Verstappen wins spectacular race at Austin

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F1 Grand Prix, GP USA, Circuit of The Americasus

Circuit of the Americas once again did not disappoint. Many on and off-track events ensured an amazing race in which Verstappen took the win and Red Bull Racing secured the championship. Hamilton and Leclerc made sure it wasn't easy and completed the podium.

Carlos Sainz had been so happy with his third pole position and all geared up for the Grand Prix at Austin, but was all over on the exit of Turn 1 already where he got clipped by Russell. Sainz immediately dropped to second due to a difficult getaway but out of Turn 1 he got his by the Mercedes starting from 4th, leading into a retirement at the end of that lap.

Verstappen on the other hand happily left everybody behind. Hamilton went into second and Stroll to third as he was on a great line on the exit of Turn 1 that didn't require him to back off a lot. Russell followed up in 4th. Behind him lots of position changes but it was particularly Perez, Vettel and Leclerc who emerged. By lap 6 Perez had moved up to 5th followed by Vettel and then Leclerc.

Russell moved up to third on lap 6 with Perez also getting past Stroll later in the same lap. Russell was then also handed a 5s penalty for causing a collision with Sainz. Perez seemed to not have a lot of trouble following Russell in the next laps which was another worrying event for the Englishman as Perez was even missing a front wing endplate incurred while overtaking Bottas earlier on.

Alonso meanwhile didn't manage to progress a whole lot in the first laps of the race. The Spaniard though was the first one on hard Pirelli tyres with everybody ahead of him on mediums. With his Alpine he ran 12th in the first 8 laps before passing Albon who would pit two laps later. The other Alpine of Ocon started from the pitlane after power unit changes overnight. The Frenchman, also on hards only started to make some real progress when the midfield runners on medium tyres started to pit.

Hamilton was the first of the front runners to pit. The Mercedes driver switched to hard tyres on lap 13 and rejoined in 7th place, 4.5s behind Vettel and 4 ahead of Norris. Verstappen pitted the next lap and returned to the track in second place, getting the lead back a single lap later when Perez got pitted. Russell had pitted one lap earlier and by serving his 5s penalty obviously lost position to Perez, rejoining the track behind Alonso.

On lap 18 then Bottas found himself losing control of the rear of his Alfa Romeo and spun off right into a gravel trap. Being stuck there, the safety car was brought on track, triggering pitstops for everybody still on the tyres they started with. This included Leclerc who ended up 4th in the SC queue. Vettel also profited and found himself 6th, ahead of his teammate Stroll while Alonso did the same to end up in 9th.

Things got rolling again on lap 22 after Verstappen chose for an early return to race pace, pretty much at Turn 16. There were no position changes in the top 10 apart from Alonso managing to get past Gasly on the exit of Turn 1.

Alonso though was less fortunate later on though. The Spaniard took a wide line in the corner leading up to the back straight and was nicely slipstreaming Stroll to gain yet another position. As he moved left to overtake the Canadian, Stroll also moved left to "defend", leading to Alonso running onto the rear wheel of the Aston Martin, lifting the front of his car but luckily not flipping. The Alpine driver returned to the pits for a new front wing and could continue in 16th place while Stroll retired with too much damage on his car. Stroll escaped unhurt.

On lap 25 the car was cleared and the second safety car period ended. Again nothing much changed though in the next laps Alonso moved back up to 12th while running around with a broken right hand mirror wing.

As Hamilton remained extremely close to Verstappen, Mercedes went for the undercut and pitted first on lap 34. Red Bull reacted by pitting Verstappen but it ended up to be a very slow pitstop during which Leclerc also managed to pass the Red Bull. Russell pitted yet another lap later, resulting in Perez leading the race, 5.5s ahead of Vettel, then Hamilton at 4s, Leclerc another 4.5s further behind and Verstappen trailing Leclerc at 0.4s.

Magnussen ran 6th on lap 37, followed by Russell, Ocon, Alonso and Albon.

Verstappen obviously wasn't going to sit around and tried to pass Leclerc repeatedly. On lap 39 he got Leclerc in Turn 1 only to be re-passed. DRS and the high top speed of the Red Bull then resulted in the inevitable with Verstappen taking third.

