Verstappen crowns year in F1 and approaches title with gala performance

Max Verstappen won the US GP with a gala performance (Photo: Red Bull)


Since the beginning of the hybrid era, in 2014, the Circuit of the Americas – which became part of the Formula 1 calendar two years earlier – had a winner outside Mercedes only once. Since last Sunday, there are two: Max Verstappen did well, held Lewis Hamilton at the heart of the strategy and came closer than ever to his first Formula 1 world title by opening 12 points ahead in the table of such a balanced championship. And the Dutchman’s performance in Austin further increases the confidence that the long-awaited cup can be lifted as early as 2021.

It all started, of course, at the start, when Lewis Hamilton put his car in better gear and overtook the Dutchman in the first corner. From there, it was evident that Verstappen, despite having lost the position, had enough pace not to let the seven-time world champion escape. However, the passing of the Brit made Red Bull need to present a different alternative and that’s what the team did when calling Max to the pits in lap ten.

And it was at this moment that the Dutchman’s genius performance began to take shape: with the soft tires replaced by the hard ones, Max returned in second place to the track, behind Hamilton and began to print a strong pace and sought to overtake and take the lead when the rival made the stop. And that’s exactly what happened on turn 14, when Lewis also put on white belt tires and returned behind the prodigy.

The problem is that Max began to suffer from the wear of the rear tires of his Red Bull, and the team opted to make an early stop again, on lap 29, when he again came back behind Hamilton. From there, what was seen was a spectacular driving by the Dutchman, who needed to ensure that the tires reached the last lap. Lewis stopped eight laps later, after all, and would have newer compounds by the end of the race.

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Hamilton even managed to get close to Verstappen at the end of the race, but not close enough to win (Photo: Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images/Red Bull Content Pool)

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Verstappen knew how to save tires at the right moment, controlled the pace on the track and accepted Hamilton’s gradual approach, which reduced the gap between the two at each lap – and, at times, still managed to increase the gap a little. If Max chose to put his foot under and accelerate throughout the third stint, it is very likely that his tires would wear out before the end of the race and force a third stop, as admitted by Christian Horner, team boss. Thus, the victory would fall into Hamilton’s lap.

Lewis, it is worth mentioning, also did everything in his power to get the victory: he had a day of excellent driving and no mistakes. It’s something that enhances even more the performance of Verstappen, who even on a good day of his rival – it’s worth remembering, seven-time world champion – was superior and kept the first place.

Max controlled the wear level until he saw Hamilton approach, who was trapped in the dirty air behind the Dutchman’s car. Then, yes, he started to print rhythm in order to hold the Brit at 1s of difference. Verstappen completed his goal perfectly, and Lewis even managed to get closer, but by the time the break hit 2s, it was clear that victory was too far away. In today’s Formula 1, cars lose a lot of aerodynamic efficiency when running behind another competitor. Furthermore, the degradation of tires also increases considerably.

Thus, Max controlled the distance to close 1s3 ahead of the Englishman, in a separate race between the two. To give you an idea, Sergio Pérez, who closed the podium, was more than 42s behind his Red Bull teammate. In the best year of his career, Verstappen had one of his best performances of the season to hold one of the greatest drivers in history – with an older tire eight laps – and get closer than ever to his big dream: the world title of Formula 1.

It’s impossible to say how the championship will end, it’s impossible, of course, but it’s possible to nail it now that Verstappen is enjoying a winning season. The sobriety and excellence with which he drives in 2021 is remarkable and shows that everything that was expected of the young driver when he emerged in cars, still far from F1 in 2014, was real.

Daniel Ricciardo accelerates Dale Earnhardt Sr.’s car this Saturday in Austin (Video: F1)

About Abhishek Pratap

Food maven. Unapologetic travel fanatic. MCU's fan. Infuriatingly humble creator. Award-winning pop culture ninja.

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