If there ever was a time for Max Verstappen to flinch on this riveting Method One championship battle with Lewis Hamilton, it could have been Sunday within the closing laps of the U.S. Grand Prix.
The younger Dutchman in search of his first world championship was being chased by the seven-time champion, and Hamilton was quickly closing in on the lead underneath the new Texas solar on the Circuit of the Americas.
The depth of the tightest championship race in years may need derailed a unique driver — particularly when Hamilton pulled inside 1 second on the ultimate lap — however Verstappen thrived underneath strain and received his eighth race of the season.
“It was thrilling, the strain was on, not realizing how fast Lewis was going to get you,” Verstappen mentioned. “We managed to hold on on the finish.”
The victory doubled Verstappen’s lead over Hamilton to 12 factors within the standings with 5 races remaining and will show to be a pivotal win on this traditional championship battle.
Verstappen and Crimson Bull received on a observe the place Hamilton and Mercedes have been dominant for years — Hamilton is a five-time winner at COTA — and he made Verstappen work for the win.
Hamilton chased Verstappen over the ultimate 18 laps and perhaps if there had been yet one more lap, he may need caught Verstappen and reclaimed the factors lead.
The 24-year-old now has some respiration room heading into Mexico Metropolis, a high-altitude stronghold for Crimson Bull.
Hamilton is in search of a file eighth F1 title, and fifth in a row.
“Congratulations to Max, he did an excellent job in the present day. It was such a troublesome race,” Hamilton mentioned. “Obtained a superb begin and gave it completely the whole lot, however ultimately of the day, they only had the higher hand this weekend.”
As the recognition of Method One explodes within the U.S., the championship rivals delivered a dramatic end in entrance of an estimated crowd of 140,000. It was one of many largest sporting occasions for the reason that begin of the pandemic and drew the wealthy and well-known to the Austin circuit.
Among the many celebrities in attendance have been actor Ben Stiller, rapper Meghan Thee Stallion, golfer Rory McIlroy and tennis champion Serena Williams, who all participated within the pre-race grid stroll. Shaquille O’Neal hosted a post-race DJ dance occasion and delivered the winner’s trophy to the rostrum, the place the 7-footer loomed giant over Verstappen and Hamilton.
Sunday was the ultimate race within the Circuit’s authentic 10-year contract, however the U.S. Grand Prix is on the 2022 race calendar. Observe President Bobby Epstein has mentioned he expects to get a brand new long-term deal from F1.
“It is wonderful to be right here, but in addition to see so many (followers) across the observe,” Verstappen mentioned earlier than stepping to the rostrum as followers rushed onto the observe for the celebration. “Hopefully we are able to do that for a few years to come back.”
Hamilton and Verstappen saved the temperature rising all weekend. First, Verstappen referred to as Hamilton a “silly fool” and flipped him the center finger after an aggressive driving transfer in Friday observe. Hamilton later dismissed it as “enjoyable and video games.” Verstappen then edged him for pole place on the ultimate lap of qualifying Sunday.
All of it arrange a fierce battle for the lead into Sunday’s first flip as a result of the winner at COTA has all the time come from the entrance row. Hamilton rapidly jumped previous Verstappen and the 2 traded the lead 4 instances over 56 laps.
It was a breathless begin as Verstappen and Hamilton have collided twice this season and the chance of one other one was excessive. This time Verstappen backed off the primary nook and let Hamilton take the lead “to keep away from any hassle.” That was the one second of potential hazard for both automobile all day.
The drivers did not appear to hold any exhausting emotions from the earlier incidents when the race was completed. When Hamilton clinched the championship right here in 2015, he flippantly tossed his hat to sulking teammate Nico Rosberg.
After Sunday’s checkered flag, Hamilton and Verstappen exchanged fist bumps in pit lane, then clinked champagne bottles on the rostrum.
But Hamilton is aware of Sunday’s end result was a missed victory on a good circuit as Verstappen fights to dethrone him within the championship.
Hamilton acknowledged Mexico Metropolis’s Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez, the place Verstappen has received twice, is a “very sturdy circuit” for Crimson Bull. So is the following race in Sao Paolo, Brazil, the place Verstappen received in 2019.
“It may be powerful,” Hamilton mentioned.
Verstappen has had excessive expectations since he first joined the F1 grid as a 17-year-old in 2015. Hamilton, at 36 a collection veteran, has been the dominant determine in F1 for practically a decade and has received 4 consecutive championships.
Another Hamilton title will break his tie with Michael Schumacher for many in F1. However he hasn’t been in a battle like this in a very long time.
After his post-race celebration, Verstappen was rapidly again to all enterprise. He was as unflappable in regards to the unfolding title chase in his favor as he was holding off Hamilton on the ultimate laps.
“This does not actually change loads,” Verstappen mentioned. “That is all about particulars. A win would not give me extra confidence. We’re all assured. We have to nail particulars, beginning in Mexico.”
Sergio Perez completed third to place each Crimson Bull’s on the rostrum, however the Mexican raced with out entry to water and referred to as it probably the most bodily race he is ever skilled.