Verstappen takes his 50th victory at COTA

Max Verstappen achieved his 50th victory in Formula 1 by finishing ahead of Lewis Hamilton and Lando Norris at the Circuit of the Americas.

The race was a fascinating strategic battle between the teams but the raw pace from Verstappen was impressive despite brake concern while Ferrari’s challenge disappeared early.

Norris got a better start than Ferrari’s polesitter Charles Leclerc and was quickly alongside the Scuderia before heading to the Turn 1 apex to make certain of the lead.

Behind, Hamilton tried to defend against Carlos Sainz but was jumped when the Spaniard followed Norris through the inside line of the uphill hairpin and Hamilton instead moved wider and saw off Verstappen’s run even further to the right.

The leaders raced through the track’s sector one esses complex with Norris shooting clear of Leclerc, with Sainz, Hamilton and Verstappen trailing.

Norris’s lead was 1.7 seconds at the end of lap one of 56, which he tripled over the early laps – during which Hamilton battled by both Ferraris with DRS runs to Turn 12 at the end of the long back straight on lap four and six, with Verstappen doing likewise to Sainz soon after.

Even as he passed Leclerc, Hamilton was lapping quicker than Norris and he set about trying to close down the McLaren’s three-second advantage as the leaders carefully paced the medium tyres they had all started on.

But over the next stage of the race, Norris and Hamilton were matched in lap times in the low one minute, 42 seconds, while Verstappen remained behind Leclerc even with DRS, the Ferrari dropping back from Hamilton by a few tenths per lap.

After scoring a sprint win in Qatar, the team was forced to retire Oscar Piastri’s car due to radiator damage sustained in a lap one clash with Esteban Ocon, just as Verstappen passed Leclerc with a move to Turn 12’s inside that the Ferrari defended too late and was shoved wide on exit.

Leclerc tried to hang on to the world champion, who faced a 7.0 seconds deficit to Norris at the end of lap 11 when Hamilton had just brought the leader’s gap under three seconds again since the early laps.

Hamilton pressed on and by lap 16 had cut a second out of Norris’s previous advantage, the McLaren driver struggling to stay in the one minute, 42 seconds bracket.

At this stage, Verstappen triggered the race’s first big strategy call when he came into take more new mediums, with McLaren bringing Norris in from the front a lap later at the end of lap 17, but putting him onto new hards.

Mercedes asked new leader Hamilton if he could stay out for an additional five laps, but when he was not certain he could it opted to bring him in at the end of lap 21 – just after he had slipped off track with a big lock-up at Turn 11 leading onto the back straight.

This was too soon for a one-stop strategy, which Ferrari left Leclerc out to attempt back in the lead he had held earlier for only a few seconds, so Hamilton rejoined a net third position behind Verstappen but with a tyre life hard advantage of five laps and the Mercedes also on the hard.

By stopping earlier and with consistent pace in the one minute, 41 seconds, Verstappen had cut his previous seven-second gap to Norris in half and he was soon homing in on the McLaren – which retook the lead when Leclerc finally pitted on lap 23.

Norris gifted Verstappen 1.2 seconds when he locked up and went deep at Turn 11 on lap 25 and two laps later the Red Bull was in DRS range.

Verstappen used the overtaking aid to close in on the back straight on lap 28 and he made a late dive to the inside of Turn 12, where Norris tried to cut back on the exit but was overcome in the following sequence of corners.

But Norris did not immediately fall adrift and indeed behind Hamilton was soon closing in again on the leading pair with his hards, before Verstappen upped his pace into low one minute, 41 seconds and pulled a new three-second lead.

Just after Verstappen became the latest driver to lock up and go deep at Turn 11, McLaren pitted Norris to take a second set of new hards at the end of lap 34, with Verstappen coming in for the same compound at the end of the following lap.

The undercut’s power plus a slightly slow left-rear change meant Norris had Verstappen’s previous gap down to 1.7 seconds, as they ran behind the one-stopping Leclerc.

Hamilton stayed out longer again given his previous off-set approach and so cycled back to the lead, before pitting at the end of lap 38 to go back to the mediums.

As he rejoined, Verstappen passed Leclerc with DRS into Turn 1, with Norris making a late dive by the Ferrari into Turn 12 on the same lap, at the end of which he faced a 1.2 seconds deficit to Verstappen.

