Max Verstappen holds off Lewis Hamilton challenge to win US sprint race

By Sports Desk October 21, 2023

Max Verstappen saw off Lewis Hamilton’s early challenge to claim victory in Saturday’s sprint race at the United States Grand Prix.

For the first time since their 2021 championship duel for the ages, Verstappen and Hamilton ran line astern in the 19-lap dash at Austin’s Circuit of the Americas.

But Hamilton was unable to prevent Verstappen from taking the spoils, and accumulating yet another win of this most one-sided of Formula One campaigns.

Hamilton took the chequered flag a distant 9.4 seconds adrift of Verstappen with Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc third.

Verstappen, crowned champion of the world for a third time in Qatar a fortnight ago, took pole position earlier on Saturday and then put his elbows out at the start to ensure Leclerc did not sneak up his inside on the uphill drag to the opening bend.

Verstappen moved over to his left to squeeze the Ferrari man allowing Hamilton a clean shot at Leclerc on the exit of the first corner.

Hamilton ran over the kerbs and past the Monegasque, and then set his sights on Verstappen.

Hamilton has not won a race for nearly two years, the longest losing streak of his career. Indeed, 685 days have passed since he claimed victory at the penultimate round of the 2021 campaign in Saudi Arabia.

But for half-a-dozen laps here, Hamilton will have dared to dream that a victory could be on the cards.

Hamilton has triumphed six times in America – with five of those victories in the Lone Star State – and his early pace certainly provided Verstappen with food for thought.

The seven-time world champion stayed within one second of Verstappen to provide him with a possible DRS slingshot past his Red Bull rival.

“Driveability is not there,” moaned Verstappen on the radio. “I lost the rear completely.”

Hamilton then hinted his nemesis was gaining an advantage by using more of the track than is allowed.

“Max has gone off quite a few times,” said the Mercedes driver.

Hamilton has lauded the improvements from his updated machine, but the superiority of Verstappen’s Red Bull came to the fore.

Six laps had passed and Verstappen was suddenly out of DRS range. A slim hope of victory for Hamilton was dashed.

Yet the 38-year-old, who starts third for tomorrow’s 56-lap main event, will expect to be a contender again.

And his chances of a possible win will be aided by Verstappen starting only in sixth after his pole lap in Friday’s qualifying was deleted for exceeding track limits.

Lando Norris took fourth spot ahead of Verstappen’s Red Bull team-mate Sergio Perez, with Carlos Sainz sixth.

George Russell finished seventh but was demoted to eighth after he served a five-second penalty for an illegal move on McLaren’s Oscar Piastri.

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    Perez was adamant following the race that the blame should be placed firmly on Magnussen’s shoulders.

    He said: "It was an immense crash, one I'm disappointed about. I think it was totally unnecessary at that point of the race and there was no need for that.

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    The incident compounded a disappointing weekend for both teams, in particularly Haas after both drivers were disqualified from qualifying and sent to the back of the grid due to a technical infringement.

    However, Magnussen stood by his belief he had every right to go for the gap and was forced into the barrier by the Mexican.

    "From my point of view, I had a good part of my front on Perez's rear and when he went to the wall I got pushed to the wall and made contact with him," Magnussen said.

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    Ultimately, neither driver was punished for the incident as the stewards deemed it a racing incident which needed no further investigation. 
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    The world number one failed to improve on his sixth-place start, after struggling to catch George Russell as he failed to finish on the podium for just the second time this season.

    Verstappen fared better than team-mate Sergio Perez though, as the Mexican was involved in a huge crash just seconds into the race, forcing him out of it after an already poor qualifying.

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    Piastri put in an assured drive to finish second, holding off Sainz to prevent a Ferrari one-two and was pleased with the way the race turned out.

    "Thanks to the team. It's been a great weekend all-round. Nice to put a result on the board. I've been strong the last few weekends but didn't have the result to show for it. Nice to have a podium," he said.

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