Verstappen holds off charging Hamilton to win thrilling United States GP

24-10-2021 21:30 | Updated: 24-10-2021 21:52
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Verstappen holds off charging Hamilton to win thrilling United States GP

Max Verstappen has won a thrilling United States Grand Prix after a fantastic strategic and on-track duel in Austin, Texas. The Red Bull Racing team supplied the Dutchman with the winning strategy choice as they favoured track position over fresh tyres. Hamilton got within one second on the final lap but couldn't get close enough to have an overtaking chance. The Dutchman doubles his lead in the World Championship. 

Hamilton aced the start of the race and stormed into the lead. Red Bull opted for a strategy that favoured track position compared to fresh tyres for the end of the race. And Verstappen remained calm at the end as the seven-time World Champion hunted him down. But Hamilton didn't have enough time to reach the DRS zone and pull the overtake. 

The race witnessed exciting overtakes throughout the field. Fernando Alonso renewed an old rivalry with Kimi Raikkonen and then started a new rivalry with Antonio Giovinaizz. The four drivers in the battle for third place in the constructor's championship ensured their place on the highlight reel with a great opening lap duel. 

Pierre Gasly, who had problems on the grid, became the first driver to retire from the race. He reported suspension issues on the radio, with a possible cause being the bumps on the circuit. Esteban Ocon also retired with mechanical problems. Towards the end, his Alpine teammate retired. 

Title rivals together 

For the seventh time in the 2021 season, Verstappen and Hamilton started a Grand Prix alongside each other. In contrast to the last three years, it was Hamilton who had to fight against two Red Bull drivers after Sergio Perez's strong Saturday and Valtteri Bottas' five-place grid penalty due to a new internal combustion engine (ICE) being installed in his Mercedes car. 

Eight of the 20 drivers started on the medium tyres after setting their fastest lap time on the mediums in Q2. Ferrari's Carlos Sainz and AlphaTauri's Yuki Tsunoda were the two top ten drivers starting on the soft tyres. Pirelli selected the three tyres in the middle of their range. 

Hamilton launched off the line extremely well. Verstappen tried to recover by pushing Hamilton across the track but the Brit got to the apex first on the inside line and got ahead of his rival. Ferrari and McLaren also battled hard between all four drivers, with Charles Leclerc staying ahead in fourth. Bottas dropped down to 10th on the opening lap. At the first corner, Nicholas Latifi and Lance Stroll came away with a little bit of damage.  

By the time the DRS opened, Verstappen had managed to stay within one second of Hamilton. On lap seven, Hamilton voiced his concerns on the radio by telling his team "he's quicker than me". Whilst Verstappen stuck with Hamilton, Perez started to drop back. Red Bull Racing opted to pit Verstappen for hard tyres on lap 11 with an undercut attempt. Verstappen came out behind Ricciardo and Leclerc but made light work of the midfield cars. Perez came in for used mediums on lap 13 which forced Mercedes to react earlier than they would've wanted. Race leader Hamilton pitted one lap later and Verstappen sailed past with a seven-second lead. 

Reducing the gap

Perhaps crucially, Hamilton's tyres were three laps younger compared to Verstappen's tyres. The high temperatures and strong sunshine caused overheating problems for the drivers and made tyre management a tougher task. Hamilton initially gained, but the gap was maintained as both drivers seemed to engage in some tyre saving. 

By lap 24, Hamilton started to reduce the gap again. A brief virtual safety car period featured in this stint as a marshal recovered a piece of debris. Neither Hamilton or Verstappen were able to benefit. On lap 30, Verstappen took his second pitstop just as Hamilton approached the undercut zone. Perez dropped to 15 seconds behind Hamilton and was overtaken by Verstappen who had two pitstops. 

Hamilton pitted on lap 38 and had an 8.5-second gap to Verstappen with eight lap fresher tyres. The gap remained even for a few laps, but Hamilton gained when Verstappen got stuck behind the backmarkers. On lap 44, hamilton had a gap of just 3.8 seconds. Hamilton got within one second on the final lap. 

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