UNITED STATES GP – Max Verstappen wins from ninth beating Lewis Hamilton by two seconds on track, but the Mercedes disqualified

Testing & Race Reports

Max Verstappen has beaten Lewis Hamilton to take his fiftieth career win at the United States Grand Prix, the Dutchman finishing two seconds ahead of the Mercedes. The Dutchman took his fifteenth win of the season despite having to manage an issue in the closing laps.

Verstappen had started the race fifth but he then started to come through the field before making the key move for victory at half distance making a very late move to take the lead from Lando Norris. The McLaren looked to be in the fight for victory, having lead most of the opening stint.

It was a measured drive by Verstappen as he picked his way through the field from sixth, but fighting the two Brits wasn’t as easy. Mercedes and McLaren put up a robust defence to Verstappen, but Red Bull appeared not to have the same pace as earlier in the season.

But it wasn’t simple as it looked for Verstappen, a braking issue gave Hamilton the opportunity to close to within two seconds in the closing stages. Verstappen however hung on to take the fiftieth win of his career.

Mercedes will face some criticism over their decision to put Hamilton on a long first stint, which dropped Hamilton to a two stop race at off set. While the pace looked strong the off-set strategy put the seven-time champion on the back foot with strategy, one step behind Red Bull.

Hamilton dummied for the inside at Turn One with seven laps to go and Norris defended with a late move. But then the Mercedes cut-back on Norris on the exit of the corner and passed around the outside into Turn Two and set off after Verstappen. That then put Verstappen just out of reach, despite him managing a brake issue but he still managed to keep Hamilton at arm’s length.

However Hamilton and Charles Leclerc were later disqualified for breeching Article 3.5.9 e) of the technical regulations. This reads: “The thickness of the plank assembly measured normal to the lower surface must be 10mm [plus or minus] 0.2mm and must be uniform when new. A minimum thickness of 9mm will be accepted due to wear, and conformity to this provision will be checked at the peripheries of the designated holes.”

Running an upgraded Mercedes floor, Hamilton proved particularly rapid during the final stint to close to within just over two seconds of Max Verstappen at the flag. As the stewards note, this illegality is the result of the sprint race format combining with bumpy track surface at the Circuit of The Americas, despite Turns 12 and 14-16 having been resurfaced.

Norris had made a lightning start from second to pass the Ferrari of Charles Leclerc into Turn One he then looked to control the opening phase of the race. But the big threat was Verstappen, a poor qualifying had left him sixth but in the opening stint the three-time champion worked his way into third before the first stop.

But it was all not good for McLaren, Norris’s teammate Oscar Piastri was hit by Esteban Ocon as they justled in the opening stages, resulting in both retiring. For the Frenchman his third retirement in five races, after damaging the radiator of the McLaren.

Verstappen said, “It (the start) was quite tight. Luckily there was a lot of space going into Turn 1, so that helps. After that we could do our own race and control the pace a bit. Had a bit of fun at the end, pushing a bit more. The DRS with such big wings on this track, it’s quite powerful. Once I cleared the DRS we all settled in our own rhythm and I think the pace of our car was very good.”

Next weekend in Mexico City where the Dutchman excels he has the chance to equal his fifteen wins in a season and break his points record both set last year. But what will that be? With four races to go and a maximum of a hundred and twelve points still to claim.

He further extends his already won, championship lead over teammate Perez to two hundred and twenty-eight points, with pressure continuing on the Mexican with Hamilton now nineteen points behind in the battle for second.

Carlos Sainz finished fourth, having been let past by teammate Charles Leclerc who eventually lost fifth to Sergio Perez. But there will be again questions for Ferrari around strategy, Leclerc partly let Sainz pass because it became clear that the one stop wasn’t going to work.

Leclerc on his one-stop strategy was holding up Sainz, that was allowing Perez to close up and that was not only putting the Monacan at risk but also Sainz. Sainz was able to pull away, but as Ferrari predicted the fading tyres allowed Perez to reel in Leclerc. Perez then passed Leclerc with two laps to go, again the Ferrari no match for the Red Bull.

Due to the Austin, Texas round running to a sprint race format, parc ferme regulations set in after the single practice session early on Friday afternoon. That leaves teams limited with the set-up revisions they can make. As a result of the disqualifications, Norris has been promoted to second while Carlos Sainz completes the podium.

Friday’s qualifying and the sprint had created intrigue about whether the tight field would translate in the race, just over a tenth covered the top four. But while Ferrari, Mercedes and McLaren remained close, Verstappen sliced through to take another comfortable win.

George Russell was seventh finishing ahead of Pierre Gasly, the second Mercedes also suffering because of poor decisions on strategy. He also switch from a one to a two stop, but also lost out by getting a five-second penalty at his first stop for gaining an advantage by going off track when he passed Piastri off track in the opening phases.

Pierre Gasly was eighth, the Alpine driver was seven-tenths ahead of the Aston Martin of Lance Stroll. The Aston Martin driver was given a pit lane start after the team decided to break parc ferme to change the specs of the car, he made better progress than teammate Fernando Alonso, who retired late in the race with floor damage in the closing stages.

The Spaniard also rising from a pitlane start, to lead Stroll in the points before his issue occurred, and his former teammate Ocon was the first retirement, also due to the clash with Piastri. The Canadian claiming his first points since Spa, the final race before the summer break in July.

Stroll fended off Yuki Tsunoda in the closing stages before opening a twelve-second lead. The Japanese driver had been the only driver to gamble on a three-stop, which allowed him to gain places in the closing stages to finish tenth as well as the bonus point for fastest lap.

Alex Albon finished eleventh a second ahead of Williams teammate Logan Sargeant, a decent result after both were knocked out in Q1. Both drivers coming through just to fall short of points, but probably a boost for Sargeant matching Albon as the American tries to retain his seat for 2024.

However, following the disqualification of Leclerc and Hamilton Albon was promoted to ninth and Sargeant tenth, the team first double points score as well as allowing the American to score his first point in F1. Albon was the only driver to receive a five second penalty for track limits, but several others were given black-and-white warning flags for repeatedly going off track on another scorching day in Texas.

Nico Hulkenberg was fourteenth in another pointless home race for Haas, who were separated by the two Alfa Romeo’s, the German the last car on the lead lap, over a minute and a half off Verstappen.

Valtteri Bottas finished ahead of Alfa Romeo teammate Guanyu Zhou and the second Haas of Kevin Magnussen. Daniel Ricciardo was the final finisher on in his first Grand Prix since Spa at the end of July, following his broken wrist at Zandvoort



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