Max Verstappen took his 50th Formula 1 win in Austin on Sunday. The world champion at Red Bull finished the race from sixth on the grid with an optimal result. Lewis Hamilton was later disqualified in Mercedes, who had originally finished second. McLaren driver Lando Norris moved up from third to second. Ferrari driver Carlos Sainz is third.
It was Dutchman Verstappen’s 15th Grand Prix win of the year. Before that, last year, he was the only person to win multiple races in a single season. Only four Formula 1 Grandmasters currently hold more wins than the 26-year-old. He tops the all-time best list ahead of Hamilton (103), Michael Schumacher (91), Sebastian Vettel (53) and Alain Prost (51). It was Verstappen’s third Austin victory.
“You could see it was very close in the end. It’s incredible to win my 50th Grand Prix here. “Of course I’m very proud and we’ll keep trying to achieve more,” Verstappen said afterwards. During his winning run, the three-time champion suffered problems with his brakes. He complained several times, but these had no decisive effect.
Race stewards on Sunday attributed Hamilton’s disqualification to non-compliance in the Brit’s Mercedes car. Mercedes previously admitted breaking the rules with Hamilton’s car. The team cited a lack of time to readjust and check the race car after Saturday’s sprint and the effects of the extremely bumpy track on the underbody. Race officials, however, stood firm and pointed out that it is the duty of each team to ensure compliance with the regulations.
Hamilton lost his chance to win the American Grand Prix. After a thrilling three-way battle with Verstappen and Norris, he crossed the finish line 2.2 seconds behind the Red Bull driver. Sixth-placed Ferrari driver Charles Leclerc was dropped from the result list due to an irregular floor plate. Due to two disqualifications, Haas driver Nico Hulkenberg moved from 13th to 11th, but is still without a championship point.
“We changed the brake pads, it was a normal routine job,” Red Bull consultant Helmut Marko explained on ServusTV. “After a few laps, Max noticed that the brakes were pulling erratically, sometimes blocking in the front and then blocking in the rear. It was difficult to drive 50 laps with this defect.” Hamilton “drove brilliantly,” noted Styrian. “Thank God Verstappen didn’t make a mistake.”
However, Norris won from second place at the start of the race. The Briton took the first corners ahead of Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz. Hamilton was fourth ahead of Verstappen at the start, but both moved up two positions each to overtake the Ferrari pair. As the fastest man on track, Hamilton saw Norris and Verstappen drop back through the pit stops. After his own, not ideal, stop, the Brit was third behind the duo and had to fight his way back.
At the halfway mark of the race, Verstappen had closed the gap on Norris to less than a second. On lap 28, the world champion pulled off a strong maneuver and pressed his younger challenger on the brakes. As a result, he gained a lead of three seconds. Norris pitted for the second time after lap 34, Verstappen responded immediately and was just ahead of the McLaren after the second stop a lap later.
Norris had to defend his second place against a hard-fought Hamilton while Verstappen closed in on the next victory. He was unable to do so and Hamilton overtook him with seven laps to go. Norris still finished second due to disqualification. Behind Sainz, Verstappen’s team-mate Sergio Perez is now fourth. Leclerc was sixth at the start. Due to two disqualifications, George Russell moved up from seventh to fifth in the second Mercedes.
Hamilton congratulated the victorious Red Bull Racing team. “They did an incredible job and were faultless all year. My team did a fantastic job to improve here. We fought and are really happy with the result,” said the seven-time world champion.
“The pace was strong in the first ten laps of every race and I couldn’t maintain it. It’s progress,” Norris said. “I did my best and I’m still happy – being on the podium here is better than we expected before the weekend.”
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