile, Alfa Romeo’s Guanyu Zhou was overtaken more than any other driver (13). 

The 99 overtakes are the highest ever total for a debut F1 race and the sixth most of overtakes ever seen at an F1 Grand Prix. The figures will make for enjoyable reading for F1 bosses with the Las Vegas Grand Prix proving to be a success, allaying any fears the street circuit track – including a straight down the iconic strip – could not produce many overtaking opportunities. 

However, four long straights into fairly heavy braking zones made for plenty of overtaking opportunities. The passing opportunities all followed one another, which made it very difficult for drivers to break the tow. 

The section between T5 and T9 appeared to be the sole section where a driver could really make a gap, which led to a more congested and competitive field. As a result, the Las Vegas Street Circuit should reliably produce good racing for fans in the coming years.

The number of overtakes is a big win for F1 following a weekend of headaches. First practice was a disaster, with a loose manhole cover severely damaging both Carlos Sainz’s Ferrari and Esteban Ocon’s Alpine after Verstappen had spoken out against the weekend.

The Dutchman insisted he was not a fan of the glitzy driver introduction ceremony, which took place on Wednesday night and saw the 20 competitors step onto stage amid blasting music. He referred to the Las Vegas race as ’99 percent show and one percent sporting event’.

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“For me, you can skip all these things,” Verstappen told reporters. “It’s not about the singer, it’s just standing up there, you look like a clown. I’m not going to fake it. I just always voiced my opinion in positive things and negative things. And that’s just how I am. And some people like a show a bit more. I don’t like it at all.

“I grew up just looking at the performance side of things, and that’s how I see it as well. So for me, I like to be in Vegas but not so much for racing.”

Perhaps taking the checkered flag in a competitive race has changed Verstappen’s mind. F1 concludes its 2023 season with the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix on Sunay, Nov. 26.

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