The Saturday in F1 US GP was dominance from Max Verstappen in the sprint while the chasing pack was closely bunched ahead of main race.
It was a dominant performance from Red Bull’s Max Verstappen on Saturday of F1 US GP at Circuit of the Americas. He not only took the sprint pole but won the race by over nine seconds. There was just a small hiccup at the start but it was cruise then.
Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc tired to get him but to no avail as he lost to Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton for second. The Brit was a bit aggressive to get the Monegasque who couldn’t get back and had to keep off McLaren’s Lando Norris towards the end.
The degradation situation for Ferrari didn’t look too good, as they went for the soft tyre run with Carlos Sainz – the only driver to do so on the grid. The Spaniard lost places but managed to hang onto points and saved a set of medium tyres too.
They were involved in a fight against Norris, Red Bull’s Sergio Perez, Mercedes’ George Russell and McLaren’s Oscar Piastri. The Australian was the biggest to lose out in this as he finished outside the points after not looking to be in a great shape.
Norris regained while Perez pushed on but had tyre degradation. Sainz held on against Russell, who felt fair after the penalty he got for his move against Piastri. This helped Alpine’s Pierre Gasly to be in the points.
Verstappen: “The start was of course, important. It was not too bad, I think from pole here. Of course, it got quite close into Turn 1, but luckily Turn 1 is quite wide, so you can enter with a few cars if needed. I guess Charles had a little bit of a better start, so I tried to make it as difficult as possible for him to get into Turn 1 and luckily, that worked out. And from there onwards, I think the first few laps, Lewis was pushing to stay in the DRS and trying to have a go. And once I basically cleared the DRS I just focused on my own pace and tried to look after the tyres. And I couldn’t maintain basically that pace and I think that was quite important today. I mean, of course, it’s not ideal to start P6 on Sunday. But the pace of the car seems quite strong, and hopefully on higher fuel loads tomorrow, we can do something similar. But you know, it’s one thing to be faster, but we have also to try and get by a few cars this time. So with the deg around here that’s not going to be straightforward, trying to follow also through the high speed, but yeah, we have a race on our hands, I think.”
Hamilton: “I didn’t get that great a start but obviously quite aggressive Turn One and had a good battle with Charles. Honestly, I couldn’t see him, going into the corner. I had one of the McLarens alongside me. So that’s all, I was just trying not to have a repeat of last race. And then all of a sudden, I seem to come out of the corner and then I saw Charles there – and I was just hoping I was able to pull-up alongside him, and race him, and we were racing all the way down to Turn Three. He was like in my blind spot, so I was a little bit worried at that point. But then, after that, yeah, the car was feeling pretty good so I was just attacking from the get-go, trying to get as close as I could while the car felt like that. I just couldn’t bridge the gap enough to Max. And then once I was out of his DRS, then he just started eking away and cruising. As for Sunday, anything’s possible. It depends. I mean, he’s got at least half a second on all the cars ahead of him per lap, pretty much. So that should be enough to get by. But there is degradation and those sorts of things and strategy, I assume he will be climbing relatively fast. So, we will have a job on our hands up ahead to try and hold him back. But it’s a track that you can overtake, so it is likely that he will be finishing high up tomorrow.”
Leclerc: “It was nice! I mean, I had a good start so then I saw a little gap on the left. Very little. To be honest, I would have done exactly the same if I was in his position. So, it’s on the limit but as I’ve always said in the past, that’s the way I like to fight. So, this today didn’t play on my way but that’s fine. It’s part of racing, and I’m happy with it. I tried to go for it and then it was very tight into Turn One. I unfortunately lost momentum by fighting Max and Lewis will get alongside me. Then I still tried around the outside of Turn Two, which was quite tricky with cold tyres, and then getting to Turn Three, there was no way for me to keep going without colliding with Lewis. So, I just left off. And then it was very difficult from that moment onwards, because we lost quite a bit straightaway in the first lap, then we didn’t have the DRS and then I was just doing my own race. And the Mercedes, I mean, Lewis and Max, were too strong, especially in the first few laps. Then towards the end, we were more on the pace of Lewis, but it was too late. We struggled a little bit with the tyre. So, that we really need to work on for tomorrow because this is going to be key for tomorrow’s race. And we seem to struggle mostly with the rear tyres towards the end of the race. So, we’ll look into that. We’ve got tonight to work on it and to try and understand what we can do better for tomorrow, even though we cannot change the car. And let’s see.”
Sainz: “Yeah, er, no! When I was the only car on softs I said we probably didn’t get it right. Obviously after two or three laps I saw the medium was just quicker pretty much the whole stint. Something to learn from, something to improve going into the future to see if we can maybe save those gambles and don’t do them. But yeah, at least I managed to keep my position. I think, with the medium, we probably could have done a better job, but we saved a P6 the whole race defending and [I] tried my best. We definitely look like we are in a better position going into tomorrow, also with the tyre more, we’ve learned how the soft behaves. So at least we go into tomorrow knowing how all the tyres should behave, and now we can focus on making sure we do the maximum tomorrow – that is when the big points come. Today was tough, but at least we learned something.”
