Verstappen extends championship lead after leading Hamilton home in Texas

Max Verstappen upset the Lewis Hamilton apple cart in Texas, denying the Brit a seventh win in Austin to lead home his rival and Red Bull teammate Sergio Perez and win the 2021 US Grand Prix.

More importantly for the Dutchman, seeking a maiden F1 title, he now leads Hamilton by 12 points with just five rounds remaining. And with the vagaries of the remaining circuits seemingly suiting the characteristics of the Red Bull machine better, it’s set up for a grandstand finale.

“We didn’t have a good start, but the tyre wear was quite high around this track, so we didn’t go aggressive, and I wasn’t sure it wasn’t go to work but the last few laps were fun,” said Verstappen after his race win.

It was a great start from Hamilton, out dragging his major rival into the opening corner as behind the leading protagonists there was drama, Ricciardo making up a place on Carlos Sainz. The Circuit of the Americas has always been a driver and fan favourite since its inauguration on the calendar back in 2012, and Hamilton had been the victor on six previous occasions.

And with all of the top ten starting the race on the advantageous medium compound Pirelli tyre that they finished Q2, the race would yet again come down to that all important pit stop and the skill of the pit crew.

Verstappen was the first of the big hitters to roll the dice, diving in for the undercut on lap 11 and shuffling back down the pack in fourth after clearing former teammate Daniel Ricciardo.

It seemed a great call, the Dutchman eating into Hamilton’s advantage before the Mercedes driver ducked in on lap 14. It was Verstappen who maintained the lead. But Hamilton was gaining ever closer in his new hard compound tyres.

At half distance, the race was still too close to call. And with anther stop remaining it was Verstappen who boxed on lap 30, Mercedes saying out for the long game. On lap 37 Hamilton made his final stop for another set of hards to take him to the end.

It would now be yet another intriguing race to the chequered flag and Hamilton was reeling in his rival hand over foot. And so it transpired, Verstappen just holding on to extend his advantage.

There seemed little love lost between the pair during the podium celebrations and also during the post-race interviews. For the neutral motorsport fan, it makes for a fantastic final few races of the season, whoever comes out as the victor.

As is stands now, it’s Verstappen who takes that 12-point advantage into the Mexican Grand Prix. Yet in this most exciting of seasons, that is but a fag paper of a difference between arguably the best two drivers currently on the grid. If not for decades.

Fraser Masefield

Sports news and features writer, web editor and author.