Max Verstappen fought back to beat Lewis Hamilton out for victory at the 2022 United States Grand Prix in a dramatic race at the Circuit of the Americas.
The victory helped Red Bull seal the 2022 F1 Constructors’ Championship, one week after Verstappen took his second Drivers’ Championship at Suzuka, and the team were made to work hard for the win on the weekend when the team’s owner Dietrich Mateschitz passed away.
Verstappen had looked untouchable in the early stages of the race after he took the lead off the line, but the race changed complexion after a pair of safety cars and some pitstop mishaps which set the stage for a late duel between the 2021 title rivals.
Mercedes were confident all weekend that they had the pace to be competitive in Austin, and that proved to be the case as Hamilton inherited the lead of the race on hard tyres following a second safety car halfway through the race.
While Verstappen had to fight past the Ferrari of Charles Leclerc, the Dutchman was able to show his superior pace and chase down Hamilton, passing the Brit on Lap 50 and taking the chequered flag three seconds in front.
Hamilton had to settle for second, while Leclerc took the final podium spot in a strong recovery for the Monegasque.
Russell was only able to recover to 5th following his penalty behind Sergio Perez, with Fernando Alonso in 7th, ahead of Sebastian Vettel and Kevin Magnussen. Yuki Tsunoda secured the final points spot in 10th for AlphaTauri.
Carlos Sainz had high hopes of a potential second victory at the Circuit of the Americas, where the driver on pole position has won every race held in the 10 years the US GP has visited Austin.
But after snatching pole at the last minute in qualifying, Sainz’s hopes were swiftly extinguished after he was hit by Russell into the first corner.
Sainz had a slow start and was passed by Verstappen almost immediately, and as he went to take a wider line through the first done on cutting back in he encountered Russell, who had locked up and went into the side of the Ferrari.
That incident put an end to the Spaniard’s race in agonising fashion, while Russell had to serve a five second penalty at his first pitstop for his part in the collision.
Verstappen in clear air was able to pull out a four second lead by Lap 11, chased by Hamilton, Russell and Perez, but those behind had few answers for the Dutchman’s pace.
The shape of the race began to change at Lap 18, as the first safety car was called out following a spin for the Alfa Romeo of Valtteri Bottas at the high-speed Turn 19 which forced the Finn to retire.
Leclerc, who had started the race from the middle of the pack after being handed a grid penalty, was able to take advantage of having run long in P2 to take a cheap pitstop, jumping into P4.
But on the safety car restart on Lap 21, there was a massive crash between the Aston Martin of Lance Stroll and the Alpine of Fernando Alonso.
Alonso tried to go to the left of Stroll, but the Aston Martin jinked in the same direction and Alonso made contact with its left rear tyre, launching his Alpine into the air before it smashed back down on track.
Stroll was forced to retire due to the damage to his car, while Alonso was able to make his way back into the pits under his own steam and would eventually go on to finish in seventh.
The crash brought out the second safety car of the race, with Hamilton inheriting the lead as Verstappen and Leclerc duelled back and forth in second and third.
Verstappen eventually dispatched of the Ferrari, and set about chasing down his 2021 championship rival Hamilton for the final 12 laps of the race.
With hindsight, Stroll’s crash was the beginning of the end for what had looked on to be an encouraging performance for Aston Martin, on the day both drivers ran in the top six with a competitive car and Sebastian Vettel led his 3500th lap in F1.
But their American dream was to end abruptly after Stroll retired and then Vettel, who had led the race having gone long before his second pitstop, suffered a disastrous pitstop, with the delay dropping him down from challenging for the top five down to 12th.
The four-time champion eventually finished ninth overall, sealing some valuable points for Aston Martin, but it could have been so much more for the team.
Elsewhere in the midfield AlphaTauri had a similarly disappointing outing, with Pierre Gasly incurring a penalty for a safety car infringement which earned him a five second stop-go penalty, which was then compounded after the Frenchman was found not to have served it properly. Gasly eventually finished in 11th.