Leclerc misses out on win but ‘enjoyed’ Las Vegas street fight

© XPB 

Charles Leclerc looked like the man in charge in the early part of Saturday’s Las Vegas Grand Prix only to finish runner-up to Max Verstappen, but the Ferrari driver thoroughly enjoyed his evening of racing in Sin City.

Despite lining up on pole, Leclerc lost out to Verstappen on the run into Turn 1. However, the Red Bull driver had carried his rival and himself off the track as he entered the corner, a move frowned upon by the stewards who imposed a 5-second penalty on the Dutchman.

Leclerc eventually recouped the lead on merit on lap 15 of 50, and from that point it looked very much like the race would be the Monegasque’s to lose, barring any unforeseen event.

Leclerc ceded the lead to an out of sequence Sergio Perez as the race’s pitstop rotations, but a Safety Car deployed on lap 26 brought the Mexican back in line, while Verstappen crawled back into contention.

Eventually both Red Bull cars overhauled the Ferrari but a bold move by Leclerc on the final lap of the race handed him second place.

"I'm of course disappointed to only finish second, but at the end that was the best we could do,” Leclerc admitted.

"At the start, it was very tricky because I think Max on the inside lost a little bit of grip and brought me on the outside. But then we had the pace, we passed him back and we were really strong overall.

Charles Leclerc (MON) Ferrari SF-23 and Max Verstappen (NLD) Red Bull Racing RB19 at the start of the race. 18.11.2023. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 22, Las Vegas Grand Prix, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA, Race Day. -, EMail: © Copyright: Batchelor / XPB Images

"We got a bit unluckily with the safety car. We didn't pit because we didn't know what the others will do. We went for track position and keeping that first place.

"That was difficult with the older tyres towards the end. But second place with a lot of fights, honestly I enjoyed it."

Following Las Vegas’ rocky start on Thursday, a cracking race with frantic battles up and down the field went a long way towards restoring everyone’s views.

Leclerc admitted that Saturday’s thrilling street fights were just what the event needed, insisting there was “no better race” than F1’s first race in Vegas.

"I'm sorry about the second place. But on the other hand, I'm sure that everybody had an amazing time looking at the race. I really, really enjoyed it,” he told the crowd in the post-race interviews.

"We shall have more races like that where the racing is like that because it was really enjoyable."

“I think we needed it. Of course, the weekend didn't start the way it had to start, but I'm so happy that it ended that way. It's such an incredible sport.

"I think today, there was no better race than our first race in Vegas. The energy around the city is incredible and just really happy, at least I enjoyed today."

Keep up to date with all the F1 news via Facebook and Twitter