Tactical coup in Texas: Verstappen expands World Cup leadership

Winner at Austin: Max Verstappen. Photo: Eric Gay / AP / dpa (Image: dpa)
(Photo: Eric Gay / AP / dpa)

Austin – With a tactical blow in Texas, Max Verstappen has extended his world championship lead against an assault by Lewis Hamilton at the end and is heading to his first Formula 1 title.

Thanks to two pit stops, the Red Bull driver celebrated his eighth victory of the season at the United States Grand Prix. Pole Verstappen relegated Austin record winner Hamilton to second place despite a late comeback and is now five races before the end of the season, twelve points ahead of the seven-time champion, who secured an extra point for the fastest lap of the race.

Mercedes driver Hamilton was unable to benefit from a quick start and was only a second behind in the end. On Sunday, Sergio Pérez, Verstappen’s teammate, finished third. Aston Martin driver Sebastian Vettel crawled to the points from 18th in 10th after a penalty transfer due to new engine parts. In front of his mother Corinna and his sister Gina, Mick Schumacher turned 16 at Haas.

The World Cup duel reaches a critical point

In the increasingly intense World Cup duel, Hamilton and Verstappen had already met during practice. After a wheel-to-wheel duel throughout the start and the final stretch, the Red Bull driver insulted the world champion at Mercedes on Friday as a “stupid idiot” and showed him the middle finger. “It is not that we are the only ones who have played in this sport. Unfortunately, these things happen, ”said the Dutchman, apparently impassive.

Verstappen secured pole position at Austin, he was ninth this heated season. As a result, for the first time since the beginning of the hybrid era in 2014, no Mercedes was at the forefront. From position two, Hamilton watched the steep climb up to the first corner – within a good 200 meters, it’s a total of 30 meters uphill.

“I am not worried about what happens behind me. I just have to focus on myself, “said Verstappen, who had already collided with Hamilton sensationally in Britain and especially in Italy.

The rivals did not touch at the start, but the start was exciting. Hamilton got away better and held firm into the first corner. Verstappen, on the other hand, drove him over the sidewalk and lost his top position. Hamilton now had a clear run against his World Cup opponent and teammate Sergio Perez.

Hamilton: “He’s faster than me”

But the Englishman could not escape. “He’s faster than me,” said Hamilton on the radio, who had been crowned world champion for the sixth time before the crown pandemic at the last edition in Texas in 2019. Verstappen was attached to the leader. Vettel and Schumacher stayed behind.

Verstappen increased the pressure on Hamilton and pitted on lap 11. The 24-year-old returned to the track in fifth place. After three laps, Hamilton put new tires on him. Second, the Mercedes man was more than 5.5 seconds behind the new leader, Verstappen.

An incredible 400,000 spectators turned out for the entire Formula 1 weekend, but there were no spectacular moments in the race. However, Hamilton gradually cut his deficit at Verstappen. At halftime of the total of 56 laps and a very short phase with the virtual safety car, it was up to 3.3 seconds. The tires were exposed to heavy loads.

Verstappen got new hard tires on lap 30 and was back on track in third place, 17 seconds behind Hamilton. “Lewis, you’re driving to victory,” said Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff, and tried to push his star driver.

Hamilton sped up, struggled. After an excellent stop on lap 38, however, he returned to the track behind leader Verstappen, almost eight seconds behind. Will he be able to attack the Dutchman again in the closing stages?

“It just depends on the last three laps,” said race engineer Peter Bonnington Hamilton. With ten laps to go, Hamilton was almost 2.7 seconds behind. And the Briton got closer and closer, but in the end it was no longer enough.

© dpa-infocom, dpa: 211024-99-721516 / 3

Vince Fernandez

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