United States Grand Prix – Max Verstappen led from start to finish in the Sprint as Lewis Hamilton got the better of Charles Leclerc for P2.
Max Verstappen and Charles Leclerc will be starting the penultimate Sprint of the season on the front row, a line up that would also have been seen for tomorrow’s Grand Prix if the Red Bull driver’s best time hadn’t been deleted for track limits.
Red Bull, Ferrari, Mercedes and McLaren ended the Shootout in the top eight positions but George Russell was handed a three place penalty, which put him down to P11, after he impeded Leclerc.
For the nineteen race Sprint, it was almost a unanimous decision to use the yellow-walled medium tyre however, Carlos Sainz in P6 was the only outlier having decided on a set of soft tyres instead.
As the lights went out it was differing fortunes for the Ferraris, Leclerc challenging for the lead but instead lost P2 to Lewis Hamilton while Sainz got the better of Oscar Piastri off the line to take P5 and then also managed to overtake the other McLaren of Lando Norris later in the lap. By the end of the opening lap, Russell had regained the positions lost due to his penalty and was in P8 right behind Sergio Perez.
Lap 3 saw things get worse for Piastri, winner of the Sprint in Qatar, as first Perez and then Russell muscled past to demote the Australian to P8. The Stewards however investigated the Mercedes driver’s move as he went off-track to overtake. A five second penalty was handed out a few laps later though at that stage Piastri had fallen to P10 and was over six seconds behind Russell.
Further up the grid, while Verstappen had a couple of seconds worth of a gap at the front, Sainz and Norris were battling over P4 and after a few failed attempts, Norris managed to secure the position on lap 10. The softs looked to have lost their efficiency though and the Spaniard also lost out to Perez on the following lap.
Heading into the final five laps, Sainz had Russell on his tail. The Mercedes driver had a go at T1 on lap 14 but the Ferrari driver was able to fend off that attack.
A couple of laps before the end, Lance Stroll retired in the pits after telling his Aston Martin team that his brakes were gone.
In the end Verstappen took the chequered flag over nine seconds ahead of Hamilton while Leclerc took P3. Norris had closed up on the Ferrari driver in the final few laps and could well have been ahead of the Monegasque driver if there’d been another lap to play with.
Perez ended the day P5 ahead of Sainz, who’d held off Russell though the Mercedes driver’s time penalty dropped him back to P8, behind Pierre Gasly. Like Norris, Alex Albon could’ve used a 20 lap race as the Williams driver missed out on the final Sprint point by 0.317 seconds to Russell.