Max Verstappen Wins Dramatic US Grand Prix
Max Verstappen fended off championship rival Lewis Hamilton until the very last lap to claim his first USGP win and 18th career win.
After taking pole position on Saturday, Max Verstappen put on a show Sunday to convert his pole into a win in this year’s United States Grand Prix which was held at the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, TX. After missing the race altogether in 2020 due to the pandemic, Formula 1 returned to the United States in the midst of a championship battle between defending champion Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen.
This year’s Grand Prix marked the return of many race traditions that were foregone by the pandemic, including the return of various celebrities that showed face at the race. Spotted at the race were the likes of Rory Mcllory, Megan Thee Stallion, Shaquille O’Neal and Chris Bosh. However, other than the celebrities, the race shaped up to be a signature win by Verstappen who initially lost out to Lewis Hamilton but was able to catch up due to clever strategy from Red Bull.
Other than Carlos Sainz and Yuki Tsunoda, all of the drivers decided to start on the medium tire compound making the race a two stop race, unlike the traditional one stop race. After being overtaken at the start, Verstappen was able to maintain a close distance under a second to Hamilton but eventually decided to pit on lap ten for the hard tire compound. Hamilton followed suit, and three laps later on lap 13, pitted for a set of hard tires like Verstappen had. While Hamilton was in the pits, Verstappen overtook him to take the lead.
Verstappen continued to lead the race until lap 29 when he came into the pits for a second time for another set of hard compound tires. By taking a pitstop earlier than they had to, Red Bull were able to secure track position by having Verstappen in front of Hamilton when Hamilton would eventually pit on lap 37 for hard tire compound. Hamilton, who pitted 8 laps later than Verstappen was trailing behind by 8.5 seconds but with his fresher rubber, was able to close the gap significantly over the remaining 19 laps of the race. By lap 46, Hamilton was within a second of Verstappen and making inroads on closing the gap. However, Verstappen’s clinical control and composure allowed him to keep the lead in a situation that seemed certain to go his rivals way.
Hamilton and Mercedes, who were widely considered as favorites to win Sunday’s race, will surely come out of the race feeling there was more to gain. Hamilton, who came to Austin as a five time winner at the track, was hoping to regain the championship lead but came out of the race at a 12 point deficit to Verstappen. Verstappen, extending his lead not only with five races left to go, but with several circuits that he is favored at coming up, surely has his championship hopes up as he aims to claim his first Drivers World Championship.
Verstappen’s teammate, Sergio Perez, also secured his second consecutive third place finish as he placed himself as a thorn in the side of Mercedes whose second driver, Valterri Bottas, was unable to play a major role for the team. Perez, who had an opportunity to grab his career first pole position on Saturday, has been in fine form as of late after struggling for much of the season. As the season nears its end and the constructors championship between Red Bull and Mercedes heats up, Perez should be in position to play a significant role in securing a championship for his team. Moreover, as Formula 1 heads to its home nation of Mexico, his fine form could see him potentially winning his home race given his strong form and Red Bull’s historic success at the venue.
Other than Hamilton and Verstappen, the race saw plenty of action along the field with a duel between Ferrari and McLaren as they fought for third in the constructors championship. Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz of Ferrari qualified fifth and sixth in front of Daniel Ricciardo and Lando Norris of McLaren at seventh and eighth. From the opening laps, the Ferrari and McLaren fought hard with contact being made several times. Coming out of the race, Ferrari were able to close the 7.5 point deficit to McLaren to 3.5 after Leclerc finished fourth and Sainz who finished seventh bagging a total of 18 points to McLarens haul of 14 points.
In an ode to days gone by, 2005 and 2006 driver’s champion Fernando Alonso battled against 2007 champion Kimi Räikkönen for the last remaining points paying positions. Unfortunately, Alonso was forced to retire from the race after he sustained damage on his rear wing, and Räikkönen spun into gravel in the later stages of the race. Sebastian Vettel, who started at the back of the grid due to engine penalties with Alonso, capitalized on his fellow former champions mistakes and snuck into tenth place to secure a point for himself and Aston Martin.
As this season enters its closing stages, the championship battle has swung in Verstappen’s favor as he leads the championship by 12 points. Red Bull have also closed their gap to Mercedes to 23 points as they aim to reclaim their first constructors championship title since 2013. The championship battle continues in two weeks as Formula 1 heads to the streets of Mexico City where Red Bull are expected to have an advantage over Mercedes. Who comes out at the top at the final race in Abu Dhabi is anyone’s guess.