Max Verstappen chalked up the 50th win of his Formula 1 career in an intriguing 2023 United States Grand Prix, where he was harried by Lando Norris and Lewis Hamilton from lap one to 56.
Norris was disappointed despite scoring McLaren‘s fifth podium in three grand prix, having led the entire first stint, but that was nothing on Mercedes‘ post-race emotions when Hamilton was disqualified for illegal floor wear.
Mercedes and Hamilton proved a tough decision – usually losing a podium to a post-race decision would be a slam-dunk into the losers – but their floor upgrade proved a success and the team seem in good spirits heading to Mexico City.
For Ferrari, Carlos Sainz was second fiddle to Charles Leclerc for most of the weekend and even his surprise late podium can’t outweigh that enough for him to reach the winners – but equally Leclerc doesn’t fit either category.
Let’s get into it.
Winner: Logan Sargeant
It’s taken 18 races and six inclusions in the losers, but as of 7:24PM BST on 22nd October 2023, Logan Sargeant is a Total-Motorsport.com winner.
His weekend hadn’t been going to plan before that as Sargeant finished dead last in qualifying, sprint qualifying and the sprint race, and was caught and passed by Magnussen just five laps in.
But he recovered well from there, coming home 12th just a second behind Albon, before Hamilton and Leclerc‘s disqualifications made him the first American driver to score points in F1 since 1993.
It’s still doubtful whether Sargeant can kick on from here, but at the very least he’s on the board for the season.
Loser: Oscar Piastri
There’s not been many times Sargeant has been more successful than his fellow 2023 rookie, but Austin was a weird weekend.
With all the momentum in the world after a first career F1 win in Qatar, Piastri found himself completely outmatched by Lando Norris right from the start of FP1.
The only time the two McLaren drivers were close to parity was in the Sprint Shootout, where Piastri qualified right behind his teammate, but the Australian was beaten up in the race itself and went backwards literally from the first corner.
Then Piastri didn’t get much further in the grand prix before his afternoon was over, after Esteban Ocon blindly drove into his sidepod causing terminal damage to the MCL60.
Winner: Pierre Gasly
Speaking of Alpine, Gasly‘s superb weekend netted him ten points but was mostly overlooked with the chaos up front.
A double-Q3 appearance earmarked Alpine as serious dark horses in Austin, but whereas Ocon turned that into 11th place in the Sprint and a DNF in the grand prix, Gasly shone.
Another who benefitted from nailing his setup early on, the eighth-place grand prix finish was impressive enough before the disqualifications turned it into a 10-point haul – over 20% of his previous championship tally.
Loser: Aston Martin
Norris put it best: Aston are going backwards. Lance Stroll‘s inflated second-place running was the lone bright spark, but even then he had slower race pace than Fernando Alonso on the Qatar-spec AMR23. before retiring with a suspension failure.
Cue even more head-scratching at Aston Martin.
“Aston, I just don’t know, They seem to have made the car slower and slower with every upgrade that they brought.”Lando Norris speaks to the media after the 2023 US GP
Winner: Circuit of the Americas
COTA delivered. Again. In this new world of F1 where nothing is sacred and the search for showpiece city events seemingly knows no bounds, there was a creeping worry that the sport’s home in America may start to seem like an embarrassing sideshow.
The Miami and Las Vegas GPs both ‘earned’ 10-year contracts before even hosting a race (with the former serving up two sub-par races so far), news that couldn’t have signposted F1‘s direction of travel any more quickly.
However, there’s no substitute for packed-out grandstands and genuine excitement on-track (aside from fat wads of cash, in F1‘s case), and Austin once again served up both.
It’s impossible to dislike the shameless Texan pride that permeates the event every single year, especially when it’s hand in hand with one of the few genuine intra-team battles for victory in 2023.
And all of that watched on by 432,000 fans? It’s a winning combination for more than just Max Verstappen.
Loser: George Russell
It was tough to include Mercedes in this list, but not impossible. On paper Russell‘s result is saved by Hamilton‘s disqualification, but he was beaten in all areas of the teammate battle at the Circuit of the Americas.
It’s a track that definitely suits Hamilton more, but after a season of being distinctly second-best at Mercedes, Russell will need to be much better in Mexico City and Sao Paulo to show he’s onboard with the team’s development direction.
They’re both circuits he loved in 2022 so certainly don’t count Russell out, but he will have hoped to gel much better with the upgraded W14 at first sight.
Winner: F1 Academy
12 months ago, the final three rounds of the 2022 W Series season were cancelled (including the Austin weekend) and Jamie Chadwick was announced as the third champion in as many years.
W Series has since entered administration, but F1 Academy is going from strength to strength (sort of) in its place.
There’s just so many areas of positivity around the series – it’s got backing from F1, benefits drivers earlier in their careers, has much better graduation prospects and has already delivered one of its charges into an academy (McLaren‘s Bianca Bustamente).
Meanwhile, reigning champion Marta Garcia is set for Formula Regional Europe in 2024 – the standard halfway house between F4 and F3 after a fantastic campaign where she’s only once finished lower than sixth.
Haas made a huge song-and-dance about their new upgrade – one of the few major developments on the VF-23 – plus their star-spangled livery, but you could be forgiven for forgetting they looked any different.
Nico Hulkenberg was top of qualifying on his first run, but it’s never a good sign when your weekend peaks with ten minutes to go of a Friday in Q1.
Just one car made it out of Q1 in four attempts at COTA, but much more concerning was the continuation of Haas‘ stark performance drop off in race trim.
The warning signs were there in the Sprint, but after the team made major set-up changes to start on the pit-lane on Sunday they looked just as uncompetitive – Kevin Magnussen finished behind even the painfully slow Alfa Romeos.
The team seemed baffled by the ineffectiveness of their upgrades, but at least they’ll get three free practice sessions in Mexico City to try and rectify the package.