Max Verstappen took victory at the Austin GP, ahead of Lewis Hamilton and Lando Norris on track. Mercedes missed out on an opportunity with Hamilton, executing a sub-optimal strategy in Texas. Worse still, the 7-time Champion was disqualified post-race for a technical irregularity. Charles Leclerc suffered the same fate post-race, suffering a DSQ in COTA.
Lando Norris and Carlos Sainz took the other podium spots. Perez, Leclerc, Russell, Gasly, Stroll and Yuki Tsunoda – who also set the fastest lap – were behind.
The Williams duo of Alex Albon and Logan Sargeant were promoted to the points post-race. This was a significant development in the battle for P7 in the constructors.
Austin GP: Mercedes and Ferrari did not optimise Hamilton and Leclerc’s races
The Sprint format punished two teams that introduced important updates, Haas and Aston Martin, both with double starts from the pit lane due to a set-up significantly compromised by some problems on Friday: the Silverstone team lost a good part of the session of free practice, consequently not optimizing the set-up of the AMR23.
However, Aston aerodynamics chief Eric Blandin said pre-race that “the package works as we thought” and that “the update will give more performance but also a more predictable car.” The Austin GP was used as a test, with Alonso mounting the old floor and Lance Stroll using the new one.
Haas did similarly, changing the set-up on the two VF23s after seeing some encouraging signs in the first laps of the Sprint Race, but the light at the end of the tunnel still seems far away for Gunther Steiner’s team.
Lando Norris started strongly, taking the race lead from Leclerc and leading several laps at the beginning. On the fourth lap, Lewis Hamilton overtook Carlos Sainz’s red car for temporary third position, confirming the Maranello team’s inferiority in race pace.
The Spaniard was then overtaken by Max Verstappen the following lap. On the sixth lap, Lewis Hamilton took second position from the second Ferrar of Charles Leclerc before chasing Norris in the MCL60. Meanwhile, Esteban Ocon was forced to retire due to damage to his Alpine after contact with Oscar Piastri on the first lap.
Oscar Piastri provides the first twist at the Austin GP due to a hydraulic system problem on his MCL60: the Australian was running in a decent sixth position until this point.
At the same time, Max Verstappen passes Charles Leclerc with a borderline manoeuvre in turn 12, taking his Monegasque rival out. Meanwhile, Lewis Hamilton gained several tenths on race leader Lando Norris, while Verstappen does not show the pace of the first two, suggesting better race management by the Dutchman.
The first round of pit stops began around the sixteenth lap, with Norris, Verstappen, Sainz and Perez in the pits for new medium tires (with the exception of the McLaren driver who mounted the hard ones), while the two Mercedes and Charles Leclerc were left out in search of, perhaps, a single-stop race.
In search of the last tenths that the first set of tires had to offer, Hamilton went long at turn 11, losing time to Leclerc, who showed excellent tire management after yesterday’s difficulties.
Lewis Hamilton returned on the twenty-first lap, several laps after his rivals, followed by his teammate on the next lap to fit the C2 compound with a white stripe.
On lap twenty-four, Leclerc also stopped to put on the hard tyre, with a rather cautious introduction to get to the end with this train.
It took twenty-eight laps to see Max Verstappen leading the race, with a good overtaking in turn 12 on Lando Norris, who did not put up any strenuous resistance against the Dutchman.
The Englishman stopped a few laps later to mount the second set of hard tires and reach the end of the Grand Prix on lap 35, followed by Max Verstappen and Carlos Sainz on the next step, also on the C2 compound.
Hamilton stops on lap 39, while Max Verstappen overtakes Leclerc – in difficulty with the strategy chosen by the Red team’s strategists – for the first position of the Austin GP, followed a few corners later by Norris.
Hamilton’s pace was thwarted by a less-than-perfect strategy on the part of the Mercedes pit wall, a not-uncommon situation on the part of the Brackley team’s strategists, who could have given the seven-time world champion a much better opportunity to fight for victory. Instead, he had to settle for second place after a great battle with Lando Norris.
With a two-stop strategy, Sainz overtook his teammate and set out to chase Lando Norris, who was in difficulty in third place.
Meanwhile, Sergio Perez also passed the Monegasque of Ferrari, who started in Pole Position and paid the price for Ferrari’s strategy. A few laps from the end, Fernando Alonso, who was running in ninth position, a few tenths ahead of teammate Lance Stroll, was forced to retire.
As anticipated, the Silverstone team’s updates seem to be working, but we will have confirmation of this next week in Mexico.
Author: Andrea Vergani
Translation: Jaden Diaz-Ndisang