Dutchman increases championship lead to 12 points.
Max Verstappen took Red Bull’s first win at the COTA since 2013 as the Dutchman hung on the victory at the US Grand Prix, fending off a charging Lewis Hamilton. Sergio Pérez completed the final podium places to hand Red Bull their 200th podium. Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc put in another stellar drive to take fourth place, with McLaren’s Daniel Ricciardo finishing a solid fifth. Hamilton’s teammate Valtteri Bottas, who took a five place grid penalty, finished sixth, with Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz, McLaren’s Lando Norris, AlphaTauri’s Yuki Tsunoda, and Aston Martin’s Sebastian Vettel rounding out the points places.
Red Bull’s double podium means they cut down Mercedes’ constructors’ lead to 22 points, while the intense third place battle sees McLaren just three and a half points ahead of Ferrari.
Hamilton got the better start off the line, going on the inside of Turn one to take the lead, reminiscent of Kimi Räikkönen’s same maneuver in 2018. As Hamilton and Verstappen were involved in a duel right at the front, Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz was engaged in a tussle with both the McLarens, which saw Daniel Ricciardo take fifth place after a bold overtake over Sainz. Ricciardo’s teammate, Lando Norris, tried to attack his former teammate Sainz, but Sainz hung on to sixth place. And if you thought that was enough drama for the first lap, you were mistaken, further down the grid, Aston Martin’s Sebastian Vettel, Williams’ George Russell, both of whom started at the back due to engine penalties, got flying starts to make up multiple places. At the same time, Vettel’s teammate Lance Stroll had a horror start and was spun around after contact with the other Williams of Nicholas Latifi.
By lap 3, Hamilton was building a lead of almost a second, but his teammate didn’t have the same luck as Bottas who started ninth, dropped down to tenth after being passed by Yuki Tsunoda. Lap four saw an early pit stop from Alpine’s Esteban Ocon, who needed a fresh front wing after his got damaged in the opening lap following contact with Alfa Romeo’s Kimi Räikkönen. Red Bull, fearing tyre degradation due to the temperature, pulled the plug early by bringing in Max Verstappen on lap 11 in an attempt to undercut Hamilton. Verstappen emerged 19 seconds behind Hamilton in fifth place. In the following lap, Red Bull pulled in Verstappen’s teammate Sergio Pérez too.
A couple of laps later, on lap 15, the race saw its first retirement, with AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly retiring due to suspension issues. The following lap saw two of the all time greats of the sport, Fernando Alonso and Kimi Räikkönen engaged in an epic duel with both drivers fighting with their elbows out, but the former Ferrari world champion managed to come out ahead with some hard but fair racing. Alonso was quickly involved in another tussle shortly, this time though with Räikkönen’s teammate, Antonio Giovinazzi. Both drivers kept pushing each other, and the two-time world champion overtook the Italian, but he had to give back the position because Alonso did it off the track.
Upfront, Hamilton had managed to claw his way back to the top after his pit stop and by lap 27 the gap between Verstappen and Hamilton was under three seconds. Verstappen came in for a second pit stop on lap 30, which saw him re-emerge in third place just behind his teammate, who didn’t hold up the Dutchman and off he went chasing Hamilton. Hamilton came in for his second stop on lap 38 and rejoined in second place, just under eight seconds behind Verstappen and had 18 laps to catch the leader. By lap 45, Hamilton was eating into Verstappen’s lead with the Brit being only four seconds behind the Dutchman. Had Red Bull called in Verstappen too early?
It seemed like all was going against Red Bull and Verstappen and Hamilton was just going faster and faster than Verstappen on each lap. As the race entered its 50th lap, Hamilton was just under two seconds behind Verstappen and with six laps to go; this was Mercedes; to lose. By the penultimate lap, Hamilton got within DRS range of Verstappen but the Dutchman showed immense resilience and character to hang on to that lead and scraped through to see the chequered flag first, with Hamilton less than a second behind him!
At one point what looked like a certain Mercedes win and Hamilton retaking the championship lead is now advantage Red Bull leaving Austin. With Verstappen increasing his championship lead to twelve points and Red Bull cutting into Mercedes’ constructors’ lead, we have everything to fight for. Next up, we head to Mexico City in two weeks’ time and the track should suit Red Bull given the high altitude. Whether Hamilton can take the championship lead there or if Verstappen can consolidate his is left to seen, but what is for sure is that we are entering the final phase of an epic title battle which is certain to go down to the wire!