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Lewis Hamilton hits back at Las Vegas GP critics, saying the race ‘proved them wrong’

By Matias Grez, CNN

(CNN) — After a bumpy start to the weekend, the Las Vegas Grand Prix eventually lived up to much of the pre-race hype.

Red Bull’s Max Verstappen, already crowned Formula One world champion, claimed his 18th victory of a remarkable season, but this race was a far cry from the dull, predictable procession the sport has often become over the past couple of seasons.

There were multiple lead changes and countless overtakes throughout the field, with just 2.2 seconds separating the top three as they crossed the line.

The weekend looked to be heading for disaster on Thursday when the first practice session was canceled after less than 10 minutes due to a loose drain cover. Prior to that, Verstappen had been a vocal critic of the event and its glitzy opening ceremony, calling the race “99% show, 1% sport.”

Despite the early hiccup, Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton was effusive in his praise of the grand prix, saying it was “so good” to race in.

“I don’t know how it was as a spectacle for people to watch, but there was so much overtaking,” he told Sky Sports. “It was like Baku – but better. I really wasn’t expecting the track to be so great but the more and more laps you did I just really loved racing it.

“Lots of great overtaking opportunities and I think for all those who were so negative about the weekend, saying it was all about show blah blah blah, I think Vegas proved them wrong.”

Verstappen, eventually, enjoyed the spectacle too, singing Elvis Presley’s “Viva Las Vegas” in the cockpit and donning an Elvis race suit on the podium.

F1 was returning to Las Vegas for the first time in more than 40 years, with the new street circuit featuring the city’s iconic Strip.

Unsurprisingly, it was a star-studded event with a celebrity face at every turn.

Brad Pitt, Rihanna, David Beckham, Shaquille O’Neal and Usain Bolt, among others, were all in attendance, with J Balvin, Kylie Minogue and Tiesto providing the musical entertaining throughout the weekend.

Reaction to the weekend has been mixed, but there has still been plenty of positivity to come out of Vegas, with the BBC’s chief F1 writer Andrew Benson calling the grand prix a “thrilling spectacle.”

“On one side is the Strip, with cars blasting past at 200mph, and the fake Eiffel Tower and Montgolfier balloon of the Paris hotel, the Venetian hotel nearby; on the other the vista of the Bellagio, its fountains, Caesars Palace and other venues,” Benson wrote.

“A three-day ticket costs $11,247. But as a ‘wow’ moment – whether for ardent F1 fans, wider sports fans, or even those unversed in either – the view rivals even the Monaco harbour on the grand prix calendar.”

Tom Cary, the Telegraph’s senior sports correspondent, said the “biggest positive … was the race itself.”

“And there was certainly no shortage of action. Much more than anticipated.”

However, Cary pointed to a litany of errors made over the course of the weekend that would likely leave a sour taste for some fans, if not the drivers.

Ticket costs led to swathes of empty seats in the grandstands and on Thursday, after the drain cover debacle, fans were sent home by F1 in the middle of the night after watching less than 10 minutes of on-track action.

F1 chief Stefano Domenicali and Las Vegas GP chief Renee Wilm issued a joint statement saying: “It happens, and we hope people will understand.”

There have also been no refunds issued, with F1 instead only offering fans a $200 merchandise voucher, according to Reuters.

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