Max Verstappen: Monaco is Champions League, Las Vegas is National League

By Sports Desk November 18, 2023

Max Verstappen compared Formula One’s £500million Las Vegas Grand Prix to the fifth tier of English football – and suggested the sport’s new generation of fans are only interested in partying.

Verstappen will start from second place for Saturday’s 50-lap race on the strip after Charles Leclerc put his Ferrari on pole position with a dazzling lap under the Las Vegas lights.

F1 has sold the sport’s Sin City comeback after four decades away as the greatest show on Earth, but fans witnessed just eight minutes of practice on Thursday after a drain cover broke free and tore a hole into the underbelly of Carlos Sainz’s Ferrari.

A delayed second practice – which concluded at 4am on Friday local time – took place in front of empty grandstands after angry spectators were turfed out to comply with local employment laws.

An estimated crowd of 70,000 watched qualifying on Friday night while organisers had been expecting 100,000 attendees each day.

Earlier this week, Verstappen criticised F1’s maiden street race on the strip as “99 per cent show, and one per cent sport”. And in the moments after qualifying, he took another swipe at the event.

“Monaco is Champions League and this is National League,” he said.

“I feel like the show is important, but I like emotion. When I was a little kid it was all about the emotion of the sport that I fell in love with and not the show. As a real racer the show shouldn’t matter.

“An F1 car does not come alive on a street circuit. It is not that exciting. It is about proper race tracks. And when you go to Monza and Spa, these kinds of places have a lot of emotion and passion, and for me seeing the fans there is incredible. When I jump in the car, I am fired up. I love driving at these kind of places.

“I understand fans need things to do around the track, but it is more important that they understand what we do as a sport. Most of them just come to have a party, drink, see a DJ, or a performance act.

“I can do that all over the world. I can go to Ibiza and get completely s***-faced and have a good time. People come here, but they become a fan of what? They want to see maybe their favourite artist and have a few drinks with their mates, and then go out and have a crazy night.

“But they don’t understand what we are doing, and they don’t understand what we are putting on the line to perform.”

John Legend and Kylie Minogue were among a number of high-profile artists to perform in a dazzling 30-minute Superbowl-style show here on Wednesday, designed to kick-start the penultimate round of the season in style.

Verstappen and his fellow drivers were introduced to the crowd via an elevating platform. Verstappen, who secured his third world title in Qatar last month, later said he felt like a “clown”.

In the early hours of Saturday morning, he continued: “As a little kid I grew up wanting to become a world champion. More time should be invested into the actual sport, and what we are trying to achieve.

“The sport should explain what the team has done throughout the season, and what they are working for. That’s way more important than having these random shows all over the place. I am not passionate about that. I like passion and emotion.

“I love Vegas, but not to drive an F1 car. I love to go out, have a few drinks, throw everything on red and be crazy, but emotion and passion is not there compared to the old-school tracks.”

Despite starting behind Leclerc when the lights go out at 10pm local time here on Saturday (6am Sunday GMT), Verstappen will be favourite to take his 18th win of the season. George Russell will line up from third but Lewis Hamilton will start only 10th.

Hamilton, who finished half-a-second behind team-mate Russell, said: “I was lacking confidence and grip. I struggled.

“Yesterday, the car felt better and I was more competitive and I made changes overnight and it didn’t feel great today. I have got a lot of work to do.”

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  • 'Childish remark not aimed at Verstappen', says Red Bull boss Horner 'Childish remark not aimed at Verstappen', says Red Bull boss Horner

    Red Bull boss Christian Horner believes Gianpiero Lambiase's "childish" remark was not aimed at Max Verstappen during the pair's unhappy radio exchange at Sunday's Hungarian Grand Prix.

    Drivers' Championship leader Verstappen was forced to settle for fifth at the Hungaroring - his second-lowest finish of the season - Oscar Piastri and Lando Norris comprising a McLaren one-two.

    The three-time world champion was involved in a collision with Lewis Hamilton on lap 63, after overshooting a corner on an attempted overtake.

    It led Verstappen to vent his frustrations towards race engineer Lambiase, telling him over the team radio: "You gave me this s*** strategy. I'm trying to rescue what's left."

    The Italian responded: "I am not even going to get into a radio fight with the other teams, Max. We'll let the stewards do their thing. It’s childish on the radio, childish."

    It was a surprising exchange given the close-knit relationship shared between the pair, who have worked together for eight years.

    However, Horner said Lambiase's comments were instead aimed at the radio traffic from rival teams hoping the stewards would penalise them.

