World Champion Max Verstappen chased down Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes to win an enthralling United States Grand Prix in Texas, which confirmed Red Bull as 2022 Constructors’ Champions for the first time since 2013.
The title confirmation came on the weekend where the passing of Red Bull owner Dietrich Mateschitz was announced.
“It was a tough one, it was all looking good but I had to fight my way forward again,” Verstappen, 24, explained, as he matched the record of 13 wins in a single season, with three races still to go.
“We gave it everything out there, it was a difficult weekend for us, this one was for Dietrich. The only thing we could do today was win,” said the Dutchman.
Verstappen’s 33rd win was hard fought, after a slow second pit stop left the Dutchman behind both Hamilton and Leclerc, who finished third.
The race saw two Safety Car periods, which helped energise the race, the first for Finn Valtteri Bottas spinning into the gravel and the second for a terrifying collision between Lance Stroll’s Aston Martin and his future team-mate Fernando Alonso, which saw the Spaniard’s Alpine momentarily airborne.
Sebastian Vettel, who is retiring at the end of the season, produced a stirring fight back from his own sluggish pit stop, pulling off several impressive overtakes, showing that the German is still very much a top performer.
Verstappen made to work for this one
When Verstappen grabbed the lead off the line from pole sitter Carlos Sainz, it appeared as though the 24-year-old would ease to yet another win.
But following the dramatic crash between Alonso and Stroll, where the Canadian moved late to defend the overtake his Spanish adversary was attempting, Verstappen’s race almost completely unravelled.
Firstly, Verstappen complained about engine driveability to his team before, in response to Mercedes’ pit stop on Lap 36, the left-front wheel failed to tighten with the first wheel gun used.
A swap of equipment and Verstappen was on his way, but Hamilton now a few seconds up the road and Leclerc right ahead as a consequence of the slow stop.
F1’s latest double World Champion battled past the Ferrari, passing on Lap 39.
With over four seconds to close on Hamilton, Verstappen set about his task and even though the Red Bull was running mediums, which had suffered when used in the opening laps of the race, the Dutchman kept his tyres alive to chase down the Mercedes, which was using the hard compound.
Once ahead, with a late lunge into Turn 11, Verstappen eased to his 13th, a record equalling, victory of the season, which confirmed his Red Bull team as Constructors’ Champions, ending Mercedes’ eight-year strangle hold on that trophy.
So close, yet so far for Hamilton and Mercedes
Hamilton’s 189th podium in F1 was so nearly a victory, which would have been his first since Saudi Arabia in 2021.
Following the second safety car, Mercedes pitted early to undercut Red Bull, and seemed to have been handed the stroke of luck they needed with Red Bull’s lengthy stop for Verstappen.
“The car was a handful today” said a “shattered” Hamilton, who added: “I did everything I could to stay ahead but they (Red Bull) had too much.”
Hamilton, 37, said it felt “amazing” to be in the lead in the upgraded Mercedes.
Seven-time World Champion Hamilton defended as robustly as he could against the Red Bull, as Verstappen dived for the lead at Turn 11 on Lap 50.
Mercedes, as they were in Zandvoort, got so close to ending their barren run, but Red Bull and Verstappen again proved irresistible.