Max Verstappen has survived a penalty and a damaged front wing to claim the maiden Las Vegas Grand Prix, Red Bull’s 20th victory this season.

The world champion, who has been vocal all week about his lack of excitement for this race, was at his clinical best to deny teammate Sergio Perez and Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc.

It was an eventful race for the Dutchman, who passed Leclerc at the first turn of the race to take the lead, but was handed a five-second penalty for pushing the Ferrari driver off the track.

Verstappen was not impressed with the penalty, relaying a snark remark over his team radio to the stewards after learning of his penalty.

“Yeah, that’s fine. Send them my regards,” he said.

His chances of victory looked in trouble when Mercedes driver George Russell turned into him, damaging his front-wing.

But a safety car on lap 26 — the second of the race and called for the debris on the track from Verstappen’s car — allowed the Dutchman to put on fresh tyres and chase down Perez and Leclerc, who looked set to the top-two with 20 laps to go. 

“It was a tough one. I tried to go for it at the start, but I ran out of grip,” Verstappen said after his win.

“That put us on the back foot, earned us the penalty, I had to pass quite a lot of cars.

“It’s never ideal [to carry damage] but luckily we could still win the race.”

Verstappen got the better launch off the start, and was able to pull alongside Leclerc into the first corner.

The Dutchman stuck his Red Bull on the inside of the Ferrari, pushing Leclerc wide and taking the lead.

A red F1 car and blue F1 side-by-side through a corner on a street track at night

Red Bull’s Max Verstappen and Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc were side-by-side into the first corner.(Reuters: Mike Blake)

Leclerc was immediately on the radio to his team, demanding stewards force Verstappen to hand the lead of the race back to him.

A five-second penalty was handed to Verstappen on lap 8 for forcing Leclerc off the track, to be served during his pit stop.

Verstappen pulled out a two-second gap to Leclerc following that message, but the Dutchman lost the lead by lap 16.

He pitted immediately, as the Ferrari driver carried on.

Leclerc stayed out until the end of lap 21, before his team called him in for new tyres.

Leclerc was looking in a strong position, but the safety car on lap 26 allowed both of Red Bull’s vehicles to put on fresh tyres, while Ferrari opted to keep Leclerc on track to take the lead.

The three then gave the Vegas crowd a thrilling race.

Over a three-lap period from laps 35-37, Perez, Leclerc and Verstappen each held the lead.

The Dutchman was able to drive off, while Leclerc and Perez fought until the end for second. Leclerc overtook Perez on the final lap to claim second, beating Perez by less than two tenths of a second.

The win secured Red Bull’s 20th victory of the year, a single-season record.

Perez’s third place secures him second in the drivers’ championship, the first time Red Bull have ever had their drivers finish first and second in the championship.

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