Red Bull Racing’s Max Verstappen took his 50th Formula 1 win at the end of a hard fought US Grand Prix, rising from sixth on the grid to finish just 2.2 seconds ahead of Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton with long-time race leader Lando Norris taking the final podium place for McLaren.
Unlike recent races in which he has dominated, Verstappen had to work for his third consecutive at the Circuit of the Americas as he battled brake issues throughout. But once the three-time champion had muscled past Norris at half distance he began to control a narrow gap back to his rivals. Hamilton then passed Norris to give the Dutch leader pause for thought but despite a lack of comfort under braking, Verstappen was able to held th lead to the flag.
[The difficulties] started already with starting in P6, but I think the whole race, I was struggling a lot with the brakes,” Max said afterwards. “Around here there are quite a few braking points and I couldn’t really have the same feeling as yesterday. So that definitely made my race a bit tougher out there today. You could see it was very close to the end. Then, we also with the backmarkers and with the tyres already going and it makes it a little bit more difficult.”
At the start, it was Norris who got away best and starting from the front row and the McLaren driver took the lead from polesitter Charles Leclerc as they went into Turn 1. Behind them, Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz got past Hamilton to take P3, while Verdstappen beat Mercedes’ George Russell off the line to take P5.
There was trouble for Alpine’s Esteban Ocon, however. The French driver was hit by McLaren’s Oscar Piastri and the damage caused to his sidepod woiuld eventually for the Alpine driver to retire on lap 7. Piastri, too, dropped out of the race four laps later with cooling issues.
Hamilton was soon past Sainz and back into third and then on lap 5, with DRS on his side, Verstappen also powered past the Ferrari driver on the run to Turn 12 to take fourth place.
On the following lap Hamilton made his way past Leclerc at the same point to take P2 and Verstappen soon followed to make it to the podium places. Hamilton was now three seconds behind Norris, with Verstappen a further two seconds off the race lead.
Verstappen made his first pit stop at the end of lap 16 and after taking on a set of Medium tyres he rejoined in P9 behind AlphaTauri’s Yuki Tsunoda. Norris then pitted from the lead at the end of lap 17, moving to Hard tyres. Hamilton was soon on the radio telling his team he was struggling with his tyres and at the end of lap 21 the Mercedes driver pitted. He took on a set of Hard tyres but as he emerged Verstappen roared past to steal a position from the Mercedes man.
Leclerc made his first and only stop at the end of lap 23 and after fitting a set of Hard tyres, the Monegasque driver dropped from the race lead to sixth place, behind Red Bull’s Sergio Pérez. Norris returned to the lead, 2.3s ahead of Verstappen with Hamilton seven seconds further back in P3. Sainz now held fourth place, three seconds ahead of Pérez.
With half distance approaching, Verstappen began to close in on Norris and on lap 28 he dived down the inside at Turn 12 to take the lead on exit.
Norris then made his second stop from P2 at the end of lap 34 and took a second set of Hard tyres for his final stint. That prompted Verstappen to make his final stop of the race as lap later and after taking Hard tyres he rejoined in fourth place, 1.4s behind Leclerc but crucially two seconds ahead of Norris.
Hamilton made his final stop at the end of lap 38 and as the Mercedes driver emerged in P5 on Medium tyres, Verstappen powered past the one-stopping Leclerc into Turn 1 to take the lead once again.
And with control of the race secured, the Dutch driver began to eke out a slim gap. With 10 laps remaining the champion sat three-seconds clear of Norris, with Hamilton a further two seconds back.
Norris, however, was beginning to slip back towards Hamilton and at the start of lap 59 the Mercedes driver attacked, muscling past the McLaren on the inside of Turn 1. Leclerc, too, was coming under pressure and on lap 51 the Ferrari driver was told to let his quicker team-mate Sainz past. Pérez was now just a second behind the slower Ferrari and on lap 53 the Mexican eased past to take fifth place.
And with three laps remaining the order stabilised. Verstappen crossed the line a narrow but ultimately safe 2.2 seconds clear of Hamilton with Norris a further eight seconds behind in third. Sainz held on to fourth just three seconds ahead of hard-charging Checo who returned to the top five for the first time since the Italian Grand Prix. Behind the Mexican, Leclerc took sixth place ahead of Russell, with Pierre Gasly finishing eighth ahead of Lance Stroll, while Yuki Tsunoda took the final point on offer in 10th place. – www.fia.com
2023 FIA Formula 1 United States Grand Prix – Race
1 Max Verstappen Red Bull Racing 56 1:35’21.362
2 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 56 1:35’23.587 2.225
3 Lando Norris McLaren 56 1:35’32.092 10.730
4 Carlos Sainz Ferrari 56 1:35’36.496 15.134
5 Sergio Pérez Red Bull Racing 56 1:35’39.822 18.460
6 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 56 1:35’46.024 24.662
7 George Russell Mercedes 56 1:35’46.361 24.999
8 Pierre Gasly Alpine 56 1:36’09.358 47.996
9 Lance Stroll Aston Martin 56 1:36’10.058 48.696
10 Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri 56 1:36’35.747 1’14.385
11 Alexander Albon Williams 56 1:36’48.076 1’26.714
12 Logan Sargeant Williams 56 1:36’49.360 1’27.998
13 Nico Hülkenberg Haas 56 1:36’51.266 1’29.904
14 Valtteri Bottas Alfa Romeo 56 1:36’59.963 1’38.601
15 Zhou Guanyu Alfa Romeo 55 1:35’24.938 1 lap /3.576
16 Kevin Magnussen Haas 55 1:35’29.434 1 lap /8.072
17 Daniel Ricciardo AlphaTauri 55 1:35’30.214 1 lap /8.852
Fernando Alonso Aston Martin 49 1:24’38.227 Floor
Oscar Piastri McLaren 10 17’39.564 Hydraulics
Esteban Ocon Alpine 6 10’48.449 Accident damage