Race Weekend Central

F1 Review: Max Verstappen Manages Brake Issue, Wins Lenovo USGP For 50th Win

Max Verstappen methodically made his way to the front from sixth and handled a persistent brake issue to win the Lenovo United States Grand Prix at the Circuit Of The Americas on Sunday (Oct. 22), his 50th win and third in the United States this season.

Verstappen crossed the line a little over two seconds ahead of Lewis Hamilton, whose three-stop strategy nearly paid off. Lando Norris held on for third, while Carlos Sainz took fourth, followed by Sergio Perez and Charles Leclerc. George Russell finished seventh, with Alpine’s Pierre Gasly in eighth. Aston Martin’s Lance Stroll took ninth after starting from the pit lane, while Alpha Tauri driver Yuki Tsunoda took the final points-paying spot and also added an extra point for the fastest lap.

Both Hamilton and Leclerc found themselves disqualified from the race after the scrutineers discovered that their wear-planks were too worn. The planks run under the car and determine whether the cars sit at the appropriate ride height. While the bumpy COTA track may likely to be to blame, Verstappen avoided any penalty.

See also
Lewis Hamilton, Charles Leclerc Disqualified From US Grand Prix

“The whole race I was struggling a lot with the brakes,” Verstappen said. “I couldn’t really have the same feeling as yesterday. That made my race a bit tougher today.

“It’s of course incredible to win my 50th grand prix here — very proud of course. We’ll just keep on trying to push for more.”

In the driver standings, Verstappen has 466 points, with Perez way back with 238. Hamilton closed the gap to Perez, now just 19 back at 219.

In the constructor standings, Red Bull leads Mercedes 704 to 358, with Ferrari 31 points back in third with 327.

The Race

Norris got the better jump at the start and overtook Leclerc into Turn 1. Piastri picked up four spots but was tagged by Ocon, with Ocon getting the worst end of the contact. 

Verstappen, starting sixth after a track limits penalty in qualifying, picked up a spot at the start to fifth and began the long quest to reach the front.

Norris widened his lead to two seconds over Leclerc by the end of lap two was well clear of DRS range, and was over five seconds ahead of Verstappen in fifth. 

Hamilton overtook Sainz for third on lap 4, with little resistance from Sainz, who was looking to conserve his tires. Verstappen followed suit, getting by Sainz on lap 5, and was showing the patience of a driver who knows he will win if he follows the plan.

Hamilton picked off his second Ferrari of the day, zipping by Leclerc on lap seven but was still over three seconds behind Norris. 

Verstappen was within DRS range of Leclerc, but the Red Bull driver had to watch his back for Sainz, who was within DRS of Verstappen. The Dutchman bullied his way past the Ferrari and into third and was over four seconds adrift of Hamilton.  

On lap 10, McLaren radioed Norris and said, “We are thinking of Plan A,” which was clearly a good sign that the preferred strategy was still in play. Unfortunately, his teammate Piastri had to retire due to an overheating issue, possibly an after-effect of the contact with Ocon on the opening lap.

Verstappen made his first pit stop for medium tires on lap 17, committing to a two-stop strategy. It was a quick stop and put the pressure on Mercedes and Ferrari to react accordingly. 

Hamilton came in on lap 21 for hard tires, leaving Leclerc in the lead, although he had yet to pit. Mercedes’ one-stop strategy was probably dead, and Hamilton would have to nurse his hard tires to see any significant benefit.

Meanwhile, Verstappen was just over three seconds behind Norris in second. Verstappen was on medium tires and would have to stop again, while the durability of Norris’ hard tires held the key to his race-winning hopes.

On lap 26, Verstappen was nearing DRS range on Norris and with another pit stop necessary, could not waste time getting by the McLaren. One lap later, the Red Bull was in DRS range and applying maximum pressure. Verstappen completed the pass on lap 28 and set off to build a gap to offset the time spent on their final pit stop.

Hamilton was six seconds back of Verstappen and was being urged by his team to use all of his tires and up the pace. 

With his hopes of the win dwindling, Norris now had to guard against the charging Hamilton, also on hard tires but seemingly finding more performance in them than Norris. 

Verstappen wasn’t yet pulling away, and would likely have to contend later with Norris or Hamilton on medium tires while Verstappen would be on hard tires. Verstappen was also unhappy with his brakes, and said as much with colorful profanity over the radio. 

