In a dynamic duel that didn’t disappoint a record-setting crowd, Max Verstappen fended off Lewis Hamilton to win the U.S. Grand Prix Sunday at Circuit of the Americas.
Verstappen, the 24-year-old Dutch sensation, continued his march toward the Formula One title with a remarkable exhibition of driving down the stretch. Despite having a fresher set of tires and more speed in the final few laps, Hamilton could not overtake Verstappen, who cruised flawlessly through the final few turns.
With his first win on U.S. soil, Verstappen lengthened his lead over second-place Hamilton in the Formula One driver’s standings. Hamilton, who is tied with German legend Michael Schumacher for the most world racing titles with seven, has won the past four titles.
However, Verstappen now has a 13-point lead entering the Mexico Grand Prix on Nov. 7, and Verstappen’s Red Bull team has a long history of success in Mexico City.
— Formula 1 (@F1) October 24, 2021
Verstappen said his team’s decision to avoid a final pit stop and stay the course on worn tires helped overcome a fast start by Hamilton and his Mercedes team.
“We lost out in the start, so we had to do something else,” Verstappen said. “We were aggressive, and I wasn’t sure it was going to work. But the last few laps were fun. I’m super happy to hang on.”
Even though Hamilton fell short of a sixth win at COTA, he proved gracious in defeat and grateful for a massive crowd that filled the stands and covered almost every swath of grass.
“Congratulations to Max, he did a great job today,” Hamilton said. “It was such a tough race. We gave it absolutely everything, but at the end of the day, they had the upper hand this weekend.
“And what an amazing crowd. To perform in front of (the fans), it’s such an honor. I think this is our acceptance in the U.S. I hope the sport continues to grow, and I hope we get to come out more.”
The spectacle of the weekend finally took a backseat to the sport on Sunday before more than 140,000 fans, a crowd that made it the largest single-day sporting event in the Austin area’s history and one of the biggest single-event crowds in the U.S. since the pandemic swept across the country in March 2020. The weekend’s attendance reached 400,000, which topped the projection of 360,000 from COTA CEO Bobby Epstein at the beginning of the week.
The fans weren’t disappointed, especially those cheering on Verstappen.
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Hamilton jumped out to the slightest of leads to start the race and then fended off an immediate challenge after Verstappen tried to close off the defending champion. Hamilton then forced Verstappen wide, and the Dutchman trailed until Hamilton took his first pit stop in the 14th lap.
The two teams and drivers swapped the lead two more times, with Verstappen taking the final lead after Hamilton's pit stop on the 38th lap.
Third-place finisher Sergio Perez yielded positioning to his Red Bull teammate after the start, allowing Verstappen to slide into the second spot behind Hamilton. Perez, nicknamed “Checo” by his legion of fans in Mexico and the U.S., will be among the favorites at the next race in his home country.
Jamie Chadwick claims season title in W Series
Jamie Chadwick defended her W Series crown while dominating the second race of the weekend Sunday at COTA.
Chadwick, a 23-year-old English native, cruised across the finish line almost five seconds ahead of second-place Abbi Pulling with a blistering time of 2 hours, 6.464 minutes. Chadwick also won the first of the two W Series races Saturday while clinching the series’ season title. She ended the season with 159 points while season-long rival Alice Powell completed the campaign with 132 points.
— W Series (@WSeriesRacing) October 24, 2021
Powell entered the two races in Austin even with Chadwick at 109 points, but finished sixth in Sunday’s race.
Sabre Cook, the lone American in the W Series, had an eventful race. She made contact with Jessica Hawkins in turn 12, which caused both to spin out and finish in the final two spots. Cook ended the season series in last place and was the only drive among the 20 in the series without a point.
This article originally appeared on Austin American-Statesman: F1: Max Verstappen wins US Grand Prix over Lewis Hamilton in Formula 1