Perez then pitted, leaving Vettel to lead the race as Hamilton closed in on hard tyres. Verstappen and Leclerc behind though were quicker on medium tyres, so Hamilton really had to keep things moving. On lap 41, Hamilton took the lead and passed the Aston on 22-lap old medium tyres.

Vettel pitted at the end of that lap, sadly for him to be stood still for 16.8 seconds as there was a problem fitting the front left wheel. The problems dropped him down to 13th position, 4 seconds behind Tsunoda and about 8s behind 10th place.

In front Verstappen and Leclerc steadily reduced Hamilton's advantage until suddenly, around lap 45, Leclerc could not keep up with the pace. This enabled Verstappen to go even faster while not having to worry about his mirrors. In lap 48, with 8 left, the gap between Hamilton and Verstappen was reduced to 1.5 seconds.

Meanwhile, as Alpine opted to pit Ocon, Alonso went on and passed Magnussen to return to 6th place.

In front, once Verstappen got a hold of DRS it was always going to be an easy pass for the lead on the back straight. Hamilton tried to come back in the next few corners but couldn't manage to do so. Hamilton soon reported Max was going off track, and indeed the Red Bull driver was given the black and white flag for exceeding track limits three times. Surely it was more, but in any case, that's the limit before a penalty.

One lap later Hamilton was given the same flag and asked to keep the car safely on track.

Further behind, Vettel also returned to a points-scoring position after that dismal pitstop.

Mercedes also pitted George Russell close to the end to have him secure fastest lap on a fresh set of soft tyres.

The antics in front eventually led to nothing, resulting in a win for Verstappen, Hamilton second and Lerclec third. Alonso crossed the line in 7th, a highly respectable outcome after his clash with Stroll while Vettel just made it to 8th thanks to passing Magnussen in the penultimate corner.

But, the FIA still had to poop on the party following a complaint by Haas, questioning why Perez and Alonso had not been forced to stop due to their cars having parts broken off. In the usual consistent fashion, the appeal regarding Perez was dismissed as stewards deemed the car safe "once the endplate had broken off" while handing a 30s time penalty to Alonso for a broken and eventually torn off right wing mirror. Funnily, in their decision, the stewards questioned how the race director did not report the latter issue to them during the race, especially given that both "issues" were shown and repeated on the international feed.


11Max VerstappenRed Bull Racing Rbpt561:42:11.68725
244Lewis HamiltonMercedes56+5.023s18
316Charles LeclercFerrari56+7.501s15
411Sergio PerezRed Bull Racing Rbpt56+8.293s12
563George RussellMercedes56+44.815s11
64Lando NorrisMcLaren Mercedes56+53.785s8
75Sebastian VettelAston Martin Aramco Mercedes56+65.354s6
820Kevin MagnussenHaas Ferrari56+65.834s4
922Yuki TsunodaAlphaTauri Rbpt56+70.919s2
1031Esteban OconAlpine Renault56+72.875s1
1124Zhou GuanyuAlfa Romeo Ferrari56+76.164s0
1223Alexander AlbonWilliams Mercedes56+80.057s0
1310Pierre GaslyAlphaTauri Rbpt56+81.763s0
1447Mick SchumacherHaas Ferrari56+84.490s0
1514Fernando AlonsoAlpine Renault56+85.078s0
163Daniel RicciardoMcLaren Mercedes56+90.487s0
176Nicholas LatifiWilliams Mercedes56+103.588s0
NC18Lance StrollAston Martin Aramco Mercedes21DNF0
NC77Valtteri BottasAlfa Romeo Ferrari16DNF0
NC55Carlos SainzFerrari1DNF0

Note - Russell scored an additional point for setting the fastest lap of the race.
Gasly received a 10-second time penalty for not serving a safety car infringement penalty correctly.
Latifi received a five-second time penalty for forcing another driver off the track.
Schumacher received a five-second time penalty for exceeding track limits.
Albon received a five-second time penalty for leaving the track and gaining an advantage.
Alonso received a 10-second stop-and-go penalty converted to a 30-second time penalty for a technical infringement.