From there, Hamilton caught and passed Leclerc and it was he who had the most gripping end to the race, as his pace was either the same or quicker than the leader – who had been 7.6 seconds ahead when the Mercedes rejoined for the second time.

Norris dropped back from Verstappen, who was unhappy with the braking on his Red Bull RB19, and on lap 48 Hamilton was all over him in the final sector – then mounted a DRS attack into Turn 1 where Norris defended hard.

But Hamilton was able to get by on the exit as Norris went deep and that left a 5.2 seconds gap to Verstappen up ahead – the triple champion complaining with his brake issue and annoyed at receiving radio messages while trying to deal with it.

Initially over the final few laps, Hamilton was able to reduce Verstappen’s lead by a few tenths each time, but as the leader continued to struggle with his brake issue it came down more rapidly right at the end.

But it was not enough for Hamilton – with Verstappen benefitting from getting DRS lapping Zhou Guanyu on the back straight on the last lap – and the gap between at the chequered flag was 2.2 seconds, with Norris a further 8.5 seconds back in third.

Sainz ended up fourth after being waved by Leclerc late on – the Monegasque driver frustrated his one-stopper had backfired, as Sergio Perez demoted him to sixth by the flag.

Ferrari and Sainz, on the medium-medium-hard two-stopper, briefly thought Norris might be beatable, but in the end, the McLaren had a 4.4 seconds gap at the finish as Norris upped his pace in response to his former teammate’s late threat.

George Russell looked at one stage as if he was on the one-stopper before he was taken off a shortened middle stint on the hards and he ended up seventh ahead of Pierre Gasly and Lance Stroll.

Stroll rose from the pitlane – where he forgot to return to after the pre-race reconnoitring laps and had to be pushed back off the grid by his mechanics to claim ninth, the Aston Martin driver emerging ahead from a close late battle with Yuki Tsunoda.

The AlphaTauri driver was the only competitor to try the three-stopper, which paid off and he had enough pace on the softs right at the end to seal another point to go with his P10 finish by setting the fastest lap on the last lap.

Fernando Alonso had to retire with floor damage in the closing stages – the double champion also rising from a pitlane start to lead Stroll in the points before his issue occurred – and his former teammate Ocon was the first retirement, also due to damage sustained in the clash with Piastri.

Alex Albon was the only driver to receive a five second penalty for track limits abuse on his way to P11, but several others – including Hamilton – were given black-and-white warning flags for repeatedly going off track.

So an exciting end to the United States Grand Prix but Max Verstappen was able to hold off the chasing Lewis Hamilton despite braking concern. If only there was more laps available for the Mercedes driver as victory was on. Next time.

UPDATE – Lewis Hamilton and Charles Leclerc have been disqualified following post-race checks. Exceeding plank wear.

United States Grand Prix race results:
1 Max Verstappen Red Bull 1:35:21.362
DSQ Lewis Hamilton Mercedes +2.225s
2 Lando Norris McLaren +10.730s
3 Carlos Sainz Ferrari +15.134s
4 Sergio Perez Red Bull +18.460s
DSQ Charles Leclerc Ferrari +24.662s
5 George Russell Mercedes +24.999s
6 Pierre Gasly Alpine +47.996s
7 Lance Stroll Aston Martin +48.696s
8 Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri +74.385s
9 Alexander Albon Williams +86.714s
10 Logan Sargeant Williams +87.998s
11 Nico Hulkenberg Haas +89.904s
12 Valtteri Bottas Alfa Romeo +98.601s
13 Zhou Guanyu Alfa Romeo +1 lap
14 Kevin Magnussen Haas +1 lap
15 Daniel Ricciardo AlphaTauri +1 lap
Fernando Alonso Aston Martin DNF
Oscar Piastri McLaren DNF
Esteban Ocon Alpine DNF

5 thoughts to “Verstappen takes his 50th victory at COTA”

  1. Max Verstappen recovered from sixth on the grid to take a nerve-wracking win at the United States Grand Prix, as the Red Bull man held off a fast-approaching Lewis Hamilton and the McLaren of Lando Norris to claim his 50th Formula 1 race win.

    After a quiet start, Verstappen gradually picked off his rivals one by one in what was a tense Austin affair. He took the lead from Norris, who had earlier taken first place on the opening lap ahead of pole-sitter Charles Leclerc.

