Max Verstappen coasted to victory of an anticlimactic 2023 United States Grand Prix sprint, ahead of Lewis Hamilton and Charles Leclerc in a race that was over by the end of the first sector – and even that’s generous.
Verstappen got very aggressive with Leclerc on the run turn one, forcing the Ferrari all the way to the paint on the left of the track, and that allowed Hamilton to sweep into second around the outside.
Hamilton was able to hang within a second of Verstappen for the opening laps with the Dutchman complaining about the driveability of his Red Bull, but fell out of DRS range on lap six and couldn’t challenge for the win.
From there Verstappen coasted to victory, while Leclerc joined the pair on the podium having also run a quiet race after the first turn.
Ferrari gambled with the soft tyres for Carlos Sainz and that backfired dramatically – if not unpredictably, with the Spaniard unable to even get past his teammate.
From a high point of fourth, Sainz sunk like a lump of the tarmac he was driving on in the second half of the race to come home sixth.
Lando Norris was the first to pass his former teammate-turned-overtaking buffet, finishing the race where he started in fourth but never close to troubling the podium. However, those five points move McLaren to just six behind pointless Aston Martin in the constructors’ championship.
Oscar Piastri didn’t trouble the scorers, but with Fernando Alonso 13th and Stroll retiring and both starting the grand prix in the bottom five, fourth place in the standings looks there for the taking.
Piastri did cost Russell a point though, the Australian found himself out of shape at turn 15 and Russell rather jumped the gun, zooming round the outside but unfortunately so far around that outside that he was off the track.
He still picked up a point after sitting behind Sainz in the closing laps, but Pierre Gasly jumped up to seventh for Alpine. Ninth-placed Alex Albon was an agonising three-tenths off Russell after the penalty was applied.
Uninspired sprint raises concerns for grand prix
There was plenty of excitement ahead of the sprint after qualifying produced four drivers from four different teams separated by just a tenth of a second at the top of the grid.
That, combined with the 58 overtakes at the 2022 United States GP, and the exciting Qatar sprint won in stunning fashion by Piastri just a fortnight ago, seemed to indicate a blockbuster Saturday afternoon in Austin.
However, following a busy first couple of laps the field soon stretched out, with just one top-eight driver within DRS range by lap 10.
With just one free practice ahead of qualifying, Norris openly admitted McLaren would using the sprint for data-gathering first and points second, though with setups locked from Friday it’s not clear what impact teams can make between now and the grand prix.
Sainz‘s plummet will have warned teams to keep a wide berth of the soft tyres, but aside from that it may take some Seven Miles South-inspired Texas rain to animate the main event.