Martin Brundle: On the United States GP, Max Verstappen vs Lewis Hamilton and why the last F1 duel can be decisive

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Max Verstappen managed to fend off Lewis Hamilton to take the checkered flag in Austin and extend his championship lead to 12 points with five races to go.

Max Verstappen managed to fend off Lewis Hamilton to take the checkered flag in Austin and extend his championship lead to 12 points with five races to go.

I have no doubt that Sunday’s US GP will be seen as an important turning point when we finally come back to this year’s exceptional world championship.

A great duel between two brilliant drivers at the top of their game, it was indeed a swing of 14 points for the one who won between Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen.

The Circuit of the Americas was packed with 140,000 enthusiastic fans on race day who were on the circuit very early in a way reminiscent of Silverstone and Spa, and clearly passionate about Formula 1 in a way that I don’t. have personally never seen it before in the USA. A fan told me at the airport that on Saturday Red Bull merchandise was sold out and everything else was feverishly bought.

And what a cliffhanger of a race it turned out to be, the only thing missing was wheel-to-wheel action in the final two laps.

Rejuvenated Red Bull hit back at Mercedes

After the first practice on Friday, the league table was reminiscent of the early days of the hybrid powertrain in 2014, when Mercedes was in a league of its own. They seem to have higher power for longer and harder than eg Red Bull in these sessions, but the car also looked great with strong top speed in the back straight.

Christian Horner at Red Bull looked worried but also said he was waiting for “convergence” as they headed into qualifying when it really mattered. And he was right.

Overnight, Red Bull made some big changes to the settings and it was immediately clear that they had improved on this deliciously bumpy surface, which made cars and drivers work hard to stay within limits. off the track and point in the right direction.

Red Bull's Max Verstappen expressed his relief at securing the victory after managing to fend off Lewis Hamilton in the final stages of the race at the Circuit of the Americas.

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Red Bull’s Max Verstappen expressed his relief at securing the victory after managing to fend off Lewis Hamilton in the final stages of the race at the Circuit of the Americas.

Red Bull’s Max Verstappen expressed his relief at securing the victory after managing to fend off Lewis Hamilton in the final stages of the race at the Circuit of the Americas.

Conversely, it seemed to me that Mercedes needed to adopt a more conservative configuration and ride height to protect the integrity of the underside of its car. You of course want them to run as low as possible to seal the ground and the venturis and generate low pressure to create downward aerodynamic force. The Mercs were visibly less glued and balanced in qualifying.

The big story of the weekend at this point was how Mercedes was stalling its floor at higher speeds, resulting in unnecessary downforce as well as the associated drag. For decades, teams have used all kinds of systems to generate and lose downforce in a controlled fashion in different parts of the track to improve lap times.

It appears that the aerodynamic update installed by Mercedes at Silverstone and refined since, along with a mechanism that can reduce the rear suspension at higher aerodynamic loads, has been very effective.

Lewis Hamilton claims Mercedes did everything to win the race, but ultimately couldn't keep up with the pace of the Red Bulls.

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Lewis Hamilton claims Mercedes did everything to win the race, but ultimately couldn’t keep up with the pace of the Red Bulls.

Lewis Hamilton claims Mercedes did everything to win the race, but ultimately couldn’t keep up with the pace of the Red Bulls.

The system is less powerful with the rear wing of the DRS open as they need the download to collapse the system, and at higher altitudes and the finer air associated with Mexico and Brazil it may well be less efficient. .

It all led to a classic qualifying final with many of the fastest laps after the last checkered flag dropped to give us some punch and punch.

Verstappen had an excellent lap to take pole position despite light rain on the last corner. His team-mate Sergio Perez threatened to take pole position for the first time in his career to feature an all-Red Bull front row, but as he ran a little further he was exposed to lighter rain.

Fiery battles on race day

For the seventh time this season, Verstappen and Hamilton have lined up in the “front row”, which is a misnomer as pole position is eight meters ahead of second on a grid, and so on.

That didn’t deter Lewis, lightning reactions and the perfect minimum skating saw him win all those eight meters. Max did his best to squeeze his championship rival but had to give in. He was lucky it was his teammate Perez in third position otherwise he would have lost another place.

Watch how Lewis Hamilton overtook title rival Max Verstappen in Austin after making a brilliant start to the United States GP.

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Watch how Lewis Hamilton overtook title rival Max Verstappen in Austin after making a brilliant start to the United States GP.

