Driver Buys Into Grand Prix Once He Crosses Finish Line

Max Verstappen wins thrilling race, but even he had criticized the event
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 19, 2023 5:15 PM CST
Las Vegas Puts On Great Race, but Event Overall Has Issues
Red Bull driver Max Verstappen, of the Netherlands, celebrates on the podium after winning the Formula One Las Vegas Grand Prix auto race on Saturday.   (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)

The competition itself was thrilling—"one of the best races this season," the Athletic reports. Max Verstappen won the first Las Vegas Grand Prix on Saturday night, triumphing over a five-second penalty and a collision for which another driver took the blame. Management of the event has received plenty of criticism, however, and there were issues. Fans tore through screens erected to block the view of unpaying spectators, per, and organizers already are facing a class-action lawsuit filed after fans were forced to leave before a practice session. Verstappen was among the critics last week, calling the inaugural event "99% show."

The first problem occurred nine minutes into the first practice session Thursday night, per NPR. A manhole cover came loose along the temporary street course and severely damaged the car of Carlos Sainz Jr. when he drove over it. Crews went out with asphalt and sand, taking off every drain cap to keep it from happening again. The next practice was delayed 2½ hours, and spectators had been told to leave the viewing areas by then. The lawsuit, which seeks at least $30,000 in damages, was filed the next morning. The event's response was to offer fans a $200 voucher at the race's official gift shop, per the AP. But the offer only applied to those holding single-night tickets Thursday, and most spectators bought three-day passes.

Verstappen, while wearing an Elvis-inspired firesuit, had spoken against the Vegas excess on display all week—until he won the race that featured seven lead changes among three drivers. "Viva Las Vegas!" Verstappen sang as he crossed the finish line, with Justin Bieber waving the checkered flag Saturday night, per the AP. "We go straight to the nightclub," he told the other drivers headed to the podium with him for the trophy presentation. But they had to wait for more show. First, the Bellagio fountains were turned back on for the crowd, which included celebrities such as Brad Pitt, Rihanna, Usain Bolt, and Shaquille O'Neal. Then there was a fireworks show over the Strip. Next, a DJ went to work, and the dancing began. (More Las Vegas stories.)

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