    "I don't think GP's [Lambiase] reference at that point was in reference to Max," he told reporters. "Others [were] obviously goading for penalties because obviously the stewards are listening to the radio as well.

    "Max was frustrated, which you can understand. He has a very direct line of communication with his engineer. It's something that they’ll discuss between the two of them.

    "They've been together for eight years and, yes, there are things we could have done better in the race today that we'll talk about as a team.

    "I think everybody sees we need to find more performance, and everybody is working hard to do that and we'll have whatever discussions behind closed doors."

    Verstappen, who still holds a 76-point lead over Norris at the Drivers' Championship summit, will head to next weekend's Belgian Grand Prix having not won any of his last three races; last going four without success during the 2020 season.

    However, the Dutchman has won each of the last three races in Belgium, and could become only the third driver after Ayrton Senna and Jim Clark to win four in a row.

  • Hamilton labels Verstappen collision as a "racing incident" as pair avoid punishment Hamilton labels Verstappen collision as a "racing incident" as pair avoid punishment

    Lewis Hamilton labelled his clash with Max Verstappen at the Hungarian Grand Prix as a "racing incident" after finishing third on Sunday. 

    Hamilton and Verstappen made contact coming into turn one at the Hungaroring with seven laps of the race remaining. 

    The Dutchman attempted to go on the inside of his former rival to secure the final podium place, but in doing so locked up his front tyres. 

    Verstappen and Hamilton made contact, with the three-time world champion briefly sent into the air and off the track as he was overtaken by Ferrari's Charles Leclerc. 

    The stewards swiftly placed the incident under investigation and conducted their analysis of it after the race, with the pair both escaping punishment for the collision. 

    "For me it was a racing incident," Hamilton told Sky Sports. 

    "Ultimately he was much quicker and he sent it. I moved a little to defend, but I left enough space on the inside and he locked up and obviously then couldn't turn.

    "He came at a different trajectory and clipped my wheels. If he was under control he would have gone by."

    “It’s nerve-wracking when you see the pace at which they close the gap on corners," Hamilton added of Red Bull's pace.

    "You just laugh to yourself because it’s not something I can do, particularly on the last sector they were very very strong, same as the McLarens.

    “I saw him coming from a long way back and he was able to brake a lot later than me, but he sent it up the inside, I stayed still and he clipped the wheel and went over, so I think it was a racing incident."

    Hamilton's third-place finish saw him claim a 200th podium, the first driver in the history of the competition to reach that milestone. 

    The seven-time world champion, who claimed 49 of those podium finishes with McLaren, was pleased to see his former team produce their first one-two since the Italian Grand Prix in 2021. 

    “Big thanks to this amazing crowd and a huge congratulations to the McLarens with the one-two, that’s my old original family so it’s great to see," Hamilton said. 

    “For us, the team have done a great job at pushing this car ultimately, we didn’t have the pace of the McLarens or of the Red Bulls but we were just able to hold on at the beginning of the race, it was very tough to hold on and make those tyres last."

  • Verstappen fumes at 's***' Red Bull strategy after finishing fifth at Hungarian Grand Prix Verstappen fumes at 's***' Red Bull strategy after finishing fifth at Hungarian Grand Prix

    Max Verstappen raged at Red Bull's strategy after finishing fifth at the Hungarian Grand Prix, declaring the team are no longer able to rely on a pace advantage.

    Verstappen recorded his joint second-worst finish of the year at the Hungaroring as Oscar Piastri led Lando Norris in a McLaren one-two.

    The three-time world champion's race was defined by a collision with old rival Lewis Hamilton, coming into contact with the Mercedes on lap 63 when he overshot a corner on an attempted overtake.

    Verstappen vented his frustrations over team radio, telling race engineer Gianpiero Lambiase: "You gave me this s*** strategy. I'm trying to rescue what's left."

    Speaking to Sky Sports after the race, the Dutchman refused to apologise for those comments as he said: "I don't think we need to apologise. 

    "I just think we need to do a better job. I don't know why people think you cannot be vocal on a radio. This is a sport. If some people don't like that, then stay home."

    Verstappen, who also dropped below Charles Leclerc late on, continued: "I'm not happy.

    "On a day when we're lacking pace compared to McLaren, you hope we do the right things with strategy, which was not the case.

    "You can't rely on a little pace advantage. Maybe last year when the car was quite a lot faster than everyone else, but in the position we are in now, we can't do that.

    "Naturally that frustrates me because I want things to be done better. I'm realistic.

    "Today we couldn't have beaten the McLarens, but a P3 was on the cards if we were on it a bit more."

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