On a wild night in Sin City, where the lead of the race changed hands on multiple occasions, it was Verstappen who prevailed to take his 18th win from the 21 rounds so far with popstar Justin Bieber waving the chequered flag.
Charles Leclerc passed Sergio Perez on the final lap to finish runner-up, while British driver Lando Norris was taken to hospital for precautionary checks after he crashed out on the third lap at 180mph.
The build-up to Formula One’s debut race on the Strip has been mired in controversy following Thursday’s practice washout and Verstappen comparing the Las Vegas race to football’s National League.
But the 3.8-mile venue served up a brilliant race which culminated in Verstappen passing Leclerc for the lead on lap 37 of 50.
A celebrity-jammed grid dispersed moments before the lights went out in Sin City, and it was Verstappen who raced away from his marks to gazump the pole-sitter into the opening bend.
However, Verstappen’s move courted the attention of the stewards with Leclerc forced off the track.
The virtual safety car was deployed following the first-corner chaos and when the race resumed three laps later, Norris was in the wall.
Norris lost control of his McLaren through Turn 11 and was soon a passenger as he thudded backwards into the concrete wall amid a flurry of orange sparks, before the car righted itself and Norris went head-on into the run-off barriers at Turn 12.
Norris’s machine was wrecked in the high-speed smash, but the 23-year-old was on the radio to report he was okay, before he made his way into the medical car.
Out came the safety car and Verstappen was dealt a five-second penalty for forcing Leclerc off the road at the first bend.
“Yeah, that is fine,” he said over the radio. “Send them my regards.”
Verstappen might have felt he would have the sufficient speed in his Red Bull to open up a gap to Leclerc, but the Ferrari man was soon in his mirrors. And on lap 16 the Monegasque swept by to take the lead. In came Verstappen for new tyres.
Further back, and Hamilton, who had been on the charge, sustained a puncture following a collision with Oscar Piastri.
The seven-time world champion limped back to the pits for repairs, but he emerged 19th and last, and a credible result on American soil was in tatters.
In the other Mercedes, Russell, now ahead of Verstappen following the Dutchman’s penalty, had the Red Bull swarming in his mirrors.
Verstappen threw his Red Bull underneath a surprised Russell at Turn 12 and the British driver turned into his rival as they duelled for a net third.
Russell made contact with Verstappen’s Red Bull with debris falling off both of their machines.