By Aimee Lewis, CNN
(CNN) — After spending much of the build-up to the Las Vegas Grand Prix making it clear he was unenthused by the event, Max Verstappen decided it was time for a little less conversation and a little more action on Saturday as he did what he does best – winning Formula One races.
The Red Bull driver, wearing a race suit inspired by Elvis Presley, sang the King of Rock and Roll’s famous “Viva Las Vegas” song as crossed the chequered flag first, giving the impression that, in the end, he couldn’t help but fall in love with Sin City after a thrilling night race under the bright lights.
Plenty had been written about the Grand Prix, the first in Vegas since the 1980s, and not all of it was good, with the first practice session cancelled due to a loose drain cover and Verstappen making headlines for describing the event as “99% show, 1% sport.”
But once the lights went green, the race delivered, with three-time world champion Verstappen securing a record-extending 18th win of the season and his Red Bull team achieving a single-season record 20th race win.
Verstappen also became the first man to win three races in the same country in a season, having already won in Austin and Miami, and is now third on the all-time list for career wins, level with Sebastian Vettel and behind only Michael Schumacher and Lewis Hamilton.
Unlike in many of the season’s previous races, however, Verstappen did not cruise to victory. Starting second on the grid, it wasn’t until lap 37 that the Dutchman passed Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc to take the race lead.
A five-second penalty for the Dutchman for pushing Leclerc off the track at the start of the race curtailed the Red Bull driver initially before he took control towards the end of the race – surviving a damaged front wing after a late clash with George Russell and numerous safety cars.
Verstappen said afterwards that the race was “definitely a lot of fun.”
“It was a tough one. I tried to go for it at the start,” he told reporters of his attempt to pass Leclerc at Turn 1. “I think we both braked quite late, then I just ran out of grip and we ended up a bit wide, so the stewards gave me a penalty for that.”
Leclerc finished second, his fifth podium finish of the season, after impressively overtaking Sergio Perez on the final lap to deny Red Bull a one-two finish.
Perez, however, did secure second place in the drivers’ championship to ensure Red Bull will end the season with a one-two in the drivers’ championship for the first time.
It was another disappointing performance for Mercedes with Hamilton in seventh and Russell eighth, the latter causing a safety car appearance and incurring a five-second penalty for clashing with Verstappen.
As expected, there were plenty of celebrities in attendance, from former England soccer captain David Beckham to Hollywood actor Brad Pitt. And pop star Justin Bieber waved the chequered flag, adding more razzmatazz to a weekend that was already filled with glitz.
“A great crowd. I hope everyone enjoyed it. We definitely did,” said the Verstappen, per F1. “I’m already excited to come back here next year and hopefully try to do something similar.”
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