Championship battle boosted in thrilling double podium victory for Red Bull Racing Honda
Max Verstappen claimed a brilliant United States Grand Prix win after holding his nerve to fend off intense pressure from title rival Lewis Hamilton in the closing stages of a breathless race at the Circuit of the Americas.
Sergio Pérez, also put in a heroic performance, battling a failed drinks bottle and high temperatures to complete a double podium finish for the Team with third place.
The Dutchman started on pole, but Hamilton gained the lead at the first corner after making a better getaway. Verstappen shadowed Hamilton for the first 10 laps but unable to get close enough in the turbulent wake from the Mercedes, the Dutchman pitted at the end of lap 10 taking on hard rubber.
Hamilton headed for the pit lane at the end of lap 13 and though the switch to hard tyres was clean and quick, Max powered past and Hamilton was left in P2 and 6.7s behind the Red Bull driver.
With three laps remaining, Hamilton closed to 1.2 seconds and then broke into DRS range of the Red Bull. Max however had done a masterful job of preserving tyre life and as the title rivals approached the DRS detection points Max pushed the pace to break the gap and deny Hamilton the speed advantage in the two zones. And when Hamilton went wide with a lap left and the gap expanded back to 1.7s the race was won.
Discussing his win, Max Verstappen commented: “It was an exciting race and it feels incredible to win here in front of all the fans. The pressure was on for the whole race and not knowing how quickly Lewis would catch up. I actually thought I had a decent start, but Lewis had an even better one. So we went for an aggressive strategy after losing the lead into turn one and we pitted early in the first stint.
“Then for the middle stint we were in that undercut range, so we had to respond and we went for track position which made the last stint very long, especially in this heat. The last two laps were definitely difficult on the tyres, there wasn’t much grip left.
“But, then with two laps to go, I had the Haas in front of me and I was able to benefit from the DRS, so we managed to hang on in the end. We definitely gave it our all today as a Team and it was great to have Checo up there with me on the podium.”
Hamilton took second, just 1.3s behind the Dutchman and soon after Checo crossed the line to hand the Team its second double podium finish in a row. It was a superb achievement for the Mexican who had battled through the 56 laps in high temperatures without a functioning drink system.
Afterwards Sergio branded the race the toughest of his career, but the Mexican’s heroic efforts, allied with a sixth-place finish for Valtteri Bottas in the second Mercedes, mean that the Team has closed the Constructors’ Championship gap to Mercedes from 36 before the Austin weekend to just 23 at the flag.
Discussing his podium, Sergio Perez said: “That was the hardest and longest race of my life. I wasn’t feeling great before the race and then my drinks system stopped working on the first lap and with the hot weather today it was very physical and a pretty tough afternoon. I was struggling massively and by lap 20 I was done, so it was a shame I couldn’t keep up with Max and Lewis but there are a lot of positives to take from this weekend and back to back podiums are always nice.
“It’s a good result for the Team, the undercut worked well and Lewis had no option but to cover me which helped Max out in front, so we can be very happy as a Team. I’m so looking forward to Mexico, the Team have done well there in the past and I think we’ll have a good package for my home race. I can’t wait and I hope to be on the podium again in front of my home fans.”
Throughout the season, ExxonMobil supports Red Bull Racing Honda on and off the track. Earlier this year, Mobil 1 brought a new engine oil upgrade called the Mobil 1 RB16B Engine Oil designed specifically for the new Honda power unit, helping deliver maximum power without compromising protection or fuel efficiency.
After 56 nail-biting laps Max crossed the line to score his eight win of the season and his 18th overall in Formula 1. The victory means that Max has extended his Drivers’ Championship lead with Perez, jumping up a position, now P4 on 150 points. The Dutchman has 287.5 points, 12 more than Hamilton.
Commenting on the race, Team Principal Christian Horner exclaimed: “What an incredible victory and double podium for the Team! It’s our first US GP win since 2013 and what a way to do it.
“At the beginning of the race we had really good pace on the mediums and Max was able to put pressure on Lewis, but we know that he is so strong at the end of the race and he went long which bought himself an advantage. So we went for track position and Max held on and managed the race superbly, especially his last stint on the hard tyre to have enough left to keep his lead at the end.
“It was a tough race for Checo with no drinks system, but again the way he managed the race was fantastic and you can see him growing in confidence with his second podium in consecutive races. He produced a phenomenal drive and with his home race coming up he’s finding his form, which is crucial for us at this time of year.
“It’s five to go now, and we know that there are a couple of races where Mercedes will have the edge and a couple where we will be strong, so the rest of the season is going to be really tight.”