Max Verstappen won the United States Grand Prix after an incredibly close battle with the Mercedes of Lewis Hamilton.
Joining him on the podium was Hamilton in close second and his Red Bull teammate Sergio Perez in third.
The Dutchman has now further extended his lead in the Driver’s Standings by 12 points after fighting right down to the final corner to stay ahead of the Mercedes on fresher tyres.
Speaking after the race, the delighted Verstappen said; “Of course we lost out in the start so we had to try and do something else.
“The tyre wear is quite high around this track, we went aggressive and I was not sure it was going to work but the last few laps were fun.
“A bit sideways through the high-speed corners but super happy to hang on.”
Here’s how it played out:
At lights out, Max Verstappen lost his lead after being overtaken by the Mercedes of Lewis Hamilton – who successfully made his way around him into Turn One.
The two McLaren’s battled it out with the Ferrari of Carlos Sainz on the first Lap, with Daniel Ricciardo lifting his McLaren into fifth.
Heading into Lap 3, Hamilton had extended his lead to .8s as Max Verstappen was holding on behind the Mercedes, while the second Red Bull of Sergio Perez remained in third ahead of Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc.
Meanwhile, it wasn’t a great opening lap for Valtteri Bottas in the other Mercedes – he dropped a place and was running 10th behind Yuki Tsunoda.
Lap 6 saw Hamilton extending his lead to just .9s with Verstappen remaining on his heels, benefitting from a slipstream on the straights. Sergio Perez was now 3.4s off the lead with Leclerc trailing 11.2 back.
The championship leader was within DRS range of Hamilton on Lap 8 and took to the team radio sounding confident, and said; “He’s sliding a lot and I have a lot more pace.”
The Dutchman entered the pits from second on Lap 11 for a fresh set of hard tyres and returned to the track in P5 behind the McLaren of Daniel Ricciardo with a lot of work to do.
Moments later the Red Bull made its way around the McLaren for fourth with Leclerc now in Verstappen’s sights – the Dutchman determined to claw his way back up behind the Mercedes.
The Ferrari entered the pits, getting out of Verstappen’s way and he was now back in second, trying to catch Hamilton, with 11.6s between them.
The British world champion entered the pits from the lead on Lap 13 for a new set of hard tyres and returned to the race behind Verstappen who finally resumed the lead of Sunday’s battle and was 6s in the distance.
AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly found himself out of the race this afternoon on Lap 15 after an issue with his rear suspension saw him limp back to the pits.
Twenty laps in and Verstappen remained out front by 6.3s with Perez in third, 12s off his teammates leading pace.
Max’s advantage over Lewis on lap 22 was 5.7s – the British driver had closed the gap ever so slightly since returning to the track but Verstappen was still sailing ahead.
The Mercedes was beginning to close that gap on tyres that were three laps fresher than those on the RB16B on Lap 24, with the gap now sitting at 4.6s.
Verstappen made his second pit stop on Lap 30 for a new set of hard Pirellis and returned to the race behind his closest rival as the epic battle continued.
Meanwhile, Hamilton was told by his team they are now going long. The Mercedes would work to close in on the Red Bull when it matters most at the very end of today’s race.
Lap 38 saw Hamilton head for his second pit stop when the gap between him and Verstappen was at 12.6s – he returned to the race in second, 8.7s off landing the top step on the podium.
He was hunting down the Red Bull, who was losing time with backmarkers and the gap was down to 5.7s as time was beginning to run out.
Meanwhile, the Alpine of Esteban Ocon was forced into the pits and out of the race with a mechanical issue.
The fight for fifth was heating up between Ferrari’s Sainz and McLaren’s Ricciardo and saw a clash of wheels between the pair as Sainz attempted a move around the outside of the Aussie.
Ricciardo managed to hold onto his position and was behind the second Ferrari of Charles Leclerc in 4th and Sergio Perez in the Red Bull in 3rd.
With three laps to go the competition was incredibly close out front with just 1.1s separating Verstappen and Hamilton as we approached the home stretch of the United States Grand Prix.
After a race-long battle between 2021’s closest rivals, Max Verstappen managed to hold off Lewis Hamilton right down to the chequered flag to stretch his championship lead by 12 points.
Joining him on the podium was the Mercedes, and his Red Bull teammate Sergio Perez.
The Charging Bulls will breathe a sigh of relief heading to Mexico in two weeks time, but one thing’s for sure, Mercedes will be bringing the heat next time out.