After the relative chaos of the practice sessions at the Las Vegas track, it would be hard to deny that the actual Grand Prix redeemed itself, stacking up to be one of the best of the season. Max Verstappen claimed victory once again, but the race was filled with some exciting on-track action and some brilliant wheel-to-wheel racing.

Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc qualified on pole with Carlos Sainz in second, however due to an arguably very unfair ten-place grid penalty (due to the replacement of parts of his car after damage sustained from the drain cover in FP1), Sainz would be starting in twelfth. This meant that Verstappen was in the front row alongside Leclerc. George Russell was promoted to third, and Pierre Gasly, after a brilliant qualifying performance, started in fourth. The McLarens had a disappointing qualifying, Lando Norris and Oscar Piastri starting in 16th and 19th respectively, but the Williams drivers had performed brilliantly, Alex Albon and Logan Sargeant in sixth and seventh. With a very mixed-up grid, fans anticipated an excellent race.

And that they got. The race got off to a tumultuous start – Leclerc tried to cut across Verstappen but was pushed wide, Verstappen leaving the track himself. The Red Bull driver managed to pass the Ferrari, and Leclerc immediately came over the radio, saying “this needs to be addressed now”. Verstappen was eventually given a five-second penalty for this incident (or inchident?), to which he responded “yeah that’s fine, send them my regards”.

At the first turn of the race, a collision between Fernando Alonso, Valtteri Bottas, Carlos Sainz and Sergio Pérez brought out the yellow flag after the cars spun around on the slippery track. New front wings were required, and Pérez, Alonso, and Bottas pitted a lap later, pushing them to the back of the grid.

Amid this chaos, the McLarens managed to avoid picking up any damage. However, a lap later, Norris lost control of his car and crashed into the barriers, bringing out the safety car. He was taken to hospital after this incident, but was thankfully okay.

Esteban Ocon had a good start after being knocked out of Q1 – he was up to sixth by lap 14 after charging past Sargeant. Piastri had risen to seventh and Pérez to eighth. Leclerc was closing in on Verstappen and passed him just as Verstappen was about to pull into the pits. Here the Dutch driver served his penalty, and exited behind George Russell in 11th.

The drama was far from over though. On lap 17, Hamilton lunged down the inside of Piastri coming into turn 14, causing their tyres to collide. Hamilton got a puncture, but Piastri came away relatively unscathed. Leclerc then pitted, moving Lance Stroll (having a fantastic race so far!) into second, and giving Pérez the lead of the race. Verstappen was not far behind, and soon passed Alonso into sixth.

However, Verstappen came into contact with Russell at turn 12 of lap 25, after the Mercedes driver turned into the Red Bull, perhaps unaware that Verstappen would attempt an overtake there. This resulted in floor damage to Russell’s car and front-wing endplate damage for Verstappen’s. Russell was handed a five-second penalty. The safety car was brought out, and both Pérez and Verstappen pitted, giving Leclerc the lead of the race again.

At the restart, Leclerc pulled away, and Piastri passed Gasly, taking third. However, Pérez was soon in DRS range of Leclerc, and Verstappen was up into third. On lap 32, Pérez shot past Leclerc into the lead with his DRS open – a fantastic recovery given he had started in 11th. Behind, the Alpines of Ocon and Gasly were battling it out for fifth. Ocon was told to hold position behind his teammate, but still passed him – with a history of on-track battles between Ocon and Gasly, interim team principal Bruno Famin’s blood pressure may have gone up slightly.

Pérez was still leading the race, however Leclerc was not far behind. On lap 35, Leclerc overtook Pérez from miles back, lunging down the inside of the Red Bull and regaining the lead of the Grand Prix. Verstappen subsequently overtook his teammate, and was within DRS range of the Ferrari. He soon overtook Leclerc and took the lead of the race once more.

A battle now ensued between Pérez and Leclerc behind him. At turn 12 of lap 43, Leclerc went off the track, and the Mexican driver passed him into second. Leclerc was stuck behind the Red Bull, but was within DRS range by lap 49. Verstappen was instructed to keep the gap between himself and Pérez to 2.5 seconds, so that he could give his teammate a slipstream and tow him along to help him keep position. Pérez held position until the very last turns of the race, where at turn 14, Leclerc’s DRS was open and he shot past the Red Bull, regaining second position.

Verstappen came home to take his 18th Grand Prix win of the season, and it came down to the line, but Leclerc took second and Pérez third. Russell finished in fourth but due to his five-second penalty dropped down to eighth, leaving Ocon to inherit fourth place – an impressive drive for the Frenchman. Stroll finished in fifth, Sainz sixth, Lewis Hamilton seventh, Alonso ninth and Piastri tenth. Gasly finished a disappointing eleventh, especially after having had such a fantastic qualifying result.

Despite having previously criticised the race, fans were gifted with Verstappen singing “Viva Las Vegas” over his team radio, and bore witness to both himself and Pérez in Elvis-style race suits celebrating upon the podium. Pérez solidified himself in second in the driver’s championship – a first-time one-two for Red Bull – and Leclerc was awarded Driver of the Day.

After a somewhat turbulent start to the Las Vegas race weekend, I think it’s safe to say that the Grand Prix certainly delivered. With the lights of the strip, cars spinning like roulette wheels and some outstanding racing, I can safely conclude that Las Vegas truly did Viva.