Max Verstappen held off a late charge from Lewis Hamilton to win the United States Grand Prix, before the Mercedes driver was later disqualified from second place when his car failed a post-race scrutineering check.
Hamilton finished right on Verstappen’s tail at the chequered flag but lost his runner-up finish in the hours after the race when the skid blocks underneath his Mercedes were found to have worn too thin, contravening F1’s technical regulations.
Charles Leclerc’s car failed the same post-race test and he was also disqualified, losing the Ferrari driver sixth place.
McLaren’s Lando Norris had finished third on the road but was promoted to second in wake of Hamilton’s exclusion, with Carlos Sainz moving into third in the other Ferrari.
Earlier on in the race Verstappen, who has already sealed his third successive drivers’ title with five rounds to spare, appeared to be cruising towards victory after coming from sixth on the grid to take the lead midway through the grand prix.
However, apparent braking issues on his Red Bull left Verstappen agitated and vulnerable as Mercedes’ Hamilton closed to within two seconds in the latter stages, but the Dutchman clung on for the 50th F1 victory of his career.
Hamilton had already passed the McLaren of Norris, who faded in the second half of the contest, having taken the lead on the opening lap to boost his hopes of a earning a maiden F1 victory in his 100th race.
“The whole race, I was struggling a lot with the brakes,” Verstappen said. “It was very close at the end and also with the backmarkers, the tyres are already going so it makes it more difficult.
“It’s incredible to win my 50th Grand Prix here. Very proud of course and we will keep on trying to push for more.”
Sainz took fourth for Ferrari – which later became the final place on the podium – after he and Red Bull’s Sergio Perez made late passes on pole-sitter Leclerc, who dropped back after the Italian team attempted an ill-advised one-stop strategy.
George Russell could only manage seventh as he failed to match team-mate Hamilton’s pace after dropping back from fifth on the grid at the start. But the pair of disqualifications meant he was later promoted to fifth.
Pierre Gasly rounded off an improved display from Alpine to take what became sixth, although team-mate Esteban Ocon was an early retiree along with McLaren’s Oscar Piastri after a first-lap collision took them both out of the race.
Lance Stroll claimed his first Grand Prix points finish since July after his Aston Martin team-mate Fernando Alonso was forced to retire with floor damage, while Yuki Tsunoda took what had initially been the final point for AlphaTauri, and doubled his tally for the day with the fastest lap of the race.
But Hamilton and Leclerc’s late-night disqualifications moved everyone else up two places and promoted both Williams drivers into the points-paying top 10 from 11th and 12th.
Ninth place for Alex Albon and 10th for Logan Sargeant gave the team its first double top-10 since Belgium 2021. Even more significantly for Sargeant, it was the American rookie’s first point in F1 on his home grand prix weekend.
Verstappen’s victory takes him to 466 points for the season and beyond the record haul he set last year, with the Dutchman set to rewrite the sport’s history books over the four rounds of the campaign that remain.
Updated United States GP result
1) Max Verstappen, Red Bull
2) Lando Norris, McLaren
3) Carlos Sainz, Ferrari
4) Sergio Perez, Red Bull
5) George Russell, Mercedes
6) Pierre Gasly, Alpine
7) Lance Stroll, Aston Martin
8) Yuki Tsunoda, AlphaTauri
9) Alex Albon, Williams
10) Logan Sargeant, Williams
Strategic battle sets up thrilling finish
With Verstappen having dominated from pole in Saturday’s Sprint contest, Norris and Hamilton were the only two drivers given any chance of holding him off in the full-length race.
To have any chance of doing that, they needed a strong start, and Norris got just that as he passed Leclerc into the first corner, before opening up an early advantage.
Hamilton, perhaps decisively in the end, was less successful. He lost a place to Sainz at the start, and although he had passed both Ferraris to move into second by lap six, lost crucial time and tyre life.
Verstappen gained a place at the start despite cautiously navigating the opening lap, and surprisingly took significantly longer than Hamilton to clear the Ferraris.
When he did on lap 12, he was seven seconds back from leader Norris, with Hamilton about midway between them.
Any thoughts that Verstappen may have been nursing his tyres to set up a one-stop race were dispelled when the Red Bull was the first of the leaders to pit at the end of lap 16.
The fact Red Bull chose to fit him with another set of the medium tyres he had started the race on meant he would definitely need to stop again to use a different compound before the end.
McLaren reacted by bringing in Norris a lap later, but put him on the hard tyre, keeping open the option of one-stopping.
Mercedes decided to keep Hamilton out as they looked to be considering the one-stop option, but ultimately appeared to be caught somewhat between the two strategies.
Hamilton’s tyres appeared to fall off a metaphorical cliff in his final couple of circuits before stopping on lap 20, with a crucial loss of time occurring as he ran wide and off track.
A slow stop compounded the situation, leaving Hamilton to come out with the several-second advantage he had previously held over Verstappen having switched the other way, while Norris led.
Verstappen ominously cruised up behind Norris and eased past the McLaren on lap 28, but he appeared uncomfortable as he described his struggles with braking in the class-leading RB19.
Norris triggered the second round of pit stops when he came in on lap 34, and closed back to within just over a second of Verstappen when Red Bull responded by stopping a lap later.
That played into Hamilton’s hands, as he was able to keep running at a reasonably competitive pace for three further laps, and had a fresh set of the better-performing medium tyres for his final stint, with the leading duo on hards.
It quickly became clear that it would be a matter of time until Hamilton would pass Norris, with the big question being whether he could track down Verstappen in the closing stages.
Despite having little hope of holding off Hamilton, Norris put up a stern defence over a series of corners that cost Hamilton a crucial couple of seconds and potentially a shot at victory.
The five-second gap that remained with seven laps left initially looked out of reach, but the gap suddenly began to close, with the backdrop of Verstappen repeatedly scolding his race engineer over the radio for talking to him in braking zones.
The gap was under two seconds going into the final lap, but ultimately Mercedes’ failure to optimise their strategy, sub-par pit stops and just about the only error Hamilton made throughout a stellar weekend for the Brit left him agonisingly short of a first win since December 2021. Although, as it turned out, a victory would not have stood owing to the Briton’s subsequent disqualification.
“I think we probably should have stopped before Lando because I was within undercut position,” Hamilton said before news of the post-race investigation into his car emerged. “I don’t know why we didn’t.
“Then after that I came out another eight seconds behind and I had to catch up. It was really difficult to catch up and then I came out again another eight or 10 seconds behind [after the second stop].”
Source: Sky Sport