Watch how Lewis Hamilton overtook title rival Max Verstappen in Austin after making a brilliant start to the United States GP.

Behind it was a fierce battle between the Ferrari boys and McLaren who are now very focused on each other. In the first lap at turn 12, it was only because Lando Norris took a reasonable pill that the four weren’t knocked out. Leclerc would end up shooting ten seconds ahead for a nice 4th place, and Ricciardo’s McLaren and Sainz’s Ferrari would fight for the duration. There are only 3.5 points between these two great teams with five races to go.

Yuki Tsunoda once again held off a factory Mercedes driven by Valtteri Bottas, which delayed the Finn for much of the race, so he would start ninth after his engine penalty and finish 6th after passing. Carlos Sainz in the last lap.

Throughout the acts of support, there were great battles, such as former world champions Kimi Raikkonen and Fernando Alonso in a bruising contest. This track really works for modern F1 cars.

Ahead, Red Bull decided to race and pit on lap 10 to regain their position on the track. With so much tire degradation and so many back-to-back quick turns, the “clearing” of early refueling and placing new tires of any compound was two to three seconds faster provided the stop was net.

Mercedes extended Lewis’s tires three laps and in the tension phase that followed as Lewis approached that three-second clearance window, on lap 29 Red Bull came to a halt very early for the second and final times. That left 37 long laps to go and Mercedes immediately stretched Lewis eight more laps before going to the pits.

The epic finale, what it means for the title race – and this gate!

When it all broke, Red Bull was 8.8 seconds ahead. Mercedes had a fast car with much younger tires with Lewis behind the wheel, and now he was sure to take the lead in the finals? That’s how I would have bet and Red Bull were also very nervous, no doubt remembering Barcelona earlier in the year.

Sky F1's Paul di Resta was at SkyPad to analyze how Max Verstappen won the United States Grand Prix ahead of title rival Lewis Hamilton.

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Sky F1’s Paul di Resta was at SkyPad to analyze how Max Verstappen won the United States Grand Prix ahead of title rival Lewis Hamilton.

Sky F1’s Paul di Resta was at SkyPad to analyze how Max Verstappen won the United States Grand Prix ahead of title rival Lewis Hamilton.

The twisty layout of the first sector of this track seemed to make the overtaken runners more impactful than usual on the leaders, but using some DRS recovered from Mick Schumacher’s Haas on the final lap, Max was able to squeeze enough grip from his rear tires to find enough traction in the critical hairpin of Turn 11 to gain by 1.3 seconds. I feel privileged to see these two artisans at work.

They passed the field by 40 seconds, but that’s a bit unfair for Sergio Perez as he wasn’t feeling well and his drink system failed to make it to the grid. It was a brutally physical race and going under a bridge that said “never drink and drive” 56 times probably didn’t help her behavior.

There are five races left in six weekends and we think Lewis may have to pick up another internal combustion engine which will drop five places on the grid. The next two are at altitude which tends to favor the architecture of the Honda turbo unit at the rear of the Red Bull but let’s wait and see. After that we have two new tracks in Qatar and a very high speed track in Saudi Arabia which might suit the Mercedes well. The final round will be in Abu Dhabi, a well-known venue of course and dominated by Red Bull last year, but the track has changed and should be 10 seconds faster per lap.

Martin Brundle's gridwalk made a very entertaining return to the US GP - watch all the best moments as he chats with sports stars and celebrities!

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Martin Brundle’s gridwalk made a very entertaining return to the US GP – watch all the best moments as he chats with sports stars and celebrities!

Martin Brundle’s gridwalk made a very entertaining return to the US GP – watch all the best moments as he chats with sports stars and celebrities!

I laughed on Monday. After all the blood, sweat, tears and broken bones, glorious victories and dismal failures, monstrous falls, quadruple stints on a treacherous rainy night at Le Mans, guiding a 1,250-horsepower flywheel in bed through Monaco qualifiers, as well as 25 years of broadcasting, I eventually became somewhat known for being ignored by celebrities while simultaneously being crushed on one side by a mountain man and berated by an undoubtedly assisting Malfoy lookalike. in his first F1 race.

My return to the grid after two years was probably a little too cheeky in Austin but still a lot of fun. In fact, my real claim to fame is that I once played snooker with Mark Knopfler, and what a cute guy he was too.

About Joetta Becker

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