Max wins epic US GP as team claim fifth constructors’ title
Max Verstappen took a brilliant, battling US Grand Prix victory to seal Oracle Red Bull Racing’s fifth Formula 1 Constructors’ Championship.
Sergio Pérez added to the Team’s points haul with a solid fourth place as Max looked to have put himself into the ideal position to claim a record equalling 13th win of the season at the start of the race when he powered past polesitter Carlos Sainz, but a problem in his second stop dropped the Dutchman down the order.
However, on a day with so much to race for, there was no stopping Max and the World Champion roared back to the front, passing Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc and Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton to take the win, and with Checo’s fourth place, the Team’s first Constructors’ title for nine seasons.
“That one was for Dietrich,” said Max on the radio after taking the chequered flag. “I gave it everything out there. Congrats guys, what an amazing season to win the Constructors’. You guys really deserve it.”
When the lights went out at the start, Max reacted quickest and within seconds he was past polesitter Sainz who was slow off his marks. As Max went into turn one in the lead, Sainz took a wide line and as the Spaniard turned in, he was hit by Mercedes’ George Russell who had locked up on entry. The Ferrari was spun around and eventually was forced to retire.
Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton profited from the incident to steal second place as Aston Martin’s Lance Stroll moved to third ahead of Russell.
Behind them, Checo got away well from P9 on the grid and the Mexican made a smart move to the outside as the field barrelled into the first corner. As the pack compressed, he was able to move up to seventh. He then passed McLaren’s Lando Norris and Aston Martin’s Sebastian Vettel in the opening laps to rise to fifth by lap five.
The Mexican had collected a small amount of damage early on, and as he chased down Stroll, who had been passed by Russell, the Red Bull driver’s front wing endplate snapped off. The damage didn’t affect Checo’s charge, however, and on lap seven he powered past Stroll to take P4.
As Max pulled out a three-second gap to Hamilton, Checo then closed in on Russell, who had been handed a five-second penalty for causing the collision with Sainz, and by lap 10 he was just half a second off the Mercedes driver.
The order at the front remained largely unchanged through the opening stint and the first pit stop phase but on lap 19 the Safety Car was suddenly deployed when Alfa Romeo’s Valtteri Bottas spun off and was left beached in the gravel at Turn 19.
The SC benefited Leclerc who had gone long on his first stint and the Ferrari driver was handed a free pit stop. He took on hard tyres and re-joined in fourth place behind Checo who had risen to the podium position thanks to Leclerc’s stop.
The caution ended on lap 21 and Max controlled the restart beautifully to hold the lead ahead of Hamilton and Checo. However, the Safety Car was back on track just a lap later following a heavy collision between Stroll and Alpine’s Fernando Alonso. The Spaniard attempted to pass the Canadian but a late defensive jink by Stroll surprised Alonso and he slammed into the back of the Aston Martin sending the Spanish driver into the air and then into the barrier. Alonso somehow managed to carry on but Stroll’s race ended there.
The Safety Car left the track at the end of lap 25 and once again Max made the best of the re-start to stay ahead of Hamilton, with Checo 1.5s behind the Mercedes in third place. However, Leclerc, on fresher tyres, closed in on Checo and the Ferrari driver was able to pass Checo in turn 12.
Hamilton was again the first of the front runners to make a second pit stop, on lap 35. The Team covered the attempted undercut by pitting Max on the following lap, but there was an issue with the front left and the Dutchman was left stationary for 11.1 seconds.
Hamilton swept past, and Leclerc, who also pitted on the same lap as Max, was able to get out ahead of the Dutch driver.
The champion was in no mood to give up on victory however, and as Checo made his second pit stop from the lead and re-joined in P5, Max began to hunt down Leclerc.
He was soon right on the gearbox of the Ferrari and on lap 39 he powered past in turn 12 to take P3. Moments later Hamilton passed long-running Sebastian Vettel to take the lead and when the German finally made his second stop on lap 42 Max moved to second place, four seconds behind the Mercedes, with Leclerc third and Checo in fourth.
Over the following laps Max edged closer and closer to Hamilton and on lap 50 he made his move, blasting past the Mercedes into turn 12. Hamilton tried to defend with a late move left but Max was able to hold on through the following corners to take back a lead he would hold to the flag.
“It was a tough one,” said Max in parc fermé. “I mean, it was all looking good. But then of course the pit stop was a bit longer than we would have liked, so I had to find my way forward again. But we gave it everything out there today.
“Of course, it's a very difficult weekend for us,” he added. “This one is definitely dedicated to Dietrich and what he has done for everyone. The only thing we could do today was win and even though after the pitstop it was not looking great, I gave it everything out there and I pushed to the limit to come back.”
Behind Max, Hamilton took second place with Leclerc third. Checo took a brave fourth place ahead of Russell.
Max’s victory puts him on 13 wins for the year, equalling a record jointly held by Michael Schumacher and Sebastian Vettel. His win, allied with Checo’s fourth gives the team 656 points and an unassailable lead in the Constructors’ Championship confirming that both titles are coming back to Milton Keynes for the first time since 2013.