If Max Verstappen had cut the figure of a teenager dragged on a dreadful family holiday in the build-up to the Las Vegas Grand Prix, he was more 'kid in a candy store' after taking the chequered flag on Sunday morning.
Fans sceptical of F1's expensive sojourn to the Strip had found their hero ahead of the grand prix with world champion Verstappen declaring the circuit "National League" and grumpily responding to a host of subplots around the weekend.
From fans being offered merchandise vouchers for being kicked out of the heavily delayed practice sessions to being drivers paraded around like "clowns" in pre-race duties, many felt Verstappen had a point about the priorities the sport was showing in Sin City.
However, time heals all wounds or, on this occasion, nice shiny trophies heal all gripes. While returning to the pits, Verstappen sung "Viva Las Vegas!" over team radio before admitting he can't wait to return in 2024.
“It was a it was a lot of fun there," the Dutchman told David Coulthard after hopping out of his victorious Red Bull.
Viva Las Vegas 🎶
Radio Red Bull is back as Max Verstappen wins the first ever Las Vegas Grand Prix! 📻 pic.twitter.com/3PtBxX2Gl8
— Sky Sports F1 (@SkySportsF1) November 19, 2023
"With the DRS, that helped a lot for very good racing air. Also, I think the low degradation with the tarmac here, you could really push on the tyres, which I think was good. It was a lot of fun out there.
“A great crowd. I hope everyone enjoyed it a bit. We definitely did.
"So already excited to come back here next year and hopefully try to do something similar."
Red Bull team principal Christian Horner then told Sky F1: "He revels in races like that. Even though he was on the end of a penalty, the way he came back and fought - I think he might have changed his mind about Vegas."
Few could argue that pre-race premonitions of a chilly, anticlimactic parade around Las Vegas proved false. F1 must do a better job of handling a number of issues around the race but the track action itself was strong stuff, at least amidst a season drearily dominated by the now three-time world champion.
Verstappen overcooked his entry into the first corner while chasing down pole-sitter Charles Leclerc and was handed a five-second penalty, while Lando Norris' early crash and a subsequent tangle between Verstappen and George Russell both brought out safety cars.
Ultimately, it would be Verstappen's raw pace in all circumstances which dragged him over the line while Leclerc nabbed second place off Red Bull's Sergio Perez on the last lap.
"What a race, honestly I enjoyed it so much," Leclerc said before the podium.
"At the start it was so tricky but then we had the pace, we passed him back and we were really strong overall. We got a bit unlucky with a safety car and we went for track position and keeping first place but it was tricky with tyres at the end. But honestly, I enjoyed it.
"The weekend didn't start the way it had to start but I'm so glad it ended that way. The sport needed it."