Max Verstappen held off a late charge from Lewis Hamilton to take a big win in the United States GP and increase his world championship lead to 12 points with five races to go.
In yet another captivating duel between the title contenders that went all the way to the race’s 56th and final lap, Verstappen withstood the pressure of a charging Mercedes on fresher tyres to claim his first win in the USA at a significant time in the season.
“Catching is one thing, passing is another – Verstappen kept his head. That was a very important victory in his career and championship charge,” said Sky F1’s Martin Brundle of the Dutchman’s eighth win of 2021.
Hamilton had brilliantly overtaken his pole-sitting rival into the race’s first corner, but Red Bull gained track position by pitting Verstappen first at the opening stops – and then again at the second when he was in the lead.
Mercedes kept Hamilton out longer to ensure significantly fresher tyres for the closing laps and he rejoined from his second stop eight seconds behind Verstappen. He quickly reeled him in but, crucially, Verstappen could just about stay out of DRS range and keep his tyres in check to ensure Hamilton never got close enough to attempt a pass.
“Big for us to beat Mercedes here. I really didn’t think he was going to pull that off,” said a jubilant yet relieved Red Bull boss Christian Horner, who also saw Sergio Perez finish third in the sister car to ensure they cut the reigning champions’ lead in the constructors’ chase to 23 points.
The fight for the titles: Latest standings
|1) Max Verstappen||287.5|
|2) Lewis Hamilton||275.5|
|2) Red Bull||437.5|
A philosophical Hamilton told Sky F1: “We gave it everything we had and they were just quicker than us this weekend.”
Charles Leclerc drove a fabulous race to take home fourth for Ferrari, finishing closer to Perez’s Red Bull (10s) than fifth-placed Daniel Ricciardo (24s) from constructors’ championship rivals McLaren.
With Carlos Sainz seventh, Ferrari moved to within three-and-a-half points of McLaren in the fight between the sport’s former titans for third in the teams’ standings.
But fifth was still a strong personal result for Ricciardo, three places and eight seconds ahead of team-mate Lando Norris. After overtaking Sainz on the first lap, the Spaniard came back at him later on but a wheel-banging clash between the pair did not change their order.
Valtteri Bottas, who had started ninth after an engine change penalty, overtook Sainz on the final lap for sixth after a tricky race in the second Mercedes.
More to follow…
United States GP: Top 10 finishers
1) Max Verstappen, Red Bull
2) Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes
3) Sergio Perez, Red Bull
4) Charles Leclerc, Ferrari
5) Daniel Ricciardo, McLaren
6) Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes
7) Carlos Sainz, Ferrari
8) Lando Norris, McLaren
9) Yuki Tsunoda, AlphaTauri
10) Sebastian Vettel, Aston Martin