The Dutch star, who sang “Viva Las Vegas” as he claimed a record 18th victory of the season, criticized the Grand Prix before the race.
Red Bull’s Max Verstappen sang “Viva Las Vegas” after the race as he claimed a record 18th victory of the season and joined Sebastian Vettel in third place on the all-time Formula 1 winners’ list.
Saturday night’s spectacular triumph in Sin City was the 53rd in the triple champion’s career and the sixth in a row, and came after a five-second penalty for pushing Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc off the start and then colliding with Russell’s Mercedes driver George.
Leclerc finished second after starting from pole position, losing and regaining the lead, then losing it again, before overtaking Sergio Perez on the final lap to deny Red Bull their seventh double victory of the season.
The victory was Red Bull’s 20th in 21 races, another single-season record and delivered a race that was threatening to be hit by a wave of hype when Vegas hosted a Grand Prix for the first time since the 1980s.
It also ended a three-win streak in the US in 2023 for its 26-year-old Dutch driver, who also dominated in Miami and Austin.
Verstappen – who was the biggest critic of the Las Vegas Grand Prix before the race – had to admit that it was a success.
“It was difficult,” said Verstappen, whose racing suit was an homage to the iconic suit of the late “King of Rock ‘n’ Roll”, Elvis Presley.
“I tried to go at the start, I think we both braked quite late and then I lost grip and we ran a bit wide, so the stewards gave me a penalty for that.
“It put us behind a little bit and I had to pass a few cars… It was definitely a lot of fun.”
Red Bull played the timeless Elvis song on the band’s radio after pop star Justin Bieber waved the checkered flag, and Verstappen showed he was a much better driver than the singer by joining in.
Leclerc, whose team was the only team to beat Red Bull this season, showed all his fighting spirit after the initial defeat.
“I wanted this win so bad, but what a race,” he gasped over the radio as he reached the finish line 2.070 seconds behind Verstappen.
It was the second race in a row in which Perez lost on the last lap, with the Mexican overtaking Aston Martin’s Fernando Alonso on the line in Brazil.
Perez at least had the consolation of securing second place in the championship won long ago by his teammate – another debut for Red Bull, who had never before finished a season with their drivers one-two.
Esteban Ocon was fourth for Alpine, Lance Stroll fifth for Aston Martin and Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz sixth.
Seven-time Mercedes world champion Lewis Hamilton was seventh, ahead of relegated Russell, Alonso and McLaren’s Australian debutant Oscar Piastri, who won an extra point for fastest lap.
While Red Bull won both titles long ago, Ferrari has closed the gap on second-placed Mercedes to four points with one race in Abu Dhabi.
The announcement of the third United States Grand Prix was initially met with enthusiasm, but in the days leading up to the event, sentiment began to sour as street closures choked off traffic and public interest began to wane.
To make matters worse, Thursday night’s disastrous first practice session lasted just eight minutes before it was canceled for track repairs, leading to a class-action lawsuit filed by disgruntled fans.
But Hamilton said Saturday’s enthralling Las Vegas Grand Prix was the perfect response to criticism of the new race.
Verstappen was this week’s most prominent critic of the Vegas scene, arguing that the Grand Prix was overly dominated by the razmataz in the party city.
But a night street race with multiple lead changes as the cars drove off the famous Las Vegas Strip showed that the event could also provide sporting thrills.
“To all the people who were so negative about this weekend, saying it was all about the performance and blah blah blah, I think Vegas proved them wrong,” Hamilton said.