On lap 36, the order was Hamilton, Perez, Leclerc, Verstappen, Norris, Russell, Sainz, Gasly, and Alonso, who had charged into points position after starting from the pit lane. 

Verstappen was on Leclerc’s gearbox on lap 38 and blew by the Ferrari on lap 39. Hamilton pitted from the lead for mediums simultaneously and emerged in fourth. If the Mercedes driver adequately conserves his tires, he could contend for the win. 

Verstappen again criticized his brakes, and maybe, just maybe, was saying that just to give his opponents some false hope.  

Hamilton had closed to under a second to Norris, and Norris was instructed by his team to charge his battery in order to defend against the Mercedes. Norris was conceding the chase to Verstappen and hoping to maintain a podium finish. 

Hamilton finally got by Norris on lap 49, and now had seven laps to catch Verstappen. Two laps later, Hamilton had made up little to no ground on the Red Bull. Verstappen was well on his way to his 50th win, assuming his brakes could survive five more laps of the Dutchman cursing at them. 

Or was he? Verstappen’s lead was down to under three seconds, and the Red Bull’s braking issue was getting worse, if the desperation in Verstappen’s voice could be believed. At the start of the final lap, Verstappen’s lead was under two seconds. 

Verstappen nervously held on and crossed the line just over two seconds ahead of Hamilton, securing his 50th win and his third win this season in the United States.

The Good

In a season dominated by Verstappen, any race in which the outcome is determined after the halfway point is considered good and even great. The United States Grand Prix lived up to the hype and produced an exciting race replete with differing strategies, overtakes for the lead, and crucial pit stops. 

Martin Brundle’s “Grid Walk” is always something to behold—sometimes great, sometimes a little embarrassing. His USGP version was a little bit of both. And somewhat appropriately, with Halloween approaching, never has someone creeping up behind people been so entertaining.

Also good: No drivers vomiting in their cars. 

The Bad

What was up with all the boos for Verstappen at the trophy ceremony? Were these all people who have a soft spot for brakes and don’t like seeing them badmouthed for half of the race? The Skyy Sports announcer said the boos were from Perez supporters. Okay. But why would they be booing Verstappen? Is it because Verstappen’s success makes Perez look bad? I’ve got news for them: Perez is perfectly capable of making himself look bad. 

The Disappointing

There was little, if anything, disappointing about this race. So, I’ll use this space to address Verstappen and his braking issue. I understand Verstsappen’s Red Bull had a braking issue that became abundantly clear in the late stages of the race. But why was Verstappen so adamant that his team not talk to him in the braking zone? There were at least two “Stop talking in the braking, man” responses from Verstappen during the race. I’ve never driven an F1 car, but does braking require more concentration than other aspects of driving the car? I’ve driven a car, and I’m almost 100% of the time able to speak while my foot is on the brake.

The Driver

Hamilton gets my vote for “Driver Of The Day,” with a nod to Norris. Hamilton made a late set of medium tires work and made a race of it, closing to under two seconds of Verstappen late in the race. Of course, Verstappen’s braking issues had a lot to do with that, but in any case, Hamilton was masterful in conserving his tires, whether hard or soft, all day.

The Results (Lenovo United State Grand Prix, Circuit Of The Americas)

11Max VerstappenRED BULL RACING HONDA RBPT561:35:21.36225
244Lewis HamiltonMERCEDES56+2.225s18
34Lando NorrisMCLAREN MERCEDES56+10.730s15
455Carlos SainzFERRARI56+15.134s12
511Sergio PerezRED BULL RACING HONDA RBPT56+18.460s10
616Charles LeclercFERRARI56+24.662s8
763George RussellMERCEDES56+24.999s6
810Pierre GaslyALPINE RENAULT56+47.996s4
918Lance StrollASTON MARTIN ARAMCO MERCEDES56+48.696s2
1022Yuki TsunodaALPHATAURI HONDA RBPT56+74.385s2
1123Alexander AlbonWILLIAMS MERCEDES56+86.714s0
122Logan SargeantWILLIAMS MERCEDES56+87.998s0
1327Nico HulkenbergHAAS FERRARI56+89.904s0
1477Valtteri BottasALFA ROMEO FERRARI56+98.601s0
1524Zhou GuanyuALFA ROMEO FERRARI55+1 lap0
1620Kevin MagnussenHAAS FERRARI55+1 lap0
173Daniel RicciardoALPHATAURI HONDA RBPT55+1 lap0

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