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Las Vegas Grand Prix race review: Thrills and spills but a familiar ending in Sin City

After a stuttering start to the weekend, the most hyped Formula 1 event of all-time delivered the kind of race the Las Vegas Grand Prix promoters would have been praying for.

The event, and its glitzy build-up had been criticised by many insiders, most notably world champion Max Verstappen. But after sealing his 18th, and probably hardest-fought, victory of the season, even the Red Bull star had to admit he had enjoyed himself.

Verstappen overcomes adversity to hit jackpot

Verstappen saw a record-breaking ten-race winning streak come to an end at an unconventional street circuit in Singapore in September, and a five-race unbeaten run looked under threat as the cars lined up for the inaugural Grand Prix on the Las Vegas Strip Circuit.

As had been the case in the Singapore street race, Ferrari had proved prodigiously fast in qualifying with Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz first and second.

Sainz and his team were furious at being hit with a ten-place grid penalty due to having to make extensive repairs after the Spaniard's Ferrari was badly damaged by a water valve cover on the track after it came loose. That promoted Verstappen to a front-row start next to Leclerc.

It is becoming a cliche in Formula 1 that when Leclerc is on pole, Verstappen is guaranteed to win the race. And in Vegas, for the third time in a row when Leclerc has won qualifying, it took the Dutchman only as far as the first corner to force his way into the lead.

Pre-race issues contribute to chaotic start

Verstappen's speedy getaway was a surprise since a classic car that had been part of the pre-race drivers parade had spread oil all over the left-hand side of the starting grid.

Although efforts were made to soak up the spill, the drivers starting from even-numbered grid slots, including Verstappen in second, were at a disadvantage.

Part of the interest going into the race was that Fernando Alonso, Lewis Hamilton, Sergio Perez and Sainz were starting ninth, 10th, 11th and 12th, far lower than they are capable of.

Alonso tried to go down the inside but spun his Aston Martin under braking, leaving the luckless Valtteri Bottas nowhere to go and the Finn was clouted up the back by Perez. Meanwhile, Sainz misjudged his braking and hit Hamilton.

The resultant debris caused the virtual safety car to be deployed while those involved limped back to the pits for repairs.

Verstappen, though, had also found himself short of grip and was handed a five-second penalty for forcing Leclerc off the track. Verstappen quickly built up a two-second lead after that incident and after he was notified of the penalty, he told his race engineer to "send them my regards," referring to the FIA and Ferrari.

Miserable weekend ends painfully for Norris

Lando Norris picked up his sixth second-place finish of the season in Brazil last time, but the young Briton did not enjoy his trip to Vegas.

The track didn't suit his McLaren well, and Norris qualified only 15th. After avoiding the first-corner carnage, the 24-year-old went heavily into the wall shortly after racing had resumed, bringing out a full safety car.

Norris' misfortune was a stroke of luck for the drivers involved in the turn one crash, who were able to catch back up to the pack with the preferable hard tires.

Russell-Verstappen clash sets up grandstand finish

Carrying his five-second penalty, Verstappen was expected to blast into the distance, but on the unusually cold track his tires gave up and Leclerc was able to surge past just before the Red Bull driver pitted for fresh rubber.

Leclerc stayed out, happy with his medium tires and opting for a one-stop race. When the Ferrari ace pitted, that left Perez, still nursing the hard tyres he had fitted after his early stop, with a 14-second lead.

Verstappen, meanwhile, was carving his way back up towards the front when a misunderstanding with Mercedes' George Russell saw the pair come together, spreading more debris across the road.

Russell was handed a penalty of his own while Verstappen's car, though damaged, was still in decent enough shape and his Red Bull team took the opportunity to make a cheap pitstop for both him and Perez while the safety car bunched the pack back up.

Leclerc reclaimed the lead, but Perez, on fresher tyres, carved his way past, while Verstappen, fifth at the restart, soon joined the leading pair.

With his car set up to be fast in traffic, Perez was at a disadvantage in clear air and Leclerc was able to get back past, but predictably neither he nor the Mexican had an answer to Verstappen's charge.

A late lock-up saw Leclerc surrender second place, but he continued to chase Perez, and forced his way back ahead with a daring lunge on the final lap. That was painful for the Mexican, who had lost third place in the dying strides to Alonso in Brazil last time.

Classic Vegas weekend for American Sargeant

Like most people when they arrive in Vegas, Williams driver Logan Sargeant was feeling lucky. The lone American on the grid qualified in seventh, by far the best effort of his rookie campaign and his first time ever qualifying above 10th place.

Sainz's penalty meant Sargeant started in sixth place, but he quickly tumbled down the places after lights went out to kick off the race.

It didn't help that excellent drivers in better cars started behind him and that his team didn't manage his tires well, but on a street circuit with walls that keep the track narrow, Sargeant will feel he could've done a better job of defending his position. 

In the end, his luck ran out and he finished in 16th, while teammate Alex Albon finished 12th after starting fifth.

Verstappen hot favorite to end on a high

So a deserved win for Verstappen, who found a way to overcome the chaos, and he is -350 to make it 19 wins on the season and seven in a row in next week's Abu Dhabi finale. He has won the last three Abu Dhabi races.

Perez's second place was enough to secure Red Bull their first one-two finish in the drivers' standings, but Ferrari sit just four points behind Mercedes for second in the constructors'.

Leclerc is +1600 for a first win of the season at a track that should suit his Ferrari, while McLaren's Norris is +1200, Perez is +1400, and Hamilton, who has won five times in Abu Dhabi, is +1600.

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