2023 United States GP Race Pace Analysis

23 Oct, 2023

Ignoring the post-race disqualifications due to excessive wear of the planks under the floor, Lewis Hamilton and Charles Leclerc finished the Austin GP in second and sixth position. However, both have a lot to talk about with their respective teams.

The seven-time F1 Champion lost a lot of time between the first and second stint compared to Verstappen, while the data shows that Leclerc’s one-stop was doomed.

Lando Norris and McLaren finished in third position at the finish line, which later became second place, but showed some tyre wear problems towards the end of the stints.

A solid Carlos Sainz finished a few seconds behind his former teammate and ahead of Perez, who, despite the result, showed a good race pace in Texas. 

The impressive speed of Aston Martin went unnoticed, starting with both cars from the pit lane for a set-up change. Lance Stroll ran the updated floor, whilst Alonso used the old specification.

In Mexico, the Silverstone-based team will look for confirmation of the weekend’s performance last. In the lower half of the grid, both Alpine and Alpha Tauri showed good race pace, finishing in P6 and P8, respectively.

Logan Sargeant claimed his first F1 points on home turf, bouncing back from a nightmare weekend in Qatar. Albon finished in ninth position, but the rookie’s performance was excellent.

GP Austin: Hamilton lost between 6-9 seconds due to strategy; Mercedes was faster than Red Bull

For the second race in a row, Mercedes did not maximize the opportunities that the W14 could offer. In Qatar, the strategy chosen from the pit wall put the two drivers in a very difficult position.

Both drivers were aggressive on the first lap, resulting in contact at Turn 1. Again, at the Austin GP, Mercedes’s race strategy was not optimal.

On lap 16, Max Verstappen stopped first to mount another set of mediums. He was followed by Perez, Norris and Sainz on the following lap.

Inexplicably, Mercedes waited until lap 20 to call Hamilton to the pits. After initially enjoying an advantage of more than 4 seconds, Hamilton found himself 5 seconds behind the Dutchman on cold tyres.

In the four laps where Verstappen was on fresh tyres, the lap time of the new three-time world champion was almost two seconds faster than his rival.

At this juncture of the race, Mercedes handed control of the race into the hands of Red Bull. Toto Wolff commented positively on the race, focusing more on the excellent step forward of the update than on the disqualification or strategic error: 

“The update is working. I think it’s a big step forward, and in terms of direction, it’s a great sign.

We had the right pace. I think we were clearly the fastest car on the track, and this is the positive aspect that we have to take and remain humble without taking this pace for granted. Now, let’s go to some tracks where the car should be better.”

In terms of pure performance, Verstappen was the fastest on average in the fast-flowing sector 1, with Hamilton not far behind.

According to the Mercedes Team principal, one of the objectives of the latest upgrades was to improve the car in high speed, while in the first part of the season, the focus was on slower corners.

The top speed and efficiency of the RB19 remain unmatched, and this was clear in the middle sector. Meanwhile, in the last sector, the W14 was the fastest car

Across the race’s 56 laps, Verstappen was a few hundredths faster than Hamilton. However, excluding the four laps mentioned earlier, the Stevenage driver enjoyed an advantage of 0.136%, just over a tenth per lap. 

McLaren, Ferrari and Aston Martin were very close in terms of race pace – Leclerc punished by strategy

These three teams were very closely matched in COTA, though they were impacted by several factors.

The total difference in race pace between Lando Norris and Carlos Sainz was just 0.05, much smaller than that seen at Suzuka and Losail. 

In the first sector, McLaren held its own but did not excel. The middle sector enhances the top speed of the Ferrari, which matched Max Verstappen on race day. In the last sector, Lance Stroll’s updated Aston Martin was faster than Sainz and Norris. 

Stroll and Alonso’s pace were influenced by their pit-lane start and resulting traffic. Another factor was the different compounds fitted by the two drivers. The Spaniard had the old configuration, while Stroll took advantage of the upgraded parts

The two Astons were separated by just a few seconds when Alonso retired from floor damage – proof of the good step forward provided by the new AMR23 floor.

In the two final stints, without the influence of traffic, Stroll got close to Carlos Sainz’s times and even matched Lando Norris’s times

All of this is very promising for Mike Krack’s team, who will look for confirmation of their pace in Mexico next week. This is a circuit that could suit the green car from Silverstone well.

The two-stop strategy was clearly the best choice. Only Charles Leclerc and Ferrari wanted to take a different route despite the high degradation seen from the first laps, and the gamble did not pay off.

The Monegasque was almost four seconds ahead of Sainz at the time of the Spaniard’s first stop, and finished the race 9 seconds behind Sainz. 

An advantage of two-tenths per lap in the last fifteen laps would have allowed Leclerc to pass Norris on track – in theory.

However, the result at the finish line was very different. The post-race disqualification rubbed salt in the wounds. The positive side of Leclerc’s race was the excellent management, since this has historically been a weakness for the Scuderia.

In total, Sainz’s deficit to Verstappen was three-tenths, but Ferrari once again failed to exploit the car’s potential – despite gaining points on Mercedes in the Austin GP.

Author: Andrea Vergani

Translation: Jaden Diaz-Ndisang