Russell: “I think it was a fair penalty to be honest. I knew Oscar had the right to push me off, I was hoping he didn’t but by that point I sort of committed to it, and I thought what will be will be. Ultimately the five-seconds was fair. [It] was a shame I couldn’t get past Carlos because I think I could have pulled the five seconds to Gasly. But in the end, it’s been a scrappy day, in the stewards twice, hopefully a cleaner day tomorrow.”
Piastri: “I’m not sure to be honest. Everything felt reasonably okay so will have to look if there was any damage. I also had a lot of battles with cars at the start and maybe just took a lot out of the tyres from that so something to look at. I hope so. Everyone is very tight this weekend and very evenly matched. So, it’s not going to be easy to try and make progress forward, but we will see what we can do and clearly a lot to try and learn overnight.”
Gasly: “I’m really happy today. We had a strong race from ninth, passed Alex straight away and then I did a nice move on Oscar for eighth. After that, I had to try to keep up with George and Carlos ahead knowing George had a penalty and that I needed to keep a five-second gap. The pace was good in general, even if we had a bit of tyre degradation towards the end. There is definitely some good things for us to analyse from the race today and the two points is a nice bonus. The hard work will continue ahead of tomorrow and we will see how we can put ourselves in the mix for strong points. Right now, I’m pleased with our pace, and I’m fully focused on tomorrow’s race.”
It was battles outside the Top 10 too but not enough to pull them inside the points. It was mostly about learning to be used for the Sunday’s F1 race. Williams’ Alexander Albon felt a bit better after a low-key Friday qualifying which has set him back.
He tried his best to catch Russell with his 5s penalty but fell short by 0.317s. AlphaTauri’s Daniel Ricciardo felt rustic in the mini race but still did well enough with his start and few fights. It included the Aston Martin pair where he held off Fernando Alonso.
While Lance Stroll retired due to brake issues, the Spaniard admitted that they were simply not competitive in the sprint. It was same for Alfa Romeo along with Haas, where the latter are still trying to assess how their updates are working on degradation side.
Albon: “We went for it in the Sprint, as we were looking much stronger than yesterday, so we gave ourselves the biggest opportunity to score points. It’s so tight out there and to just miss out is frustrating but at the same time, it was a good race and we can’t discredit that. Obviously to finish P9, just outside of the points is what makes it frustrating. The tyres are interesting here and if I were to do it over, I would do things a bit differently, but this track can be difficult and my tyres started to deg, then came back at the end allowing us to push and try close the gap. We have race pace, so starting P18 tomorrow, hopefully we can fight the cars around us.”
Ricciardo: “I’m happy with my lap in SQ2 today. With the position we’re in, Q3 is a big achievement for us, and when we get so close, it’s a big tease. I’m really happy with the progress I made from SQ1 to SQ2, given we can’t really change the car from yesterday. We did some homework and played around with some things, which allowed me to push more confidently. It was good to be able to race today and again tomorrow, I really enjoyed being back competing, it’s a nice feeling. As for my driving, there were things I was happy about from the race and others I wasn’t so happy with, which are things I know I can improve on for tomorrow. With the temperatures and the way the tyres are, the grip feels low, and especially with the mix between old and new asphalt at different corners, it affects how the car behaves. However, it was encouraging that we had some pace at the end, so let’s see how it goes tomorrow.”
Alonso: “We were uncompetitive today in the Sprint and we haven’t been able to optimise our package all weekend. We need to keep looking at what we can learn from this weekend and try to score some points tomorrow. The whole Campus has worked flat out to bring the upgrade here to Austin, but the biggest problem so far this weekend was the challenging FP1 session where we had such limited time and laps to test the upgraded car out.”
Hulkenberg: “It feels like the first real running with the car to be honest because in practice there’s so many things going on. Then, there were just two qualifying sessions which were also short, just two runs each time, or less. It’s good to get some proper mileage with it, some long-run data and some feel for it. Obviously, it doesn’t look too good right now, but there’s more for us to analyse and understand, and more to discover with this package. At a Sprint weekend it’s difficult to explore that and unlock it.”
Bottas: “As a positive to take from today, we gathered a good amount of data about how the medium compound performed, information that will help us ahead of tomorrow. I think our main issue today has been the Shootout earlier this morning, where we haven’t been able to get a single clean lap; I already felt more competitive during the Sprint and managed to put up some battles with the cars around me, eventually gaining a couple of places. I felt better in the long run and felt our pace had improved as well. Tomorrow, we will be starting from more favourable positions: I am confident that, if we do our homework right, we will have an actual chance to gain places and get back into the top 10.”
Here’s how F1 US GP sprint panned out
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