Verstappen wins lights to flag sprint

Max Verstappen dominated the sprint race at the Circuit of the Americas with a lights to flag victory in the Red Bull. Lewis Hamilton finished in second for Mercedes while Charles Leclerc was third in the Ferrari.

At the start, Verstappen and Leclerc moved away seemingly in unison, but the Ferrari gained during the launch’s second phase. As Leclerc tried to move alongside the Red Bull, Verstappen edged his rival right across the track and close to the grass by the pitlane exit.

That left Leclerc pinched very tightly on the inside of the uphill left-hand hairpin at Turn 1, with Hamilton swinging around on the outside line, Lewis was able to get a run on the Ferrari – coming by on the exit off the track in a move that was not called out by race control.

By the end of the first lap of 19, Verstappen and Hamilton were well clear of Leclerc and they continued to pull away across the race’s opening half, as they were able to lap in the mid one minute, 39 seconds with the Ferrari back in the one minute, 40 seconds.

Hamilton made inroads into Verstappen’s lead early and had DRS on him for a few laps, but by the sixth lap Verstappen was over a second ahead – the world champion only fear that the drivability issue that impacted his sprint qualifying performance was then put down to sliding in the wind by Red Bull.

From there, Verstappen remained the only one of the leaders able to regularly stay in the one minute, 39 seconds, which meant his lead quickly rose over Hamilton and was 3.3 seconds by the end of lap 10.

There was little action in the second half of the sprint, with Verstappen continuing to pull away from Hamilton to an eventual winning margin of 9.4 seconds, with Leclerc a further 8.5 seconds back in third.

There was at one stage big gap back to Lando Norris in fourth as the leaders had been able to run clear thanks to Carlos Sainz – the only soft tyres runner with the rest on mediums – using his softer rubber to gain places from the McLarens of Norris and Oscar Piastri at the start.

But the Singapore Grand Prix winner was soon under massive pressure as his rubber’s less durable nature unfolded.

Sainz was getting most attention from Norris early on as Piastri went backwards fast, with Sergio Perez soon joining the two good friends and former teammates in a battle for fourth at the mid-point in the race.

On lap 10, Norris finally got by Sainz at Turn 12 at the end of the track’s long back straight and so was facing a 6.7 seconds gap to Leclerc, which he reduced over the rest of the race – finishing just 0.8 seconds behind the race polesitter, who Norris will start alongside on Sunday.

Perez passed Sainz on the lap after Norris and held onto fifth to the end, albeit 4 seconds adrift of Norris, with Leclerc just ahead.

Sainz held onto sixth way ahead of Alpines’s Pierre Gasly, who was promoted into seventh thanks to George Russell’s five-second time penalty being applied at the finish – following an off-the-track pass on Piastri exiting Turn 15 on lap three.

Russell felt he was pushed off, but the race stewards decided his move was illegal, with Alex Albon putting the Mercedes under huge pressure for the final point with a late charge of personal best laps in ninth, which put him just 0.3 seconds behind Russell once the penalty had been applied.

That meant Russell held onto the final point in a race where Piasti dropped down to P10 behind Albon – an investigation into their battle early being given as no further action – and the Qatar sprint winner picked up a warning for track limits abuse.

The race’s only retirement was Aston Martin’s Lance Stroll, who was retired in the pits after the team picked up another brake problem on his AMR23.

So not the most thrilling sprint and yet the pace of Max Verstappen looks very promising so it should be significant come the main event on Sunday. As for Charles Leclerc, third in the sprint but will start on pole position for the United States Grand Prix. Hopefully a better and entertaining race in store at COTA.