    Hamilton, on new mediums, chased down Norris for second with a few laps to go and looked to close in on Verstappen for the win – in a reverse scenario of what happened in last year’s race where Verstappen chased down Hamilton for the win – but to no avail as he settled for second.

    Norris held off the late advances of Carlos Sainz to take his fourth podium in a row, ahead of the other Red Bull of Sergio Perez, who overtook a very frustrated Leclerc late in the event to finish fifth.

  2. Lando Norris said his tyres “just couldn’t hold on long enough” to take victory in hot conditions during Formula 1’s United States Grand Prix.

    The McLaren driver took the lead from Ferrari poleman Charles Leclerc off the line and controlled the first half of the race.

    But he was eventually passed by race winner Max Verstappen on lap 28, before Lewis Hamilton also made it by to take second place for Mercedes.

    It marked Norris’s fourth consecutive grand prix podium, repeating his third-place finish last time out in Qatar.

    Norris blamed the high degradation and temperatures for his struggles: “Yes, just leading the race. I could control it a lot, but just not enough today.

    “But I’m happy. It was a good race for my side.

    “We knew our struggles, we knew what was going to be difficult today. And it was just the degradation but the pace over the first 10 laps of every stint, the pace in the beginning was strong.

    “I just couldn’t hold on long enough. So we’re getting there. Progress, progress every weekend. Just some more steps needed.”

  3. Max Verstappen says Red Bull “needs to understand” the brake issue that hampered his Formula 1 United States Grand Prix victory charge.

    The F1 world champion recorded the 50th win of his career and his 15th triumph in 2023 at the Circuit of the Americas, backing up his sprint race success from Saturday, but came under huge pressure from Lewis Hamilton late on as the Dutch driver had to manage a brake problem.

    Verstappen was heard throughout the race complaining about his brakes over team radio and finished the race dropping time to Hamilton over the closing laps, eventually winning by just 2.225s.

    After Red Bull changed his brakes overnight between the sprint race and the grand prix Verstappen was unsure what caused the problem and has asked the team to investigate it.

    “We changed the brakes after yesterday and it was not good, I had no good feeling under braking, and I couldn’t really get on top of it for the whole race,” Verstappen told Sky Sports F1.

    “This is something we need to understand because when you are not very confident around here under braking you just don’t have a nice feeling under braking and when you come off it.

    “It can cost you quite a bit of lap time so it was a bit more difficult than I expected.

    “I’ve never really struggled in braking so far in my F1 career but today it definitely was a problem.”

  4. Charles Leclerc says that he and Ferrari need to understand why their predictions for his strategy in the United States Grand Prix were “wrong” after he slipped backwards from pole position to P6.

    The Monegasque had previously voiced his hopes that he could potentially challenge for victory in Sunday’s race following his third place finish in Saturday’s Sprint. However, the event got off to a difficult start for Leclerc, with Lando Norris overtaking him into Turn 1 on the opening lap.

    From there the Scuderia man continued to fall into the clutches of others as the laps progressed, which included him giving way to team mate Carlos Sainz in the final stages. Leclerc eventually finished just three tenths of a second ahead of seventh-placed George Russell.

    When asked how challenging the race had been in terms of his pace, Leclerc explained: “Well, to be honest, more than [it being] tough it was just the wrong strategy – one-stop was definitely not the right thing to do.

    “For some reason our numbers were making them much closer and it wasn’t, so it’s a bit of a shame.”

  5. Lewis Hamilton and Charles Leclerc have both been disqualified from the United States Grand Prix. Following the race in Austin, their cars were inspected and irregularities were spotted by the FIA Technical team after a plank wear inspection was carried out.

    The Delegate’s Report stated that: “The skids located in the area -825 ≥ XR ≥ – 1025 are found to be not in compliance with Article 3.5.9 e) of the 2023 Formula One Technical Regulations.”

    As such, both were immediately referred to the stewards.

    Hamilton had finished a brilliant second, harrying the triumphant Max Verstappen all the way to the line. He had been running a new floor at this event, Mercedes bringing their last major upgrade package of the year to Austin.

    Leclerc crossed the line in sixth, fractions of a second ahead of the second Mercedes of George Russell after falling back in the late stages on the less favoured one-stop strategy.

    Both teams sent a representative to speak to the stewards, stating that “the high wear on the skid pads was probably a result of the unique combination of the bumpy track and the Sprint race schedule that minimized the time to set up and check the car before the race.”

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