–by Mark Cipolloni–
World Champion Max Verstappen grabbed the lead in Turn 1, toyed with Lewis Hamilton for 5 laps, then slowly pulled away to win the USGP Sprint Race at COTA.
Hamilton passed Charles Leclerc through the esses on lap and hung with Verstappen’s Red Bull for the first 5 laps, but then Verstappen broke Hamilton’s DRS advantage and schooled the Brit a tenth at a time, pulling away to win by 9.465s.
It was Verstappen’s third Sprint win of the season, and he added another 8 points to his massive tally.
Hamilton took 7 points with his 2nd place to Sergio Perez’s 4 points who was 5th as the Mexican continued to get run down by the 7-time World Champion.
Charles Leclerc and Lando Norris had a quiet run to 3rd and 4th place, 18 seconds behind.
Tomorrow Verstappen starts from sixth place – can the chasing pack keep him away from the top step.
“The pace of the car was very good today, and I need it tomorrow – starting P6 is a bit different to today. Hope we can have some fun tomorrow, and of course I want to win,” said Verstappen.
“That was a really fun race,” said Hamilton, happy to finish 2nd.
“Good start down to Turn 1, good battle with Charles [Leclerc] and then I was trying to get closer to Max [Verstappen] but their pace is undeniable at the moment. Nonetheless, I’m really happy to be back on the podium. Hopefully, we have a good battle tomorrow.”
There was a gap [into Turn 1] so I went for it but yes, we need to understand what we can do better tomorrow,” said Leclerc in 3rd.
“At the end, we have quite a lot of data to analyze, having the two cars on different strategies (his teammate Carlos Sainz Jr. went 19 laps on the soft tires, which was impressive), so I hope we can take advantage of that and win tomorrow.”
The teams will be staying up late analyzing the tire data as they try to construct a sensible strategy for the race, while the drivers have plenty of insight into just how the start might pan out, how powerful DRS is and whether they can follow around this iconic circuit.
Verstappen starts 6th for tomorrow’s race. He will be in dirty air, unlike today. Can he come through the field to win, or will we see a different result on Sunday.
2023 USGP Sprint Race Results
|1||Max Verstappen||NED||Oracle Red Bull Racing||+0.000s||8|
|2||Lewis Hamilton||GBR||Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team||+9.465s||7|
|3||Charles Leclerc||MON||Scuderia Ferrari||+17.987s||6|
|4||Lando Norris||GBR||McLaren F1 Team||+18.863s||5|
|5||Sergio Perez||MEX||Oracle Red Bull Racing||+22.928s||4|
|6||Carlos Sainz||ESP||Scuderia Ferrari||+28.307s||3|
|7||Pierre Gasly||FRA||BWT Alpine F1 Team||+32.403s||2|
|8||George Russell||GBR||Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team||+34.205s||1|
|9||Alex Albon||THA||Williams Racing||+34.567s||0|
|10||Oscar Piastri||AUS||McLaren F1 Team||+42.403s||0|
|11||Esteban Ocon||FRA||BWT Alpine F1 Team||+44.986s||0|
|12||Daniel Ricciardo||AUS||Scuderia AlphaTauri||+44.509s||0|
|13||Fernando Alonso||ESP||Aston Martin Aramco Cognizant||+49.086s||0|
|14||Yuki Tsunoda||JPN||Scuderia AlphaTauri||+49.733s||0|
|15||Nico Hulkenberg||GER||MoneyGram Haas F1 Team||+56.650s||0|
|16||Valtteri Bottas||FIN||Alfa Romeo F1 Team Stake||+64.401s||0|
|17||Zhou Guanyu||CHN||Alfa Romeo F1 Team Stake||+67.972s||0|
|18||Kevin Magnussen||DEN||MoneyGram Haas F1 Team||+71.222s||0|
|19||Logan Sargeant||USA||Williams Racing||+71.449s||0|
|DNF||Lance Stroll||CAN||Aston Martin Aramco Cognizant||DNF||0|