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F1 POWER RANKINGS: Who impressed our judges most on F1’s return to Austin?

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Max Verstappen scored his first-ever United States Grand Prix victory with a brilliant performance at the Circuit of The Americas on Sunday. But did he score highest with our Aramco F1 Power Rankings judges? Read on to find out how they scored the field this week...

HOW IT WORKS

  • Our six-judge panel assesses each driver after every Grand Prix and scores them out of 10 according to their performance across the weekend – taking machinery out of the equation

  • Our experts’ scores are then averaged out across the season to create an overall Power Rankings Leaderboard (at the bottom of the page)

READ MORE: Ross Brawn on the title fight, Perez stepping up at the perfect time, and the rise of F1 in the US

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Max Verstappen had one of his strongest races of the season, taking pole position at a Mercedes stronghold but losing out to rival Lewis Hamilton at the very start of the race. The way he got that lead back was nothing short of clinical, a "super aggressive" strategy seeing him handle the Austin heat with the maturity and drive that only a championship leader could have.

He delivered a performance which handed Honda their first US GP victory since 1991, Red Bull their first US GP victory since 2013, and his own maiden victory Stateside. All of which impressed our judging panel.

READ MORE: 6 Winners and 5 Losers from the US Grand Prix – Who had the crowd on their feet in Austin?

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Charles Leclerc was faultless on the way to fourth, his pace putting him right at the top of the midfield – 25 seconds ahead of fifth-place McLaren driver Daniel Ricciardo – on a circuit where Ferrari didn't expect to score as highly as they did. The Monegasque driver even thought he could have gained a podium on Sunday. That he finished only 10 seconds off Red Bull's Sergio Perez only underlines his case.

READ MORE: Binotto says Ferrari’s US Grand Prix showing proved they've made ‘big step forwards’ with power unit

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Lewis Hamilton put in a strong performance but ultimately he fell just short in Austin. Outdoing Verstappen into Turn 1, Hamilton had the lead until Red Bull opened up the undercut and caused the Briton a strategy headache. He gave chase admirably, pitting later than Verstappen for his final stint and ending up with an 8.8 second deficit to the leader on fresher tyres. But numerous other factors – including heat, backmarkers, and the Dutchman's late burst of speed – combined to deprive him of victory.

WATCH: See the tense final lap in full as Hamilton pushes Verstappen all the way in Texas

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This was a test of endurance for Red Bull's Sergio Perez, the Mexican losing his drinks system under the baking sun at COTA with more than 30 laps remaining. His composure shone through from lights-out, Perez giving way to team mate Verstappen when the Dutchman ran wide at Turn 1, then going on to secure that final podium place. The kind of second-driver performance Team Principal Christian Horner has been seeking for a long time.

READ MORE: High stakes at high altitude – Is Mexico City going to be a ‘Red Bull track’ again this year?

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Daniel Ricciardo may have finished 25 seconds off Ferrari's Charles Leclerc, but put a firm grip on P5 even after losing a couple of places on the opening tour. The Australian came back, taking a place off team mate Lando Norris and another off Carlos Sainz – battling the Spaniard again at the very end with contact to hold on to a solid result.

READ MORE: ‘A strong defence’ was needed says Ricciardo after contact in battle with Sainz at COTA

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Much like the Alpines, the Aston Martins seemed far from home in Texas. An engine penalty put Sebastian Vettel down to 18th on the grid, but the German picked up three handy places on the first lap, kept out of trouble to sweep past Williams' George Russell and Alfa Romeo's pacey Antonio Giovinazzi – and was promoted to the points as Pierre Gasly retired, and Kimi Raikkonen faltered late on.

LISTEN: The F1 Nation crew on that tense tussle in Texas, and what it means for the title race

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When Yuki Tsunoda burst out of the gates back in Bahrain, this was the kind of performance we were expecting at every race. The AlphaTauri driver proved a stubborn obstacle for Valtteri Bottas – surely helping his fellow Honda-powered drivers at Red Bull gain points in the championship – managed his starting soft tyres in the searing heat, and took home useful points for the team when team mate Gasly was out of the running.

READ MORE: Tsunoda survives early soft tyre stint to nab first points since Hungary, in his ‘best race of the year’

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Carlos Sainz was undeniably unfortunate not to leave the United States with more than P7. His race was compromised as he had to start on soft tyres, and he lost out in a midfield battle on the run up to Turn 12 – returning, then quickly retaking a place to and from Lando Norris.

The kicker was that a slow second pitstop left Sainz fighting with Ricciardo at the very end, which led to him making contact with the McLaren and ultimately losing another position to Bottas by the flag.

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Lando Norris gave it everything to fight from seventh on the grid, going three-wide with Ferrari's Sainz and McLaren team mate Ricciardo down the back straight and avoiding a collision with Leclerc going into the tight Turn 12. Unfortunately for Norris, he ended behind Sainz and Ricciardo, and was overcut by Bottas late on to finish eighth.

READ MORE: Norris explains 'scary' start in Austin as he battled with Ricciardo and Ferrari pair on Lap 1

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So close to scoring a point in the US, Alfa Romeo's Antonio Giovinazzi started 12th, let Kimi Raikkonen by, and continued with comparable pace to his veteran team mate. But the Italian lost out in a battle against a fired-up Fernando Alonso, with another world champion – Aston Martin's Sebastian Vettel – passing him in the closing stages to take the final points-paying spot.

ANALYSIS: Why was Raikkonen allowed to keep the place after passing Alonso off track?

Missing out

Three drivers who had markedly different races all just missed out on our top 10: Valtteri Bottas of Mercedes; Pierre Gasly of AlphaTauri; and Alfa Romeo's Kimi Raikkonen.

Bottas's progress was stalled by a stubborn Yuki Tsunoda but he pulled off the overcut to finish sixth from ninth with a late pass on Sainz. Gasly showed solid pace from P8 was looking a sure-shot for points before a suspension failure stopped him. And finally, Raikkonen almost took the last point for Alfa Romeo before a spin dropped him to 13th.

2021 United States Grand Prix: Räikkönen loses P10 with big spin at COTA

The overall standings

No change at the top: Verstappen is emphatically leading our Power Rankings ahead of Norris and Hamilton. But Leclerc has dropped a place; as he was previously level with Hamilton on 8.1.

Sainz, Gasly, and Russell remain equal fifth but Ricciardo and Alpine's Esteban Ocon – the Frenchman having retired from the race in Austin – have swapped places.

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