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Verstappen holds off Hamilton to win Austin Grand Prix

Written by: Jaylin Hardin | Sports Editor

Look who’s done it again: Red Bull Formula 1 driver, Max Verstappen. The three time world champion clamped down on 50 career wins following the race on Sunday, Oct. 22 in Austin, Texas. Verstappen recovered from sixth place to steal the lead from McLaren driver, Lando Norris, and held Mercedes driver, Lewis Hamilton, to second place. Norris had managed to get ahead of Charles LeClerc — who drives for Ferrari — on a rundown in Turn One from the beginning and held a two-second lead going into Lap Two. 

Going into Turn Twelve, Verstappen had caught up to the leaders, racing in the fourth place position behind Norris, LeClerc and LeClerc’s teammate, Carlos Sainz. This is where Verstappen made his move to pass Sainz and take the third-place position.

It wasn’t until Lap Eleven that Verstappen was able to overtake LeClerc, once again coming into Turn 12 — this turn being considered the most advantageous turn on the Austin course. By Lap 26, Verstappen was only a second and a half behind Norris. 

In Lap 29, Verstappen took advantage of Norris locking up to drop into Turn 12 and secured the lead for himself — Norris was unable to return to first position for the duration of the race.

Hamilton and Norris were both in close pursuit of Verstappen in Lap 33, and by this point, Verstappen’s teammate, Sergio Perez, was closing in on Sainz to take P4. 

Tire changes for Perez, Sainz and Hamilton in Lap 38 meant the tide could turn for any one of these drivers, some switched their medium tires for hard tires or put on a new set of medium tires — this signifies the amount of grip the tire has and its durability on the track.

Throughout the race, many drivers were issued black and white flags for exceeding track limits, which occurs when drivers go outside the track boundaries or are issued as a stop-and-go penalty in the pits. American driver, Logan Sargeant, was one to receive one of these flags. 

In Lap 46, Hamilton was two and a half seconds behind second-place Norris, but if he wanted to catch up to Verstappen, he would need to up his pace. Aston Martin driver, Fernando Alonso, was forced to retire his vehicle in Lap 50 due to rear suspension failure — he had been in seventh place.

Once he got into second place, it was looking less than likely that Hamilton would be able to overtake Verstappen; there was a five-second gap between the two drivers. The Ferrari drivers battled against each other for position, and Sainz pulled ahead of his teammate at the discretion of the Ferrari team, a decision LeClerc was clearly not happy with. 

Two laps to go and Hamilton had closed the gap between him and Verstappen to two seconds, with Verstappen complaining about braking issues on his vehicle. Hamilton was unable to close this gap, and Verstappen took his third consecutive win at Circuit of the Americas or COTA. Norris followed in third, with Sainz taking fourth and Perez overtaking LeClerc for fifth place.

However, Hamilton and LeClerc were unable to celebrate their positions in the Grand Prix, as both were shortly disqualified for technical breaches. An inspection of the plank wear was carried out on their vehicles after the race and irregularities were spotted — the skids on their tires were not in compliance with Technical Regulations — and they were referred to the stewards.

Both Hamilton and LeClerc sent a representative to see the steward, where they attributed the evident wear on the skid pads to the combination of a bumpy track and the short time between the Sprint race and Grand Prix, making for a unique situation.

The stewards’ job is to ensure that a team’s vehicle is in compliance with regulations at all times during an event. In this case, the rear skid in the Technical Delegate’s report was well outside of the thresholds outlined in the FIA Formula One Technical Regulations, which includes allowances for such wear. 

Hamilton and LeClerc were subsequently disqualified from the Grand Prix, which moved Norris up to second and Sainz to third podium. Sargeant, who drives for Williams Racing, moved to P10 and won his first point on the season. 

Sargeant had initially placed twelfth, which was groundbreaking for the driver, considering he started last. He is also the first American driver to score points in 30 years. Those points were scored by Michael Andretti, son of Mario Andretti, who debuted in Formula One during the 1993 season and had dropped out with three races left

This is Sargeant’s Rookie year, having competed in the Formula 2 circuits for the 2022 season, and initially debuting in Formula 4 for the Winter 2016 season. 

The next Formula 1 races are set for Sao Paulo, Brazil on Nov, 5 at 9 a.m. and Las Vegas, Nevada on Nov. 18 at 10 p.m. Both races will be streaming on ESPN+ and the F1 Network. 

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