It was lights out and away the array of cars fled from the start line. Hamilton got a fantastic start from second place piping Verstappen into turn one. Verstappen did his best to squeeze Hamilton on the inside, most likely aware of his rival’s dream start. A fantastic battle in lap 1 through the midfield saw Carlos Sainz repeatedly trapped in a Mclaren sandwich as all 3 were trying to make inroads, all aware that the first few laps were the best chances to make up places. The scorching Texas heat meant tyre degradation around this track was so unforgiving.
It was Max who made the first move in terms of pit stops. He decided the undercut on Hamilton was worth a shot. It was only lap 11 before the flying dutchman made the switch to the hard compound tyre. Just two laps later and Hamilton came in to replicate his championship rival, however it became instantly apparent that Verstappen’s choice of the undercut strategy played perfectly into his hands as Hamilton rejoined the track 7 seconds behind Verstappen despite leading before any pit stops had been made. The red bull superstar had the 7 time world champion in hot pursuit.
By lap 20 Valtteri Bottas wasn’t quite living up to the heights of his Mercedes teammate as he performed a beautifully executed switcheroo on Yuki Tsunoda to jump up to 8th place.
Through the bottom of the grid, Fernando Alonso locked horns with Antonio Giovinazzi in what was a thrilling 3 lap battle for 11th with both drivers pushing the boundaries as far as they could while still escaping penalties. Both ending up pushing each other wide into turn one and both subsequently having to give the position back to one another. A sign of real fight from giovinazzi as he is the only man on the grid next year without a seat.
Back to the title rivals and Verstappen came in for his second and last stop of the race just on the stroke of lap 30. This seemed to be slightly early as we still had another 26 laps of racing to go meaning by the end of the race those hard tyres would take some beating. Lewis stayed out for another 8 laps while Verstappen made up as much ground as he could on the interim leader on a newer, fresher set of tyres. “It’s all down to the last 3 laps” Lewis was told by his strategists, that’s where the 7 time champion would strike like a carbon fibre cobra.
Lap by lap Hamilton was gaining on Verstappen, the raw pace he had on the newer tyres meant he was cutting through the backmarkers while Max was in fact making hard work of overtaking backmarkers, a rare sight. With just 5 laps to go the gap between the pair was a measly 1.7 seconds. It wasn’t until the final lap where lewis could gain an advantage from DRS so this race defined the notion “down to the wire.”
You couldn’t write it as it looked like Lewis had the win in his hands just one more DRS assisted overtake and it was his. However in a spell of luck Max Verstappen galloped up behind Mick Schumacher meaning he gained DRS of his own on the German rookie.
That was all she wrote at a thrilling COTA grand prix. Verstappen took victory by a miniscule 1.3 seconds with what team boss Christian Horner called a “classy” display. The rest of the top ten lined up with Perez taking the final podium spot giving him great momentum heading into his home Mexican Grand prix. Charles Leclerc drove a stunning drive for p4 and Daniel Ricciardo who was in great form all weekend embracing the Texan spirit, fended off Bottas and Sainz for respected p6 and p7. Lando Norris drove a steady p8 after losing a spot thanks to his second pit stop. The last two in the points were the young Alpha Tauri talent Yuki Tsunoda and Sebastian Vettel who salvaged points after starting p18 due to an engine change.
There were only two retirees in the race with both alpines heading for the pits, Alonso only coming in 5 laps before the finish due to a rear wing issue.
Max led red bull to their 200th podium and this championship is still wide open with 5 races left, it’s in anyone’s hands.