Verstappen dominates to beat Hamilton and Leclerc to victory in Austin Sprint
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.
The drivers met a much cooler track for the Sprint than the one they had for the Shootout. As the start approached the tyre blankets were raised, showing every driver had opted for a set of the medium tyres, except for Carlos Sainz, who made the bold call to go with the softs.
FORMULA 1 LENOVO UNITED STATES GRAND PRIX 2023
United States 2023
|1 Max Verstappen VER Red Bull Racing||31:30.849||8|
|2 Lewis Hamilton HAM Mercedes||+9.465s||7|
|3 Charles Leclerc LEC Ferrari||+17.987s||6|
|4 Lando Norris NOR McLaren||+18.863s||5|
|5 Sergio Perez PER Red Bull Racing||+22.928s||4|
When the lights went out, Verstappen made a strong getaway from pole as he covered off the attack from Leclerc in second. But as Leclerc looked to tuck in behind Verstappen, Hamilton came past the Ferrari driver on the exit of Turn 1.
Sainz, on the softs, was on the charge and he had got past Norris for fourth after making slight contact with Piastri at the start. Russell made up for his three-place grid drop to go from 11th to eighth right behind Perez in seventh.
As we headed on to Lap 2, Perez was looking incredibly racy in his RB19 and looked to make a move on the outside of Piastri at Turn 12. The rookie driver held off the challenge, with Russell behind looking to take advantage of the ongoing squabble.
Perez would only have to wait a lap later to make his way past Piastri at the exit of Turn 12, with Russell following the Red Bull driver through to go up to seventh at Turn 15.
However, the Briton was soon being investigated for leaving the track and gaining an advantage, with the watching Gasly, behind in ninth, calling for him to give the place back.
As Lap 5 got going, Hamilton was well within DRS range of Verstappen, showcasing the strong pace of the W14, as the Sprint leader came on the radio to question the driveability of his RB19.
Further back, Sainz’s softs were showing signs of degradation as Norris began to close the gap to his former team mate. As the Briton closed in on the Ferrari driver for fourth, the stewards handed Russell a five-second penalty for the earlier incident with Piastri.
But that would have done little to make Piastri’s day better as he continued to struggle for pace, as both Gasly and Albon overtook the Australian, leaving him in 10th, out of the points, and now under pressure from Ocon and Ricciardo.
Back at the front of the field, Verstappen had now pulled out a two-second gap on Hamilton, who was heard questioning whether the former had been exceeding track limits. However, there was nothing to suggest such a thing from the stewards.
It was more bad news for Piastri, as he was handed a black and white flag for exceeding track limits one too many times. His eventful afternoon continued as the stewards notified that they would be investigating an incident between him and Albon for leaving the track and gaining an advantage.
On Lap 10, Norris eventually made his way past Sainz at Turn 12, giving the Briton free air to chase the other Ferrari of Leclerc. Turn 12 was proving to be an unpopular spot for Sainz as a lap later Perez overtook the Spaniard for sixth.
Further back, there was plenty of squabbling going on as Ricciardo closed in on Stroll for 12th, while his AlphaTauri team mate, Tsunoda, battled past the Haas of Hulkenberg for 16th.
Just as the stewards announced that there would be no need to look any further into Albon for leaving the track and gaining an advantage on his overtake on Piastri, they revealed that they would be investigating Zhou for forcing Magnussen off the track.
Now on Lap 15, Russell was putting Sainz under pressure, but the Spaniard was making it very difficult for the Mercedes man. Further back, Ricciardo and Alonso had overtaken Stroll – who came on the radio to complain of his aging tyres.
At the front, Verstappen was continuing to extend his advantage over Hamilton, with the gap between the 2021 title rivals now well over six seconds. Elsewhere, Stroll came on the radio again to complain of his brakes, with Aston Martin opting to retire his AMR23.
As we got on to the penultimate lap of the race, Albon, in ninth, began to set a couple of personal best sectors as he looked to get within five seconds of Russell, in seventh, in the hope of gaining a place once the Mercedes driver’s five-second penalty kicked in.
On to the final lap, the stewards revealed that there was no need to further investigate Zhou for forcing Magnussen off the track. However, the Chinese racer was handed a five-second penalty for later leaving the track and gaining an advantage on Magnussen.
As the chequered flag arrived, Verstappen crossed the line to take his third Sprint victory of the season, with Hamilton in second – his best finish in the Sprint since Silverstone in 2021 – nearly 10s behind the Red Bull driver.
Leclerc held off the late challenge of Norris to take third with the McLaren driver made to settle for fourth ahead of Perez. Sainz kept Russell at bay for sixth, while Gasly crossed the line in eighth, but moved up to seventh once the Briton’s penalty kicked in.
Albon did a personal best on his last lap and ended up just three-tenths off Russell, but was forced to settle for ninth, while Piastri crossed the line in 10th ahead of Ocon and his compatriot Ricciardo.
Alonso finished in 13th, ahead of the other AlphaTauri of Tsunoda, the Haas of Hulkenberg, Valtteri Bottas, and Zhou – whose penalty did not cost him much as he finished 17th. Magnussen wound up 18th, with Logan Sargeant the last of the remaining drivers out on track due to Stroll’s retirement.
"The pace of the car was very good today," said Verstappen. "And I need it tomorrow – starting P6 is a bit different to today. Hope we can have some fun tomorrow, and of course I want to win."
Next up for the drivers is the United States Grand Prix on Sunday and to find out how you can catch all the action head to the RACE HUB.