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Max Verstappen Wins Nail-Biting United States Grand Prix To Further Lead In Driver's Championship

Updated: May 23

A light morning drizzle was a faint memory as Max Verstappen stood at the top of the podium in sunny Austin for the first time in his career, winning the Formula 1 United States Grand Prix in thrilling fashion on Sunday.

The Red Bull driver won from pole position after losing the lead early when Lewis Hamilton sprinted to the front from P2 at Turn 1. Verstappen breathed down his Mercedes rival's neck until his pit stop on Lap 11 sent him to fourth behind his teammate Sergio Pérez, initiating an aggressive strategy to stay ahead.

And it worked. Hamilton and Pérez pitted shortly after, giving the Dutchman back the lead. There was some more back and forth after the second pit stops of the day, but the racy Red Bull was too fast for the seven-time world champion to keep up with.

After an intense weekend where the drivers went wheel to wheel even in FP2, Verstappen extends his lead in the driver's championship to 12 points. Pérez finished third as Red Bull celebrated their 200th podium.

"It was exciting. The whole race, the pressure was on," Verstappen said, his usually stern face beaming with a smile.

Hamilton had won five United States Grand Prix races since the competition was brought to the Circuit of the Americas in 2012. The race was not held last year due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Fellow Mercedes driver Valtteri Bottas, who won the 2019 United States Grand Prix, started P9 after receiving a five-place grid penalty for a new combustion engine. He raced to a sixth place finish after battling past Lando Norris and Carlos Sainz. The Ferrari driver was locked in a tussle with Daniel Ricciardo for much of the race. After Ricciardo sprinted past Sainz on the first lap, Sainz kept close on his tail. He attempted to pass the Australian at the hairpin on Lap 43, but Ricciardo raced ahead to leave the Ferrari in Bottas' clutches.

Sainz' teammate Charles LeClerc finished fourth after qualifying in the same position and had a fairly quiet race. With Norris finishing eighth, Ricciardo finishing fifth and Sainz ending up in seventh after falling from P5, McLaren maintains a razor-thin 3.5 points lead in the constructor's championship.

Ricciardo brought other memorable moments throughout the weekend as he allured fans with his attempt at a Texas accent, wearing a Texas Longhorns jersey to the drivers' parade and driving Dale Earnhardt Sr.'s NASCAR car on Saturday, a treat from McLaren CEO Zak Brown for winning Monza.

The other drivers had lots of fun with cowboy hats and basketball, but for the race, it was all business. The battle went down in front of an estimated crowd of 140,000 that included Megan Thee Stallion, Ben Stiller, George Lucas and Shaq, who presented Verstappen with his trophy.

Austin has been the only American race since its inception and the growth of the sport's popularity overseas was on full display. Miami will host its inaugural grand prix in May, giving the United States a second race on the calendar.

Alfa Romeo just missed out on points as Kimi Raikkonen spun out late and Antonio Giovinnazzi finished eleventh. Both went wheel to wheel with Fernando Alonso at different points in the race. With five races left, Giovinnazzi is the only driver on the grid who hasn't had his seat for next season confirmed.

Alonso was one of three drivers who had to retire along with his teammate Esteban Ocon and Alpha Tauri's Pierre Gasly, whose race ended in the first 20 laps due to a suspension failure.

The race for the championship continues at the Mexico Grand Prix on November 5-7.

Listen to the United States Grand Prix episode of "Fun With F1" below:

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