US GP: Verstappen drives to the limit to win in Texas

Max Verstappen pushed his Red Bull to the limits after being chased by Lewis Hamilton all the way to chequered flag in the scorching heat of Austin.  The Dutchman, cheered on by his fans in Austin, just about managed to keep the fast chasing Mercedes of Lewis Hamilton behind and managed to get himself a crucial win in the bid for the Drivers’ Championship.

The race was largely played out on the strategic thinking of the Red Bull and Mercedes teams ever since the first round of pitstops. Hamilton, who was starting from 2nd on the inside line, had a great getaway in comparison to Verstappen and assumed the lead of the race going into turn 1.  Verstappen managed to keep up with the Englishman for about 10 laps before Red Bull triggered the undercut and got Verstappen into the lead of the race.

The battle of the strategies continued onto the second phase at around lap 30, when Red Bull called Verstappen in early again – perhaps a bit too early in comparison with Hamilton who them went on for 8 more laps, providing himself with a tyre advantage towards the end of the race. Mercedes’ strategy was proving to be the right one as Hamilton kept chipping away Verstappen’s lead but it all came to nothing in the end as the English driver simply could not get past the Red Bull. Verstappen now has a 12-point lead heading into the last five races of the championship and this win might prove to be crucial come the end of the season.

For Verstappen’s teammate Sergio Perez, it was a decent afternoon as he finished on the last place of the podium but the Mexican driver had to put in quite a physical effort as his drink system wasn’t working. Perez however kept his head and finished 3rd, which is a very welcome result for Red Bull in the context of the constructors’ championship.

Sergio Perez overcame adversity to finish a very respectable third for Red Bull – Courtesy of Red Bull Content Pool

It was Ferrari vs McLaren that was the other talking point of the race apart from the championship battle. It was intense racing from lights out between both the teams as they had a lot to fight for in the Constructors’ Championship. Charles Leclerc got the Italian team the best result he could after finishing P4 in what was a lonely drive for him; the other Ferrari of Carlos Sainz was involved quite heavily from lap 1 with the McLaren of Daniel Ricciardo and Lando Norris. The trio of drivers raced hard throughout the Grand Prix but Ricciardo got the better of Sainz by finishing P5, after the Spaniard was also hunted down by the faster Mercedes of Bottas towards the closing stages and only managed a P7, while Bottas ended P6.

Ferrari beat McLaren by four points in what has become an enthralling battle for third in the Constructors’ standings – Courtesy of Scuderia Ferrari Press

Lando Norris in the other McLaren had to settle for P8 in the race but will take joy from the fact that McLaren still hold a very slender 3.5-point lead over Ferrari in the standings. Yuki Tsunoda drove a decent race for AlphaTauri and managed to finish P9, picking up two points for himself in the process. His teammate Pierre Gasly however had no luck as a suspension issue forced the Frenchman to retire his car early in the race on lap 15.

There were other retirements in the race as well and unfortunately for Alpine Racing, it was a double disaster with Ocon retiring on lap 42 due to an unexplained issue while his teammate Alonso retired close to the end of the race on lap 51 with a broken rear wing on his car. The Spaniard did provide a lot of entertainment in the laps that he raced after close battles with Alfa Romeo that saw him going off track multiple times. He came out on top in these battles but it was all undone towards the end because of his retirement.

Sebastian Vettel got the last remaining points place after finishing P10 in his Aston Martin despite starting on the penultimate row of the grid. The German driver made up places early on in the race and drove consistently in a Grand Prix which involved a few scraps with George Russell in the Williams, but the four-time champion did well to make his way through the pack to grab the final point on offer. His teammate Lance Stroll managed a P12 finish after he tangled with the Williams of Nicholas Latifi on the very first lap of the race. The Canadian driver recovered from that over the course of the race and managed a decent finish.

Alfa Romeo, who had endured the wrath of Alonso during the race, did manage to see the chequered flag with Antonio Giovinazzi finishing in P11 just outside the points while Kimi Raikkonen managed a P13 finish. The Finnish driver could not keep his car on the track towards the end of the race and wandered off on to the grass. This cost him a higher place and even a possible points finish with his Alfa Romeo.

Williams finished with George Russell in P14 and Latifi P15 respectively, an afternoon with not much for the British team to cheer. Russell, starting in P20, made up as many as five places on the opening lap but could not make more inroads apart from that. Latifi had to come very early into the pits for a front wing change after he got into a first lap incident with fellow Canadian driver Lance Stroll. Both the Haas cars finished last of the remaining runners with Mick Schumacher in P16 and his team mate in P17.

The main talking point of the race was the battle for the win as Verstappen extended his lead at the top to 12 points going into the next leg of American races in Mexico and Brazil. This lead could come in very handy for the Dutchman as these tracks have favoured Red Bull in the recent years. Hamilton will have his work cut out in the coming races if he is to have that alluring 8th world championship crown to his name.

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