Max Verstappen captured his second United States Grand Prix of 2022 thanks to never-give-up gusto
Max Verstappen swept past Lewis Hamilton with six laps remaining to win a scintillating United States Grand Prix at the Circuit of Americas while denying the Mercedes driver his first win of 2022.
The young Dutchman’s 13th win ties for the most victories in a single season with Sebastian Vettel and Michael Schumacher. It was also his 33rd career win, with three races remaining.
Verstappen’s triumph also clinches the constructor’s championship title for his Red Bull squad, with his teammate, Sergio Perez, finishing fourth.
Verstappen appeared on course to sail to the chequered flag, but the two-time world champion was stymied during his final pit stop when Red Bull struggled to bolt on his front-left tyre. The Dutchman was left stationary for 11.1 seconds.
With only 20 laps remaining, Verstappen’s miserable stop allowed Hamilton to take the lead. After his tyre trouble, the Dutchman fell behind Charles Leclerc, but he fought his way past the Ferrari driver with 15 laps left. Ahead was Hamilton, battling for a race win for the first time since Abu Dhabi last December.
However, this was a different battle. With seven laps to go, Verstappen moved to within a second, and the game was up. With DRS activated, Verstappen steamed up the inside of Hamilton at Turn 12 and made his move stick with six laps remaining.
Leclerc started from 12th and finished third ahead of Sergio Pérez as Red Bull secured their first constructors’ title since 2013. George Russell finished fifth, one place ahead of Lando Norris.
Fernando Alonso crossed the line in seventh despite being sent airborne and out of control after he collided with Lance Stroll at 180mph. The Spaniard was later demoted to 15th, as the FIA determined that Alpine returned Alonso to the track with an unsafe car.
That ruling elevated Sebastian Vettel (Aston Martin) to seventh, in front of Kevin Magnussen (Haas), Yuki Tsunoda (Alpha Tauri) and Esteban Ocon (Alpine) in tenth place.
On Saturday night, came confirmation that Dietrich Mateschitz, the Austrian billionaire who founded Red Bull in 1984 and secured their entry on the F1 grid 21 years later, had lost his long battle with cancer.
An emotional Verstappen dedicated his career to Mateschitz on Sunday afternoon as the grid stood shoulder-to-shoulder to pay tribute to Mateschitz with a round of applause.
Moments later, the Dutchman delivered a textbook start to move past pole-sitter Carlos Sainz. There would be further misery for Sainz when Russell knocked him out of the race when he speared into the Spaniard’s Ferrari in the first corner.
Ferrari dominated qualifying, with Carlos Sainz taking the pole just ahead of Charles Leclerc. News of Red Bull’s minor salary cap breach saw Max Verstappen booed by fans at the Circuit of the Americas.
Sergio Perez was fourth quickest, although newly-crowned world champion Verstappen would start from second on Sunday thanks to Leclerc dropping ten places due to an engine change.
Perez also had an engine penalty, lifting Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton and George Russell into third and fourth on the grid, respectively.
The Spaniard suffered a poor start off the line and was soon overtaken by Max Verstappen, but the Ferrari ace’s day only worsened. Behind Verstappen and with the two Mercedes cars chasing, Sainz exited the first corner and turned in on the racing line only to be hit by George Russell.
The Mercedes man flew into the corner at a desperate angle, slamming his front tyre into the side of Sainz’s Ferrari, sending the Spaniard into a spin as he went from P2 to last. Stroll moved up to third from fifth, with Russell behind, as the stewards looked into the opening incident.
By Lap 13, the field was ready to fit hard tyres. Hamilton stopped and rejoined 7th. Verstappen’s pitstop took a heroic 2.6secs. By contrast, Russell was held while serving his five-second penalty. Leclerc stayed out and was up into second place.
On Lap 18, Schumacher and Stroll tangled, sending the stewards to the monitors again while still busy issuing Albon a black and white flag for exceeding track limits in his battle with Tsunoda for 15th. Just in time, Bottas spun out, triggering a yellow flag and a Safety Car period.
A frightening incident occurred four laps later when future Aston Martin teammates Lance Stroll and Fernando Alonso collided, sending Alonso’s Alpine airborne at 180mph. It landed hard enough to knock the wind out of the Spaniard temporarily. While Stroll’s car was totalled, Alonso managed to return his car to the pits.
Over the radio, Alonso sounded shaky, questioning the lateness of Stroll’s move as the Spaniard approached to overtake. Incredibly, Alonso not only survived but also rejoined after changing his punctured tyres, fighting back from last place to finish seventh.
The safety car period ended on Lap 26 as Verstappen again held his lead at the restart. Four laps later, Leclerc darted past Perez in a brilliant move that kept him inside the track on his overtaking corner. Leclerc moved up to third.
By Lap 35, Hamilton sensed a fleeting opportunity as Verstappen questioned his team about his RB18 drivability. Hamilton pitted and returned in sixth.
Verstappen responded on Lap 36. His stop was horrific. He was stationary for 11.1s as his front left wheel failed to tighten and was remounted. Further, he exited the pit lane behind Leclerc.
The Dutchman immediately attacked to get within striking distance of Leclerc, but the Ferrari wouldn’t make things easy for him. Verstappen set the fastest lap, however, pushing Leclerc without mercy.
Leclerc held on magnificently until Lap 40, when Verstappen finally got his revenge, moving into third place, just under four seconds behind Hamilton in second.
Hamilton took the lead from Vettel on the next lap, cruising past him into first. Vettel didn’t fight it: his time in the lead brought his number of career laps led up to 3500.
Tragically on Lap 42, Vettel’s pitstop made Verstappen’s look breezy. It was a shambles, over 16s stationery. He might have fought for a podium stop here in Austin, but he returned 13th.
By Lap 44, Hamilton, Verstappen and Leclerc were separated by only three and a half seconds. Hamilton posted his fastest lap of the race on Lap 46, just one-tenth faster than Verstappen.
Hamilton All In
Hamilton would be all in on the hard tyres for the last ten nail-biting laps, hanging onto the +1.5s gap ahead of the relentless but patient Dutchman on mediums.
These two F1 heavyweights were fighting for a race win again for the first time since Abu Dhabi last December. Lap by lap, second by second, the deficit shrunk, and it was great to watch.
Down to Lap 50
It all came down to Lap 50. With seven laps to go, the game was up. Verstappen moved within a second and waited to activate DRS on the long back straight just as the gap between the drivers began to close.
Verstappen seized the momentum and went for the overtake. But Hamilton pulled the switch on him. It was a dog fight as they drove on, wheel-to-wheel, before Hamilton lost track position, and Verstappen streaked past at Turn 12 to make the move stick.
Into the lead, the Dutchman never looked back.
Astonishingly, Alonso’s car was protested by the Haas team post race and demoted by the stewards because Alpine didn’t replace a damaged mirror that fell off twenty-five laps after the Stroll collision.
The stewards deemed his car had been released back out to the race track in an unsafe condition. As of this writing, Alpine will protest the penalty handed to Fernando Alonso, claiming it is legally invalid as Haas missed the deadline to take action.