Eda Onay & George Rees
Max Verstappen claimed his 50th win of his career this weekend in Austin and his 15th win of the 2023 season, in what has been a dominant display from both driver and team, to comfortably claim the Driver and Constructors championship. With Lewis Hamilton and Charles Leclerc being disqualified, this promoted Lando Norris to second and gifted Carlos Sainz a third podium of the season.
The scorching sun shone over Austin as the drivers eagerly lined up, desperate for the lights to turn green. Lights out and away we go, Norris had a flawless start off the line, and into turn 1, neck and neck with Leclerc, the McLaren dominated into P1.
This being Norris’ 100th race start in Formula One, fans were manifesting his first win. Unfortunately, this was not the case, as Verstappen and Red Bull were able to keep themselves at the front. It remains to be seen when the young Brit will claim his maiden Grand Prix win, with Mercedes driver and fellow centurion George Russell, surely wondering the same thing about himself.
As it so happens, Verstappen’s biggest threat this weekend came from seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton.
Lap 1 witnessed the collision of Oscar Piastri and Esteban Ocon, neither crashed but both resulted in retirements. They were joined by Fernando Alonso who was forced to retire on lap 33, after the bumpy track caused damage to the bottom of the Aston Martin.
A two-stop strategy was the way to go in Austin
A two-stop strategy was the way to go in Austin. The Hard Compounds weren’t as well gripped on the boiling track, unlike the used Mediums. Yet when Verstappen pitted for the first time, he returned back onto the track in Medium Compounds, meaning Red Bull had committed to a two-stop strategy (drivers have to use two different types of tyres in a Grand Prix).
Verstappen was hunting Norris, who was struggling to keep the Dutchman behind. With DRS open, Verstappen glided by the McLaren, who tried to stick on the tail of the Red Bull, but just didn’t have the speed. It was up to Norris to keep Hamilton behind.
Hamilton was astoundingly quicker […] in the final laps
Nearing the end of the Grand Prix, the second pit stop occurred; Hamilton on Mediums, Norris, and Verstappen on Hards. The Mercedes upgrades that they brought to Texas showed promise. Hamilton was astoundingly quicker to the naked eye in the final laps of the Grand Prix, albeit with Verstappen nursing a brake issue.
Unfortunately for Hamilton, 56 laps wasn’t enough to catch Verstappen. Hamilton crossed the line just under two seconds behind the World Champion, and in front of Norris, making it a Red Bull win, Mercedes P2 and McLaren P3. Ferrari finished P4 and P6, with Perez separating the two reds.
It wasn’t until 1am the next morning, when Formula One put out a statement confirming Hamilton and Leclerc had been disqualified from the Texas Grand Prix.
This was after the FIA found that both of their cars breached Article 3.5.9e) of 2023 FIA Formula One Technical Regulations, stating that ‘The thickness of the plank assembly measured normal to the lower surface must be 10mm+-0.2mm and must be uniform when new’.
It was a weekend to forget for the disqualified Leclerc
Hamilton now only has four races left this season to try and catch Perez, who leads by 39 points and claim that much needed second place in the in the driver’s championship. Additionally, it was a weekend to forget for the disqualified Leclerc, with the Monegasque driver starting Sunday’s race on pole position and having nothing to show for it.
Norris moved up to P2, and Sainz gained another podium finish in P3. Tsunoda landed P8 as well as the fastest lap time and further down the field, Williams scored double points in P9 and P10, with Logan Sargeant scoring his first F1 points.
It was an emotional end to a busy weekend. The Circuit of Americas will be left behind and fans will turn their attention to Mexico for the 19th round of the 2023 season. Will it be redemption day for Leclerc and Hamilton? Or will Perez finally come alive at his home Grand Prix?
Eda Onay & George Rees
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