AUSTIN, Texas – Max Verstappen held off Lewis Hamilton in the final 10 laps to earn his first United States Grand Prix victory Sunday at Circuit of the Americas.
The victory by Verstappen, his seventh this season, doubled his point advantage in the Formula 1 standings from six to 12 as he chases his first Formula 1 championship.
The event was held in front of a capacity crowd of approximately 140,000 race fans at the 3.426-mile road course.
“It’s amazing first of all to be here, but also to see so many of you around the track,” Verstappen told the fans in attendance. “Hopefully we can do this for many years to come.”
The United States Grand Prix was a tale of two pit stop strategies, with Verstappen and Red Bull Racing opting to go with an early stop strategy while Hamilton and Mercedes decided to go with a late pit stop strategy.
Verstappen started from the pole, but it was Hamilton who rocketed off the line from second to take the lead in the opening corners. Verstappen stayed within sight of Hamilton and soon the Red Bull team called him into the pits for his first set of tires on lap 11.
Hamilton pitted a few laps later for his first set of tires, but he exited the pits more than six seconds behind Verstappen thanks to Verstappen’s undercut. Hamilton slowly cut into Verstappen’s lead, but he was still behind him when Verstappen made his second pit stop on lap 30.
Sticking to the plan, Mercedes kept Hamilton on track until lap 38. He then hit the pits for his final set of tires and handed the lead back to Verstappen. At this point Hamilton was nearly eight seconds back, but he had much fresher tires to use in his pursuit of Verstappen.
Hamilton went right to work, chopping off chunks of time each lap as he tried to run down Verstappen. On lap 48 Hamilton had trimmed Verstappen’s lead down to 2.5 seconds, but with eight laps left he was running out of time.
With three laps left Hamilton had chopped the lead down to less than two seconds, but he needed to get within one second of Verstappen to gain the DRS advantage. Verstappen worked hard and was able to prevent that from happening when they reached each DRS zone, denying Hamilton the chance to gain a big speed boost.
Despite having tires eight laps older than his pursuer, Verstappen was able to hang on and collect a pivotal victory in his battle with Hamilton for the championship.
“We lost out at the start so we had to try something else,” Verstappen said. “The tire wear is quite high around this track. We did go aggressive and I wasn’t quite sure it was going to work. The last few laps were fun.
“Super happy, of course, to hang on.”
Hamilton was able to gain a small measure of revenge by setting the fastest lap of the race, which gained him an extra point. Despite that, Hamiliton said Red Bull simply had the upper hand throughout the weekend.
“Congratulations to Max, he did a great job today. It was such a tough race,” Hamilton said. “I got a good start, gave it absolutely everything, but at the end of the day they just had the upper hand this weekend.”
Sergio Perez finished third to take the final place on the podium and give Red Bull its 200th Formula 1 podium. Charles Leclerc finished fourth for Ferrari, with McLaren’s Daniel Ricciardo ending up fifth.