United States Grand Prix, sprint race results:
1 Max Verstappen Red Bull 31:30.849
2 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes +9.465s
3 Charles Leclerc Ferrari +17.987s
4 Lando Norris McLaren +18.863s
5 Sergio Pérez Red Bull +22.928s
6 Carlos Sainz Jr. Ferrari +28.307s
7 Pierre Gasly Alpine +32.403s
8 George Russell Mercedes +34.250s
9 Alexander Albon Williams +34.567s
10 Oscar Piastri McLaren +42.403s
11 Esteban Ocon Alpine +44.986s
12 Daniel Ricciardo AlphaTauri +45.509s
13 Fernando Alonso Aston Martin +49.086s
14 Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri +49.733s
15 Nico Hülkenberg Haas +56.650s
16 Valtteri Bottas Alfa Romeo +64.401s
17 Zhou Guanyu Alfa Romeo +67.972s
18 Kevin Magnussen Haas +71.122s
19 Logan Sargeant Williams +71.449s
20 Lance Stroll Aston Martin DNF

4 thoughts to “Verstappen wins lights to flag sprint”

  1. Max Verstappen converted pole position into a dominant Sprint victory in Austin as the Dutch driver took the chequered flag comfortably ahead of Lewis Hamilton and Charles Leclerc.

    Verstappen and Leclerc came close at the start as the former defended stoutly into Turn 1. But, once he did, he pulled away from his rivals to take his third Sprint victory of the season.

    Hamilton overtook Leclerc on the exit of Turn 1 at the start, and while he stayed within DRS range of Verstappen early on, he had to settle for second, with Leclerc holding off Lando Norris at the end to take the final spot in the top three.

  2. Charles Leclerc says Max Verstappen’s defensive start squeeze in Formula 1’s 2023 Austin sprint race was “on the limit”, but the Ferrari driver reckons he “would’ve done exactly the same”.

    The pair started from the front row for the sprint race at this weekend’s United States Grand Prix at the Circuit of the Americas, with Leclerc gaining enough as they roared away at the start to edge his front wheels alongside Verstappen’s left-rear.

    As they headed up the steep hill towards Austin’s Turn 1 left-hand hairpin, Verstappen swung left and pushed Leclerc fully across the pitlane exit.

    When asked by if he thought Verstappen’s start defence was acceptable in the post-sprint race press conference, Leclerc replied: “To be honest, I would’ve done exactly the same if I was in his position.

    “It’s on the limit, but as I’ve always said in the past, that’s the way I like to fight. So today didn’t play my way, but that’s fine. It’s part of racing and I’m happy with it.”

  3. Oscar Piastri reckons George Russell’s “blatant” off-track overtake was not even a “50:50” incident during Formula 1’s 2023 United States Grand Prix sprint race.

    Mercedes racer Russell, who was handed a three-place grid penalty for blocking Charles Leclerc during Saturday qualifying to line up 11th, attempted to pass Piastri for seventh on lap three of 19.

    He eventually made the move stick with a superior burst of acceleration out of Turn 18 but ran with all four wheels straying beyond the painted white lines defining track limits on corner exit.

    For this, Russell was handed a five-second penalty and ultimately lost a place at the flag to finish eighth.

    Piastri, who finished 10th, said there was no case to argue that it was a 50:50 incident and that Russell was bang to rights. He said: “I wasn’t really looking at him because he was behind me.

    “I’ve seen the replay of it and clearly, he just accelerates off the track and goes past so I don’t think you can get close to arguing that was a 50:50.

    “The five seconds made a bit of a difference to his race but not much. That’s the kind of thing you can do with faster cars, or when you’re in a faster car in a situation like that. I don’t think it’s great for everyone.”

  4. Formula 1 needs to consider tweaks – and even the idea of a reverse grid format – to bring more entertainment to the sprint races, says Red Bull boss Christian Horner.

    Despite Horner’s championship-winning squad cruising to victory in the F1 sprint at the United States Grand Prix, he has said the lacklustre spectacle has left even him unconvinced by the entertainment that the Saturday races produce.

    With the standalone sprint format introduced this year rarely offering much good racing, and even ruining excitement for Sundays because they deliver answers about the true race-pace of each team, Horner thinks something needs to be done to shake things up.

    “I think you have got to add a bit more jeopardy to it,” explained Horner at the Circuit of the Americas.

    “Whether you do a reverse the top 10 or something, but then you’ve got to add enough points to it to make it worth the drivers to really go for it.

    “It still doesn’t quite feel…[special when] you win a sprint race. Obviously, it doesn’t mean quite as much as a grand prix, but I think that we’re in a process where we need to be open to change and evolution.

    “I think that the concept is fine, but I think the execution: we can do a better job in making it more exciting for the viewer.”

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