Max Verstappen won a spectacular duel with title rival Lewis Hamilton in the 2021 United States Grand Prix, with Red Bull gaining ground on Mercedes thanks to Perez’s podium finish – and the championship leader extending his lead to 12 points.
From second on the grid Hamilton enjoyed a stellar start off the line as the lights went out in Austin, and despite Verstappen squeezing him as far as possible down the inside to the run-up to Turn 1, the Briton gained P1 from the Dutchman to lead going into the esses. Perez, starting third, followed and began to lose hundredths, then tenths, to the leaders.
Red Bull championship hopeful Verstappen opened the pit window on Lap 11, pitting from medium tyres to hards, while Mercedes’ reigning champion Hamilton followed in on Lap 14 only to emerge second behind the under-cutting Red Bull driver. But there was another pit stop to come under the scorching Texas sun.
The second set of stops came when Verstappen came in on Lap 29 for another set of hards, his team mate Perez following – while Hamilton once again stayed out longer, holding a fragile 16-second lead over Verstappen. “We are racing for the win,” he was told by Team Principal Toto Wolff.
“Leave me to it, bro!” came Hamilton’s response. With an 11.5s lead, he pitted on Lap 37, stopped on his marks and was back out in second on new hard tyres – 8.8s behind Verstappen this time, for a chase to the chequered flag.
“It’s all about the last three laps,” Hamilton was told. And indeed, it was, as the gap to Verstappen didn’t start tumbling until Lap 41 of 56 when the leader encountered backmarkers. With five laps remaining, just 1.7s split the front two, and Hamilton had DRS on Verstappen on the very last lap. But the Dutchman found just enough pace on his worn, hard compounds, and took victory – by 1.3s – with what team boss Christian Horner called a “classy” display. Perez took the final podium spot.
FORMULA 1 ARAMCO UNITED STATES GRAND PRIX 2021
|1 Max VERSTAPPEN Red Bull Racing||1:34:36.552||25|
|2 Lewis HAMILTON Mercedes||+1.333s||19|
|3 Sergio PEREZ Red Bull Racing||+42.223s||15|
|4 Charles LECLERC Ferrari||+52.246s||12|
|5 Daniel RICCIARDO McLaren||+76.854s||10|
Charles Leclerc drove brilliantly to P4 for Ferrari having held off Daniel Ricciardo of McLaren at the start, the Australian having made up one place at the expense of Carlos Sainz early on. That left Valtteri Bottas sixth for Mercedes ahead of Carlos Sainz, the Ferrari driver passed for the place late on by the Mercedes man who recovered from ninth on the grid.
Ricciardo’s team mate Lando Norris took eighth having lost a place to Bottas after the second set of pit stops. Behind Norris was Yuki Tsunoda in P9, the rookie having started 10th on soft tyres but handled the fragile compounds masterfully, gaining a place as AlphaTauri team mate Pierre Gasly retired with suspension issues.
In the final point-paying spot was Aston Martin’s Sebastian Vettel, who started 18th after a engine change penalty.
Esteban Ocon of Alpine was the next retiree, on Lap 42. His Alpine team mate Alonso followed into the pits from P14 with five laps remaining, citing a rear wing issue.