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Verstappen claims vital USGP victory in strategy thriller with Hamilton

Verstappen claims vital USGP victory in strategy thriller with Hamilton

F1 News

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Verstappen claims vital USGP victory in strategy thriller with Hamilton

Verstappen claims vital USGP victory in strategy thriller with Hamilton
From Ian Parkes in Austin

Max Verstappen held off a charging Lewis Hamilton to claim a crucial United States Grand Prix victory in the battle for this year's F1 title.

Watched by a staggering crowd of around 160,000 at the Circuit of the Americas- with 400,000 across the three days - they were treated to a captivating battle between the two title protagonists that ebbed and flowed over the 56 laps.

Strategy played a crucial role, which at one stage appeared to swing towards the seven-time champion and Mercedes after his second pit stop as he proceeded to reel in the Red Bull driver on considerably fresher tyres.

But Verstappen managed to eke life out of his own rubber to take the chequered flag by just 1.333secs and extend his championship advantage to 12 points as Hamilton at least came away with the fastest lap.

With Verstappen and Hamilton on the front row for the seventh time this year, it threw up the possibility of further fireworks between the duo given the incidents that have previously taken place.

Once the five red lights disappeared, it was Hamilton who delivered the better start, a facet of his race that has been an Achilles heel on occasion this season.

Verstappen did move across on Hamilton as they powered their way up the hill, and at one stage another collision appeared on the cards.

But it was Hamilton with the momentum and the ideal line into the sharp turn one left-hander, forcing Verstappen wide who came under threat for a moment from Sergio Perez.

The Mexican, however, perhaps appreciated that passing his team-mate would not be a smart move and backed out, allowing Verstappen to maintain a steady pursuit of Hamilton and a real cat-and-mouse game to unfold.

Hamilton at one stage radioed in to declare Verstappen "is quicker than me right now" as the Dutch driver sat within a second of his rival over the opening 10 laps until the former was pitted first.

Switching from the medium to the hard compound, Verstappen immediately proved faster, yet it was only after Perez pitted two laps later did Mercedes blink and bring in Hamilton in a bid to cover off the second Red Bull driver.

The damage was done, though, as the three laps difference between stops allowed Verstappen to carve out a 6.759s cushion at the end of lap 14.

Seven laps later, Hamilton had only clawed back a second of his rival's advantage before then putting on a charge as the gap was down to 2.793s after a further five laps.

With the cushion down to 2.617s at the halfway stage of 28 laps, Red Bull brought in Verstappen for a second stop and another set of hard tyres, allowing Hamilton to retake the lead.

A few laps later and with a cushion of 16 seconds, Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff took to the radio, declaring to Hamilton: "Lewis, we're racing for the win", prompting a response of "Leave me to it, bro. Thanks."

After 37 laps, Hamilton finally pitted again for his new set of hard tyres, his rubber nine laps fresher than those on Verstappen's RB16B.

With 18 laps to run next time around, Hamilton found himself 8.818s adrift. He then took two seconds out of Verstappen on lap 40 with the fastest lap and another 1.4s on 41.

Even personal best laps from Verstappen on 44, 45, 46, 47 and 49 were not good enough as Hamilton was quicker on every occasion to cut the gap to 1.946s.

When they crossed the line to start the final lap, Hamilton was finally in DRS range, but Verstappen put in a last-lap flier to keep the Briton at arm's length and claim the 18th win - and arguably his most important so far - of his F1 career.

It really was a race between the front two as Perez finished 42 seconds adrift in third, with Ferrari's Charles Leclerc a further 10 seconds back.

McLaren's Daniel Ricciardo, who went wheel to wheel with Ferrari's Carlos Sainz on lap one and again 15 laps from home, claimed fifth ahead of the second Mercedes of Valtteri Bottas, with the Spanish driver seventh.

Lando Norris claimed eighth for McLaren, with AlphaTauri's Yuki Tsunoda and Aston Martin of Sebastian Vettel claiming the final two points-scoring positions.

In the midfield approaching the halfway stage, old warrior Fernando Alonso was involved in numerous tussles with Alfa Romeo duo Kimi Raikkonen and Antonio Giovinazzi for 10th place.

With moves off the track, Alonso and Giovinazzi, in particular, were both forced to give positions back, while Raikkonen appeared to escape punishment for a similar move on the Alpine driver much to his team's frustration.

It was a race Alonso eventually lost out on with a broken rear wing that forced him to retire six laps from home, a double retirement for Alpine given Esteban Ocon had pulled into the garage 11 laps earlier.

Pierre Gasly was another retiree due to suspension failure on his AlphaTauri after 14 laps.

What do you think?
MrDee

Awesome race

What a thriller!

0
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