Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen in thrilling fight for US GP win after McLaren blunder

Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen in thrilling fight for US GP win after McLaren blunder

Max Verstappen started the United States Grand Prix sixth on the grid but nursed his tyres to perfection as Red Bull outsmarted McLaren and Mercedes in the strategy department

Max Verstappen won the United States Grand Prix to take his 50th F1 race victory

McLaren may have thrown away a golden chance for Lando Norris to finally win a Formula 1 race with a questionable strategy call which gifted United States Grand Prix victory to Max Verstappen – his 50th in the sport.

Norris led the first half of the Austin race after flying past pole-sitter Charles Leclerc at the first corner. Lewis Hamilton was soon on his gearbox while Verstappen made quick progress to be up there with them battling for the podium places.

After the first round of pit stops the McLaren man still had the lead. But the team made the eye-catching decision to pit him again for another set of hard tyres. It meant Norris lost track position to Verstappen after he too pitted, gifting the Red Bull man the lead of the race before he sped off into the distance.

And the fact Hamilton was on fresher medium tyres meant he was a sitting duck when the Mercedes man came across him. So Norris had to settle for the lowest step on the podium instead of potentially securing his first win, while Hamilton closed to just a second behind but just ran out of time to catch the champion.

Norris started on the favoured side of the track which gave him a huge advantage heading into turn one. The car starting second led after the first corner in four of the previous five races at COTA and the Brit added to that stat by getting the better of Leclerc.

And he soon pulled out of DRS range to put himself in a commanding position. He had the two Ferraris chasing him in the opening stages, after Carlos Sainz got the better of Hamilton at the first corner.

But it wasn’t long before the seven-time world champion got the better of the Spaniard to take third place back. And he also made light work of Leclerc with the Ferraris clearly not interested in defending too hard in the early stages and risk ruining their tyre strategies.

Lando Norris took an early lead of the race

Verstappen was up to fourth by lap seven, having also flown past Sainz. It was perhaps slower progress than many might have expected, but it was clear that the Dutchman was not pushing flat out and saving his own tyres to make sure he was able to go longer on those yellow-walled mediums.

Esteban Ocon was the first retiree, forced to end his race after just seven lap owing to the huge hole in his sidepod after contact with Oscar Piastri. The Aussie was able to carry on for a few more laps, but the collision damaged a radiator on his car which sparked a water leak and meant he too was soon glumly returning to his garage.

Norris was still leading and managing to hold Hamilton to about two seconds behind him. And Verstappen was four-and-a-half seconds further back and not closing by much. But Red Bull made the first move of the strategy chess match and pitted him for another set of medium tyres, committing the Dutchman to a two-stop strategy.

McLaren soon followed by bringing Norris in for hard tyres, keeping a one-stop open to the Brit. Hamilton was left to lead the race for a few laps in his absence, but was struggling on those tyres and was very unhappy about it as he slid around on the track.

When he did eventually pit, he came back out behind both Norris and Verstappen, though Mercedes reassured him that it was all part of the plan. When Leclerc became the last to change tyres, giving the McLaren man clean air, there was just two seconds between the two front-runners.

It soon developed into a dogfight between them. Verstappen had the advantage of medium tyres to get the better of the McLaren and it was the 28th lap of the race when the Red Bull dove up the inside of Norris to take the lead. But the strategy would remain key to the outcome of the race with the Brit not obliged to pit again, while Verstappen needed to.

And McLaren blew it. They inexplicably pitted Norris first, while he was leading, for hard tyres which meant Verstappen could simply pit on the following lap to match and come back out with track position and fresher rubber. From there, he sped off into the distance and built enough of a gap to ensure Hamilton, on the mediums, could not catch him in the late stages.

Full 2023 United States Grand Prix result

Max Verstappen – Red Bull

Lewis Hamilton – Mercedes

Lando Norris – McLaren

Carlos Sainz – Ferrari

Sergio Perez – Red Bull

Charles Leclerc – Ferrari

George Russell – Mercedes

Pierre Gasly – Alpine

Lance Stroll – Aston Martin

Yuki Tsunoda – AlphaTauri

Alexander Albon – Williams

Logan Sargeant – Williams

Nico Hulkenberg – Haas

Valtteri Bottas – Alfa Romeo

Zhou Guanyu – Alfa Romeo

Kevin Magnussen – Haas

Daniel Ricciardo – AlphaTauri

DNF: Fernando Alonso – Aston Martin; Oscar Piastri – McLaren; Esteban Ocon – Alpine

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