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Max Verstappen takes 18th win of season in Las Vegas

Max Verstappen takes 18th win of season in Las Vegas


Max Verstappen won the inaugural Las Vegas Grand Prix, his 18th win in 21 starts.

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LAS VEGAS (Reuters) - Max Verstappen continued his dominant Formula One season with a victory in the inaugural Las Vegas Grand Prix, his 18th win in 21 starts.

It turned out to be a typical win for Verstappen -- who will win his third straight F1 driver title this season -- in an atypical week, one marred by problems with the first practice round and Verstappen himself complaining about the glitzy nature of race week amid the bright lights of the Las Vegas Strip.

But in the end, he soaked up the bright lights and big stage, and as he crossed the finish line wearing his a white race suit, a la Elvis Presley, he sang "Viva Las Vegas!" -- a Presley standard. And it's only fitting that a superstar from another generation - Justin Bieber -- was at the finish line to wave the checkered flag to end the race that started at 10 p.m. local time on Saturday.

Verstappen completed the 50-lap course ahead of Ferrari's Charles Leclerc (2.07 seconds behind) and Sergio Perez (2.241 seconds back), his Red Bull Racing teammate.

Alpine's Esteban Ocon finished fourth, more than 18 seconds behind Verstappen.

Leclerc was the top qualifier and Verstappen moved to second place on the starting grid after Carlos Sainz was penalized 10 seconds because his team had to make changes to his car after damage caused by hitting a drain cover in Thursday night's practice. The Sainz incident forced race organizers to cancel the practice and make changes throughout the course.

Throughout the race, Leclerc, Verstappen and Perez jockeyed for position, but near the end, the Red Bull teammates worked together to allow Verstappen to pass Leclerc with 13 laps remaining.

Leclerc, of Monaco, passed Mexico's Perez, for second place on the final lap.

Verstappen, of the Netherlands, managed to win despite serving a five-second penalty for forcing Leclerc wide at the first corner. The penalty was assessed during a pit stop, and Verstappen emerged in 11th place but still was able to overcome Leclerc.

"I really enjoyed it and I am especially happy that we finished the weekend on a high note because it was hurting me to see the sport that I love so much starting so wrong on Thursday," Leclerc said. "The fact that we had an amazing race makes it all better."

Earlier in the week, Verstappen blasted the Las Vegas race, calling it "99 percent show and one percent sporting event" and saying he didn't "like all the things around it."

But in the end, he lapped up the bright lights of Sin City.

"I hope everyone enjoyed it, we definitely did. Excited to come back here next year and try to do something similar," Verstappen said. "It was a fun race. I enjoyed it."

Perez clinched a second-place finish in the driver standings.

The final race of the season comes next weekend at the Abu Dhabi Grad Prix.