Max Verstappen has kept the Red Bull promise to the deceased company founder Dietrich Mateschitz and secured his team the first constructors’ title in nine years after the Drivers’ World Championship.
At the thrilling US Grand Prix in Austin, the two-time world champion won on Sunday after a hard-fought duel with record champion Lewis Hamilton, who narrowly missed out on Mercedes’ redeeming first win of the season in second place. Third was Charles Leclerc in the Ferrari.
With the 13th success of the current season, Verstappen equaled the record set by Michael Schumacher (2004) and Sebastian Vettel (2013) for the most victories within one year. Verstappen could become the sole record holder in Mexico next weekend. In the Constructors’ Championship, Red Bull can no longer be caught by the first pursuer, Ferrari. The Scuderia was quickly disappointed by the early retirement of pole setter Carlos Sainz. Leclerc was doing damage control.
Sebastian Vettel showed a strong performance in the fourth to last race of his career. A botched pit stop threw the four-time world champion in the Aston Martin far back, in the end he finished eighth. Mick Schumacher, who is fighting to stay with the Haas team, missed the points again in 15th place and must continue to fear for his future in the premier class.
The news of the death of Red Bull founder Mateschitz (78) reached the paddock on Saturday just before qualifying. “I wouldn’t be here today without him. It’s incredibly difficult for everyone in the team,” Verstappen said after chasing the times, which ended for him with second place on the grid.
Before the start, fans and drivers honored the entrepreneur from Austria with a special round of applause, and the slogan “Thank you, Didi” could be read on the digital display at the start and finish. The Red Bull team wanted to turn their dismay into motivation and achieve victory and the team title for Mateschitz in the race.
Verstappen underlined this intention as soon as the traffic light went out. The Dutchman got off to a dream start and pushed past Sainz on the steep climb to the first corner.
The real debacle for the Spaniard started there: Hamilton touched the right rear tire of the Ferrari, then George Russell in the second Mercedes crashed into the side of Sainz. The co-favourite for victory had to park his car in the garage with a water leak in the radiator.
While Vettel was fighting for a strong result after an equally excellent start, Verstappen pulled away at the front. The 25-year-old’s greatest opponent was initially the gusts of wind along the Circuit of the Americas.
Verstappen had this under control as well as the restart after the first safety car phase. Immediately after the restart of the race, the next interruption followed after a serious collision between Vettel team-mate Lance Stroll and Fernando Alonso (Alpine).
Verstappen then complained about the drivability of his car, pursuer Hamilton stayed within striking distance and put Red Bull under pressure with another pit stop. Verstappen reacted, but problems with changing his left front wheel threw him back a long way. “Wonderful,” Verstappen commented annoyed. But he started to catch up, gradually approaching Hamilton and passing the Brit with six laps to go.
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