Lewis Hamilton believes that the Las Vegas Grand Prix proved its critics wrong after the event’s return to the Formula 1 calendar yielded an enthralling race.
While Max Verstappen romped to an 18th victory of the season, he had to overcome a five-second penalty for a robust pass on polesitter Charles Leclerc at the opening corner, two Safety Car interventions and damage after contact with George Russell.
From the outset, the F1’s return to Las Vegas for the first time since 1982 has faced a barrage of criticism from fans and drivers.
With FP1 on Thursday scrapped after just eight minutes, circuit maintenance to fill manholes around the circuit delayed FP2 by two-and-a-half hours before fans were ejected from the grandstands due to logistical concerns surrounding security staffing.
Despite the early issues, Hamilton was swift to defend the event, saying that Vegas had proved its doubters wrong.
“The race was very good, it was one of the best races. So many people, all the media, everyone has been so negative about this race and about the show,” Hamilton told the media.
“I don’t know anything about the entertainment myself, I wasn’t watching. But I think Vegas put on a great event, next year’s going to be even better.
“As I said, there’s been a lot of negativity about having three events in the States and people talking about bringing back old classic races from Europe but this has provided a better race than most of the tracks we go to.
“I don’t know how it was as a spectacle for people to watch, but there was so much overtaking, it was like Baku, but better. And I really wasn’t expecting the track to be so great.
“I just really loved racing. Lots of great overtaking opportunities. And I think for all those that were so negative about the weekend, saying it’s all about show, blah, blah, blah. I think Vegas proved them wrong.
“So, hats off to the people that planned the show and I can’t wait to come back and hopefully have a better race next year.”
Hamilton crossed the line seventh after recovering from contact with Carlos Sainz on Lap 1 and a puncture sustained when battling with McLaren rookie Oscar Piastri.
Mercedes team-mate Russell dropped to eighth after threatening the podium as a result of a five-second time penalty for causing a collision with Verstappen.
“Yeah, really challenging race. I started on the Hard tyre, which was tricky in at the beginning,” Hamilton recalled. “Obviously I got hit from someone behind, a big hit I think it was from Carlos or something like that and then just really tried to not hit the cars that had spun around and I fell back I think five or six places.
Hamilton circulated in 14th once the first lap Virtual Safety Car spell ended but was able to charge his way back through the field having unlocked a strong pace.
“I went up the inside of Piastri. I don’t know exactly what happened. I obviously got the hit from behind, I think it was a racing incident,” he added.
“I felt a thud, I didn’t have a puncture immediately. I was accelerating and, as I got to the pitlane entry, I felt the rear was moving. It was too late to come in. I had to do a whole slow lap. I must have lost 40s or something”.
“Grateful I was able to come back. Apologies to the team for the poor qualifying. There are strengths in our car but sometimes it’s hard to get performance out of it.”