US Grand Prix: Max Verstappen eases to Sprint victory ahead of Lewis Hamilton

Henry Valantine
Max Verstappen in the US Grand Prix Sprint.

Max Verstappen took victory in the US Grand Prix Sprint on Saturday.

Max Verstappen led from lights to flag in the Sprint at the US Grand Prix on Saturday, beating Lewis Hamilton and Charles Leclerc at the Circuit of The Americas.

Verstappen defended robustly from pole from Leclerc at the start but was rarely troubled from there as the Red Bull driver sailed to victory in Austin ahead of 2021 title rival Hamilton.

Leclerc held off a late charge from Lando Norris to take third, with Sergio Perez rounding out the top five at COTA.

Max Verstappen in dominant form in Sprint showing at Circuit of The Americas

A hotly-contested Sprint Shootout saw the top four drivers qualify within 0.101s of each other, prompting hopes of a competitive Sprint in the 19 laps around the Circuit of The Americas.

All but one of the drivers opted to start on medium tyres, with only Carlos Sainz on used softs – and time would tell if that was the right decision from his and Ferrari’s perspective.

Verstappen and Leclerc got away evenly, with Leclerc being squeezed right to the inside line by the Red Bull driver to the Turn 1 hairpin.

This left the Ferrari driver compromised on the exit, with Lewis Hamilton able to swoop around the outside at Turn 2, having run wide at the hairpin himself after being challenged by Lando Norris.

Norris would end up losing a place to Sainz at the Turn 12 hairpin as the sister Ferrari made those soft tyres work at the start, moving up to fourth on the first lap.

George Russell made up the three places he lost from a grid penalty for impeding Leclerc in the Sprint Shootout in the opening couple of laps, starting a battle with Sergio Perez and Oscar Piastri in front in the lower reaches of the Sprint points – but would soon get a further penalty of five seconds for how he overtook Piastri on the exit of Turn 15, off the track.

Perez had to get his elbows out into Turn 12 on lap 3 as Piastri defended robustly, but he ran slightly deep and Perez got the superior exit, pushing his way in front of the McLaren into the slow Turn 13 by parking his Red Bull on the inside line at the apex, with Russell following him by two corners later illegally, according to the FIA.

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Piastri would fall behind Pierre Gasly soon afterwards too, seemingly suffering after contact with Sainz at the start and falling out of the points as a result.

At the front, Hamilton was able to stay around the DRS range of Verstappen, who was complaining of having ‘lost the rear completely’ at times in his Red Bull in what appeared to be turning briefly into a fight for victory, before the reigning World Champion was able to ease clear.

Norris closed back up to Sainz again in the battle for fourth as the medium rubber began to take over as the preferred compound compared to the softs on Sainz’s Ferrari – with Leclerc scampering well clear of his team-mate in third up ahead.

Norris eventually managed to get back past his former McLaren colleague by lap 11, with Sainz soon falling behind Perez the following lap as his tyres fell away.

The gaps between drivers opened up as the Sprint went on, with tyre management becoming a factor later on and Russell looking to find a way past Sainz, with a five-second penalty to come after the chequered flag.

Having been ahead of his team-mate for much of the Sprint, Lance Stroll was forced to retire close to the end with a brake issue, having suffered a similar problem in Friday practice.

But at the front, it proved to be a comfortable afternoon for Verstappen, with more valuable points for Hamilton and Leclerc to round out the top three in the US Grand Prix Sprint.

Having held onto some tyre life knowing there was a potential point on the line, Alex Albon pushed hard to reel in Russell and get to within five seconds of the Mercedes driver, but he fell three tenths shy of getting ahead come the end of the race.

US Grand Prix 2023: Sprint classification

1 Max VERSTAPPEN Red Bull 31:30.849 19 laps
2 Lewis HAMILTON Mercedes +9.465
3 Charles LECLERC Ferrari +17.987
4 Lando NORRIS McLaren +18.863
5 Sergio PEREZ Red Bull +22.928
6 Carlos SAINZ Ferrari +28.307
7 Pierre GASLY Alpine +32.403
8 George RUSSELL Mercedes +34.250
9 Alexander ALBON Williams +34.567
10 Oscar PIASTRI McLaren +42.403
11 Esteban OCON Alpine +44.986
12 Daniel RICCIARDO AlphaTauri +45.509
13 Fernando ALONSO Aston Martin +49.086
14 Yuki TSUNODA AlphaTauri +49.733
15 Nico HULKENBERG Haas +56.650
16 Valtteri BOTTAS Alfa Romeo +64.401
17 ZHOU Guanyu Alfa Romeo +67.972
18 Kevin MAGNUSSEN Haas +71.122
19 Logan SARGEANT Williams +71.449
DNF: Lance STROLL Aston Martin

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