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United States Grand Prix On A Saturday: Max Verstappen Dominates The Sprint

Written by Maria Fashchevskaya, Edited by Tarun Suresh

The sprint podium in Austin. Image Credits - Rudy Carezzevoli/Getty Images

After an eventful sprint weekend in Qatar, Formula One is back with another one. The teams are in Austin for the United States Grand Prix. After the struggles of Friday’s qualifying, the sprint shootout went underway with a temperature drop at the track in Texas, giving the drivers the chance to have more mechanical grip on their tyres. The mandatory tyre strategy was used for the shootout, as SQ1 lasted 12 minutes and SQ2 – 10 minutes when drivers had to use medium compounds and put soft tyres on for the eight-minute-long SQ3.


At the start of the first shootout, everyone lined up in the pit lane to get out on track as soon as possible. Lewis Hamilton completed his first flying lap going fastest but was almost immediately beaten by the two Ferraris. Red Bull’s Verstappen set a new best time at 1:35.997s on the clock, setting provisional pole and going straight into the pits, saving tyres, as he was sure of coming through to SQ2.


As the end approached, some drivers attempted to start another flying lap. Yuki Tsunoda got unlucky, crossing the line as the chequered flag was waved, leaving him starting in 19th place: “Just a miscommunication. Lost an easy opportunity to go through to SQ2," the AlphaTauri driver told Sky Sports after his exit. Behind him lines up ‘unlucky’ Logan Sargeant in front of his home crowd. Both Haas’ drivers, Magnussen and Hulkenberg, as well as Bottas were completing the bottom five for the sprint race.

Tsunoda ended down in 19th in the sprint shootout; Image Credits - Rudy Carezzevoli/Getty Images

The second session started with the Ferraris storming onto the front row with 1:35.386 for Leclerc and 1:35.542 for Sainz, sealing second and third places provisionally. However, they could not reach the best time of Red Bull’s champion. A highlight to SQ2 saw Max Verstappen spinning at turn nine after hitting the kerb too much but catching the car and going forward without any major damage.


Having been eliminated early in Friday's qualifying, the Aston Martins struggled again. Both drivers were knocked out in SQ2, Alonso starting from P12 and Stroll from P14 for the sprint. Ricciardo finished in 11th place, ahead of Ocon in P13 and Zhou in P15.


The hot phase of SQ3 gave the drivers only one chance to seal their grid positions, creeping up the hill to turn one to have a spot. After one flying lap, Max Verstappen got pole position with a 1:34.358s ahead of Charles Leclerc and Lewis Hamilton, while the pack was separated only by a 0.069 of a second. The McLarens missed out on a front-row start by a hundredth of a second, as Norris started in P4 ahead of his teammate Piastri, Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz, Red Bull’s Sergio Perez, Alexander Albon in the Williams and Pierre Gasly in the Alpine.


A blocking incident with Charles Leclerc (“And the penalty for Mr Russell, thank you.”) in SQ1 caused George Russell to lose his eighth grid place, as he started from 11th place in the sprint. This meant Daniel Ricciardo started from tenth on the sprint race grid.


Max Verstappen Takes Home The Win

The sprint started with everyone having medium tyres, except Carlos Sainz, who opted for softs on his Ferrari. Starting from sixth place, he needed to overtake the McLarens, Hamilton, teammate Leclerc and Verstappen to win the sprint race in Austin.


As the lights went out, Sainz took his opportunity in the chaos and split the Papaya boys, overtaking Oscar Piastri and, later on, Lando Norris as well. At the same time, Charles Leclerc lost his second place to Lewis Hamilton in the Mercedes, while Max Verstappen pulled Leclerc wide and drifted off into the distance. By lap three, the newly crowned three-time F1 world champion opened up a safe distance between him and Hamilton’s Mercedes.

The chaos at the start of the sprint. Image Credits: Mark Thompson/Getty Images.

George Russell, being fined a free-place penalty after impeding Charles Leclerc in the Sprint Shootout, regained his momentum – his initial eight grid-place – after five laps into the sprint and used an opportunity to overtake McLaren’s Piastri. However, he made his move outside the track limits that Pierre Gasly reported over his team radio. This incident was noted to be investigated and given a five-second penalty: “He just ran me off the road,” Russell complained over the team radio.


Lando Norris did not want to give up his place to former teammate Carlos Sainz. Being in the DRS zone in lap seven, he permanently attacked the Spaniard, the latter defending his fourth grid place mercilessly. However, simultaneously, breathing down McLaren’s neck was Sergio Perez, making Norris more desperate to get away. Around the same time, Oscar Piastri received a warning for having exceeded track limits multiple times. The Australian rookie managed not to get a penalty in comparison to his colleague at Alfa Romeo, as Zhou Guanyu was fined a five-second penalty at the end of the race.


After three laps of battling, Norris went through on the inside of the track and drove off, leaving Sainz to deal with approaching Red Bull’s Sergio Perez, who passed him shortly after. It seemed that the soft tyres started to have less grip than the medium tyres, as the Spaniard was the only one using softs’. Carlos Sainz tried hard to defend against the next behind him, George Russell but was seemingly slower than the Mercedes. Nevertheless, the Spaniard kept the British driver past himself for the rest of the sprint.


Back in the grid, the Haas of Magnussen and AlphaTauri’s Yuki Tsunoda were fighting for 15th place, the latter eventually overtaking the Haas in front of its home crowd. However, it still did not put him in a position with points. The Haas fell back on the grid, as both Alfa Romeos overtook him around lap 14, while his teammate was passed by Tsunoda. Rounding up the pack in the back was Williams’ Rookie Logan Sargeant, who struggled to impress with a good performance in front of his home crowd, too.

Lance Stroll out of sprint. Image Credits: Dan Istitene – Formula 1 via Getty Images

By lap 17 out of 19, leader Max Verstappen put second in line Lewis Hamilton back by 6.5 seconds, sealing another Sprint win. However, Lance Stroll needed to retire from the sprint, driving into the garage, because of brake problems two laps before the chequered flag was waved.


For another time, Max Verstappen won a race on a Sprint weekend before Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton and Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc. Notable is the margin of his win, as the Red Bull driver saw the chequered flag around 9.5 seconds before the runner-up. “The pace of the car was very good today, and I need it tomorrow,” the sprint winner said after the race.


Lewis Hamilton was glad to be back on the podium, as he talked with the media after the sprint: “That was a really fun race. Good start down to Turn 1, good battle with Charles [Leclerc] and then I was trying to get closer to Max [Verstappen] but their pace is undeniable at the moment.” Battling with Charles Leclerc till the end of the sprint, Lando Norris missed that podium by 0.8 of a second, going straight to the garage after the end.


Who do you think will win Sunday's main race? Let us know in the comments.


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