Austin Sprint: Verstappen wins, Hamilton P2 – Ferrari tyre struggles

Jaden Diaz

Max Verstappen took victory in the Austin Sprint at the Circuit of the Americas. In the first laps, the Dutchman kept Lewis Hamilton at bay – despite the British driver staying within DRS. However, in the following laps, he showed off all the superiority of his RB19.

The three-time world champion accumulated an advantage of much more than nine seconds ahead at the checkered flag. Also very far from Verstappen’s pace was Charles Leclerc, who had to deal with the enormous (and anomalous) tyre degradation on his Ferrari.

Despite this, the Monegasque managed to cling onto the podium over Lando Norris, who finished less than a second behind the Monegasque on the last lap and ahead of Perez. Sainz (sixth) did well to defend from Russell on the softs.

Today’s 19 laps confirm the enormous effort in managing the tire while chasing the rider in front, especially in the first sector. Mercedes, unlike Ferrari, showed good degradation but suffered considerably in terms of top speed, recording a deficit of 7/8km/h compared to the red car. This weakness could also be punished in tomorrow’s race.

Austin Sprint: Verstappen dominant, Ferrari failed to match Mercedes and McLaren

The Fifth and penultimate Sprint of 2023 was held in Austin, Texas. Max Verstappen and Charles Leclerc find themselves in the front row. All the drivers opted for the medium tyre, with the exception of Carlos Sainz, who chose the softer compound to be more aggressive in the first laps, starting from sixth position.

Max Verstappen started well and closed the door on Charles Leclerc in turn 1, forcing the Monegasque to defend from Lewis Hamilton. Just behind was Carlos Sainz, who passed the McLaren duo with his soft tyres.

In the first laps, the gap between Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton kept quite consistently within a second. After six laps, though, the Dutchman increased his pace noticeably. Meanwhile, Oscar Piastri consistently fell down the order – likely due to his contact with Sainz on lap 1.

The Spanish driver, practically from the third lap onwards, was put under pressure by Lando Norris, with Sergio Perez just behind, with the SF-23 continuing to demonstrate excellent traction and top speed, fundamental for defending fourth place. 

Norris eventually passed Sainz on lap 10, who continued to suffer on his tyres. The former McLaren driver was soon passed by Perez and was forced to defend against George Russell (who started eleventh) until the last lap.

Unexpectedly, the Spaniard’s defence was successful, largely thanks to the significant drag of the Brackley-made car.

Meanwhile, the reigning world champion always pulled ahead of Lewis Hamilton lap after lap and took home his third sprint race of the season, more than nine seconds ahead of the latter.

On the last step of the podium was Charles Leclerc, who had to defend himself until the last corner from Lando Norris, who had come considerably closer in the last three laps. 

The points are concluded by Perez, Sainz, Gasly and George Russell, who dropped from seventh to eighth position due to the five-second penalty inflicted at the start of the race due to overtaking, in addition to the white line, on Oscar Piastri.

Later today, the red lights will go out for the Austin GP.

Author: Jaden Diaz-Ndisang