After the Turkish Grand Prix, Max Verstappen retook the championship points lead away from Lewis Hamilton. Heading into the Circuit of the Americas, Verstappen needed to beat Hamilton in Sunday’s (Oct. 24) United States Grand Prix and did so in the most nail biting way possible.
After playing the undercut to perfection, Verstappen was able to hold off Hamilton by less than two seconds to claim his eighth win of 2021. Despite having a faster car on the straights, Hamilton just couldn’t get the job done. The increased tire wear dampened the Mercedes when it matters most and he lacked the speed to pass the Dutchman.
Sergio Perez completed the podium for Red Bull Racing’s second-straight double podium. Charles Leclerc and Daniel Ricciardo complete the top five. Valtteri Bottas, Carlos Sainz, Lando Norris, Yuki Tsunoda and Sebastian Vettel rounded out the points paying spots.
Both Alpine cars and Pierre Gasly retired from the Grand Prix with various mechanical issues, while Hamilton claimed the point for fastest lap of the race.
Off the start, Hamilton rocketed out past Verstappen. Max kept in hot pursuit, never letting Hamilton get more than one second out ahead. While this battle continued, the two Canadians Nicholas Latifi and Lance Stroll collided.
Latifi was caught in what he called a “Haas sandwich” which forced him up into Stroll. The Aston Martin spun, but both kept on going after minor repairs.
Verstappen pulled the trigger first on pit stops, pitting from the mediums to the hard compound tire. Hamilton attempted to over-cut the Red Bull car, but when the pace started to drop he was forced to pit. Verstappen took the lead on lap 14, around six seconds clear of Hamilton.
Gasly was forced to retire with a suspension failure on lap 15, continuing his streak of failing to score points in Austin. The virtual safety car was called on lap 28 for some debris on track, with Verstappen taking advantage of it by pitting on lap 30.
Hamilton waited a further seven laps to pit, but by the end of the cycle Verstappen carried an eight-second advantage. As the laps wound down, both Alpines would retire less than 10 laps apart from mechanical failures. As Hamilton gave chase, the lapped cars gave Verstappen a lot of trouble. Blue flags were displayed to Raikkonen and Tsunoda and both drivers received warnings for holding up the leader.
Raikkonen spun on lap 53, but luckily no safety car was called.
In the end, Verstappen held off the charging Mercedes to win his first United States Grand Prix. The victory added six more points to the gap between him and Hamilton, which now stands at 12 points going into Mexico next week.
“The tire wear is quite hard at this track,” Verstappen said. “We went aggressive, I wasn’t sure it was going to work but super happy. It’s amazing to be here, hopefully we can do this for many years to come.”
Hamilton gave it everything he had, but it just wasn’t enough. While he enjoyed the battle with Verstappen, Hamilton lamented that the Red Bull cars were simply just faster.
“I think we gave it everything we had and they were just quicker than us, they had a better rear end, a little less sliding than we had.” Hamilton said. “I gave it everything today. It was the dirty air and just overheating of the tires. A great race down to turn 1, I thought for a second we might win the race but just have to wait until the next one.”
The Formula 1 World Championship will head south of the border to the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez for the Mexican Grand Prix. Hamilton is the defending winner, with Verstappen having won the event in 2018. The lights are set to go out November 7 at 2 p.m. ET on ABC.
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