United States Grand Prix – Max Verstappen nurses brake issues to win in Austin with just two seconds separating him from Lewis Hamilton.
It’ll be a much smaller grid than usual for the start of the Grand Prix as four cars, the Haas and Aston Martins, will all start from the pit lane after changing setups after the Sprint. Lance Stroll however seemed to forget that and headed to the grid instead of back to the pitlane after his out lap and will be investigated by the Stewards after the race for that error.
After starting yesterday’s Sprint from P2, Charles Leclerc will be on pole today with Lando Norris, in his 100th Grand Prix, alongside him. After having his last lap in qualifying deleted due to track limits, Max Verstappen will start back in P6 but it’s unlikely he’ll be out of the fight for podiums and victory for long.
Like the Sprint, the medium compound tyre is the most popular choice for the start of the race, this time though isn’t anyone on the softs but two drivers have the hards instead – Nico Hulkenberg and Stroll – both who start from the pit lane so everyone lining up on the start-finish straight is on the same type of tyre.
As the red lights went out to start the race it was Norris who got the best start and he was the one with the unobstructed view of the track as he took the lead before the first corner. Carlos Sainz got ahead of Lewis Hamilton for P3 while Verstappen only made up one position in the opening lap. The best starter though was the other McLaren as Oscar Piastri made up four places to be in P6, right behind Verstappen.
At the front, Norris was pulling a gap for himself, opening up over two seconds on Leclerc in the first few laps. Further back, George Russell was once again under investigation for leaving the track and gaining an advantage, though given he’d fallen back to P8, three places from where he started, it wasn’t overly clear what advantage he could’ve taken. The Stewards later announced there would be no further action against Russell.
Lap 4 saw Hamilton regain the final podium spot from Sainz, the Spaniard then had Verstappen lining him up and the reigning champion demoted the Ferrari driver to P5 the following lap.
Hamilton was on a charge, passing Leclerc on lap 6 and looking to close the almost three and a half second gap to Norris. The first retirement of the race came around the same time with Alpine calling Esteban Ocon to the pits after contact with Piastri at the start. A handful of laps later though Piastri was also called in to retire due to the contact. The Australian’s car having picked up radiator damage and a water leak.
Verstappen was up into the podium positions on lap 12 after winning a battle against Leclerc, a little further up the track the gap to Hamilton was remaining steady at just under 3 seconds, though the Mercedes driver had picked up the pace.
Russell and Perez were in P6 and P7 with the Mexican reporting in that the Mercedes racer was constantly going outside track limits and asking Red Bull whether Russell had gotten a time penalty yet.
On lap 17 Verstappen was the first of the front runners to head to the pits, the Dutch driver switching to fresher mediums before emerging in P9 between the two AlphaTauri cars. Norris was called in the following lap and rejoined in P4 on hard tyres. Sainz, Perez and Yuki Tsunoda also stopped which allowed Verstappen to move up to P6 while Hamilton, in the lead ahead of Leclerc and Russell, was told to add four laps to his stint.
Mercedes asked both their drivers whether they felt their tyres would be able to go another five laps, Hamilton not being sure, while Russell was confident his could.
Hamilton pitted at the end of lap 20 after saying he was struggling on his tyres, the Brit swapped to hards and emerged in P5, over five seconds behind Verstappen. Russell made his stop on the next lap and came back out in P8, also on hards.
That left Leclerc in the lead as he was still to pit while Norris was just over two second behind and Verstappen about the same further back in P3. The Ferrari driver finally pitted at the end of lap 23, he also took hards before getting back out in P6, between Perez and Russell.
Lap 26 saw Verstappen get within a second of Norris, the Red Bull driver made a move two laps later and took the lead of the race despite the McLaren’s best efforts at defence. Norris did manage to stay within DRS range for the next few laps though which helped hold his gap to Hamilton, who was lapping quickly behind.
As Verstappen was complaining to his team about his brakes and how they were very bad compared to in the Sprint, Norris headed to the pits on lap 35. The McLaren driver put on fresh hards before rejoining the track in P6, behind the Red Bulls, Ferraris and Hamilton. Verstappen and Sainz made their own second stops at the next opportunity, the Red Bull driver emerging 1.7 seconds ahead of Norris on the hard tyres, while Sainz, also on hards, was now in P7 behind Russell.
As Sainz passed Russell for P5, Hamilton made his second stop at the end of lap 38. The Mercedes racer switched back to mediums and emerged in P4, six seconds behind Norris. As that was happening, Verstappen got past Leclerc to retake the lead while Norris followed through not long afterwards.
Verstappen remained unimpressed by his brakes but was still a couple of seconds ahead of Norris at the front while on lap 43 Hamilton was back in the podium positions after getting past Leclerc.
On lap 45 Leclerc, who was on 21 lap old hards, was asked by Ferrari about plan C or D, the Monegasque driver was not impressed by either.
Hamilton made it to within a second of Norris on lap 48, while the younger driver managed to hold off the first attack, the seven-time champion made it work on the second occasion despite the McLaren driver initially shutting the door on him.
While that was happening Alonso retired with floor issues and Ferrari swapped their cars, allowing Sainz to move into P4, ahead of Leclerc, and try to catch Norris. The polesitter was not impressed that his strategy had resulted in him having to let his teammate through.
While it looked like Hamilton wouldn’t be able to close the gap, Verstappen was very stressed over the radio and was lapping almost a second slower than Hamilton so any slight error from the Dutch driver could very well lose him the race.
In the end Verstappen held on to win his 50th Grand Prix while Hamilton crossed the line just over two seconds after the Red Bull. Norris meanwhile celebrated his 100th race with a forth podium in a row.
Sainz didn’t manage to catch and challenge Norris, but he ended P4 ahead of Perez and Leclerc. Russell finished in P7 right on the Ferrari driver’s rear wing while Gasly in P8 also had to deal with Stroll being right behind him at the end.
Tsunoda had enough of a gap that he was able to take a free stop, remaining in P10, and put the softs on for the end which allowed him to take the fastest lap point with a 1:38.139.