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  • Writer's pictureBen Waterworth

Las Vegas Grand Prix Talking Points: Viva Verstappen, style with substance and grid penalty madness

After maybe the most hyped and talked about Grand Prix in history, the first ever Las Vegas Grand Prix is in the books. It was a weekend that promised so much and for the most part delivered on all of that, even though at the end we got the same result we have had (mostly) all season.


With plenty to talk about after an intriguing weekend, let’s get into it.


Verstappen is both right & wrong to criticise Vegas

Ah Max Verstappen. No matter what you think about him, he is never short of a quote graphic.


His criticisms of the Las Vegas race were broadcast the world over. From complaining he felt like a ‘clown’ during the opening ceremony in the lead up, to calling the circuit ‘minor league’, he certainly wasn’t getting the memo from F1 officials that everyone needed to talk this race up, not diminish it.


(Photo by Lars Baron/Getty Images)


And others were quick to scathe him for it. With Toto Wolff blasting comments quite aggressively around negativity during a press conference on the Thursday through to Lewis Hamilton taking thinly veined swipes at Verstappen during post-race interviews. There was plenty to say around all aspects of what the World Champion was saying.


But here’s the thing. Verstappen was both right and wrong in what he said.


He was right in the fact that Las Vegas was all show. It was all hype. And that definitely rubbed a lot of traditional F1 fans the wrong way. Verstappen is there to race and win. Not to be put on a literal pedestal to be showcased to the masses in quite frankly a very awkward and cringe worthy ceremony.


As I’ve constantly pointed out in this regular column, F1 does seem to often forget the traditional fan base of the sport, one that has been following it for many many years and decades. It’s great to have new fans in this ‘Netflix boom’, but by alienating those who have stood by the sport for all those years, you do risk changing the nature of what Formula 1 and has been for over 70 years.


But on the flipside, growth is needed. The boom has of course had so many positives. The fact that we can sit here and see three races in the US, and three very successful races in the US, is a massive benefit for Formula 1. It’s no longer looked at with negative eyes of that ‘snobbish sport from Europe’ by Americans, but a legitimate sport and a must see event.


It’s also not a bad thing to have a bit of pomp and pageantry to a race every now and then. For anyone who has ever witnessed a live sporting event in the US, that’s how they do it. It’s amazing to witness and something that is so uniquely American.


Yes, there were other issues across the weekend that will be addressed moving forward. Yes, there are still issues with the race that will always be there. But for the most part it was a great show, a great event and most importantly, a great race.


And what’s even more important with all those facts is we need people like Verstappen to be allowed to voice their concerns and criticisms, while also being open to have his views changed along the way.


Viva Las Vegas, on all the levels.


Grid penalty rules need a serious overhaul

It’s no secret that Carlos Sainz was very much robbed over the weekend in Las Vegas.


A severely damaged Ferrari at the hands of a loose man hole cover was not his fault at all, and the fact that he had to change components in his car that cost him ten places on the grid was very much one of the main talking points all weekend.


For the most part, everyone agreed that there should be some area in the rules to allow for a penalty to be overruled in the case of unforeseen circumstances such as what happened to Sainz. Many people along the pit wall, including Max Verstappen, all bemoaned the penalty and said it wasn’t fair.


Even race stewards said it wasn’t fair, but there was nothing they could do to prevent the penalty.


(Photo by Hasan Bratic/picture alliance via Getty Images)


This is a clear example to the rule makers of the sport that there needs to be something placed in the rules to include unforeseen circumstances that can absolve penalties in circumstances like this. What that takes the form of can be open to many ideas, but something simple as a vote by teams or some form of committee meeting could overrule it.


This far exceeds the damage to Sainz’s starting position for the race. The cost involved to Ferrari in fixing the car also has to be taken into consideration. The potential points loss in the Championship and the money it will cost the team in the long term. And the standard it sets for other incidents such as this really does not paint a good light on the rules for Formula 1.


If there is one thing everyone surely agrees on from this situation, it’s that this is something that needs to be fixed, and fixed fast.


Stroll shines again but once again is snubbed

Once again I’m back to be the lone voice in defense for Lance Stroll after another strong weekend from the Canadian.


It didn’t start off the best. A five-place grid penalty for ignoring yellow flags during FP3 meant he started the race way down in 19th and many thought he was back to the poor form he had shown in the middle of the season.


However on race day he drove a controlled, measured and smart race to avoid all the carnage around him, make two very well executed pit stops when the safety car came out and finished the race in fifth, his second consecutive race in doing so.


But once again there was barely any plaudits for it. Martin Brundle during the commentary made a passing comment on it towards the end of the race. A few people spoke about it on social media. And perhaps the most laughable snub of all came in the fact that not only did he not win the ‘driver of the day’ award, he wasn’t even listed in the top three.


I’m all for criticism for a driver if it’s warranted. Yes, Stroll had a difficult period of the season after the mid-season break where he wasn’t doing the best he could. Yes, he hasn’t been on the level of Fernando Alonso all season and the points gap is not a good look at the end of the day. But when he actually does perform to his ability and showcase his skills, the opposite should be warranted and praise should be given where due.


(Photo by Dan Istitene – Formula 1/Formula 1 via Getty Images)


With one race remaining, Stroll needs to finish ninth or better to secure his best ever points haul in his career, and if he can remain ahead of both Pierre Gasly and Esteban Ocon, he will also secure his first ever top ten finish in the World Championship.


That itself is cause for celebration for Stroll and once again why there should be more recognition when it is clearly due.


Perez may have just saved his seat

While Las Vegas marked the second race in a row that Sergio Perez has been overtaken on the last lap for a position, his third place in the race did enough to secure him second in the Championship and give Red Bull their first ever 1-2 finish in the drivers’ standings.


This is a significant milestone for both the team and particularly Perez, with such a dominant car having no excuse for not locking out the top two spots.


For Perez, this surely is the one thing he needed to do in order to save his seat for next year. No matter what happens from here, he can clearly point out to the fact that he did the minimum that was required from him and did so with a pretty good drive on the Sunday, coming from 11th on the grid to take the podium.


2025 still definitely remains in doubt for Perez unless 2024 turns out to be something special for him. But with only one more race left of the year, Perez looks to have done enough to stay in that seat for next season.


Why the final race still matters

As always is the case in Formula 1, the last race of the year is always an interesting one.


Sadly for 2023, not an interesting one in terms of an exciting Championship battle. We all know that has been well and truly over essentially since the opening round. And for the seventh time in the last ten years, we go into the last race not experiencing a final round showdown for the title.


(Photo by Hasan Bratic/picture alliance via Getty Images)


But despite that, there is still plenty to gain from the lower positions.


The battle for fourth in the Drivers’ Championship is an exciting one, with four drivers battling it out for that spot. Carlos Sainz currently holds the position on 200 points, but only on countback as he shares the same amount of points with Fernando Alonso. Behind them is Lando Norris on 195 and Charles Leclerc on 188, giving us a spicy last race for fourth in the Championship.


But it’s perhaps in the Constructors’ Championship where most eyes will be focused on in Abu Dhabi, as only four points separates second and third.


Mercedes currently sit on 392 points, with Ferrari on 388, giving us a mouth-watering final race to see who can be crowned runner-up.


The battle for fourth is also a tight one, with McLaren leading Aston Martin by only 11 points ahead of the final round, and if you look further down the field, the battle for seventh is also close with only 16 points separating Williams in seventh and Haas in tenth.


So while it might not be the Championship battle we all had hoped for, there is at least something to look forward to as we say goodbye to the 2023 F1 season this weekend.


This article was originally written for The Roar. You can read the published version here

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