Newly acclaimed double world champion Max Verstappen clinched the constructors’ world championship for his Red Bull team on Sunday when he claimed a record-equalling 13th win this year at the United States Grand Prix.
Twenty-four hours after learning of the death of Red Bull founder and co-owner Dieter Mateschitz, the 25-year-old Dutchman claimed the 33rd victory of his career after a thrilling late battle with seven-time champion Lewis Hamilton of Mercedes.
In front of a passionate crowd at the Circuit of the Americas, Verstappen came home five seconds clear of Hamilton with Charles Leclerc finishing third for Ferrari ahead of Sergio Perez in the second Red Bull.
“That was for Dietrich,” said an emotional Verstappen. “I gave it everything out there even if we had that (slow) stop.”
Red Bull team chief Christian Horner said: “It is a very emotional moment, a big moment for the team and for everyone at Red Bull—a tribute to Dietrich for everything he has done for the team, for the company… God bless him.”
George Russell finished fifth in the second Mercedes ahead of Lando Norris of McLaren, two-time champion Fernando Alonso of Alpine, four-time champion Sebastian Vettel of Aston Martin, Kevin Magnussen of Haas and Alpha Tauri’s Yuki Tsunoda.
“I gave it everything,” said Hamilton, who remains without a win this year for the first time in his career.
The race began in perfect conditions but with a sombre atmosphere pervading the paddock and pit lane following the death on Saturday of Red Bull founder Mateschitz.
As a result, any announcement on Red Bull’s fate for their budget cap breach last year were put “on hold until further notice” with talks expected to pick up again next week.
A minute’s applause in tribute to Mateschitz preceded the pre-race anthem before the lights went out and Verstappen quickly seized the initiative as Sainz struggled to depart from pole.
The luckless Spaniard was involved in a first-corner collision as a surging Russell clipped him gently, causing him to fall to the back of the field and into retirement with a water leak.
Verstappen led with some aplomb, 2.8 seconds clear of Hamilton, relishing a chance to shine in front of the huge crowd at a circuit where he has won five times in nine visits.
Hamilton was soon reporting front left tyre wear while Verstappen said he was “struggling a lot with the wind” in the gusty conditions while, behind them, Leclerc worked his way up to sixth by lap 12 when the first pit-stops began.
The Briton switched to a set of new hard tyres followed by the rest. By lap 15, it was Verstappen back in front.
Three laps later, Valtteri Bottas lost control of the rear of his Alfa Romeo at Turn 19, causing a Safety Car intervention before racing re-started on lap 22.
A big crash involving Stroll and Alonso caused another safety car deployment.
Stroll jinked left on the back straight ahead of the rapid Alonso, who could not avoid hitting him and riding up on his back wheels before banging heavily into the barriers amid a shower of debris. Both drivers were unhurt.
By lap 30, the field had settled. Verstappen led Hamilton by 1.7 seconds.
Hamilton led late
Leclerc advanced to second when Hamilton pitted on lap 35 for fresh ‘hards’, re-joining sixth. Hamilton’s ‘under-cut’ forced Verstappen to respond one lap later, but he had a slow stop, taking more than 11 seconds to take a set of ‘medium’ tyres.
Russell and Leclerc also stopped again as a frustrated Verstappen re-joined fifth until passing Leclerc on lap 39.
All this left Vettel leading until Hamilton dived inside him at the start of lap 41 to take over with 15 laps remaining.
Hamilton fought to keep alive his dream of a first win this year. By lap 49, Hamilton’s lead was down to 0.7. A pass was inevitable and it came on lap 50.
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