Verstappen crossed the finish line in Austin and opened the radio: “I wanted to win this one for Dietrich”.
The victory at the US GP was dedicated to Dietrich Mateschitz, founder of the energy drink brand, who died on Saturday at the age of 78. A tribute to the height: with the result, Red Bull secured its fifth Constructors’ Championship, the first since 2013.
It is a historic achievement, with contours of overcoming and a feeling of relief: it ends the greatest hegemony in the history of F1, Mercedes’ eight consecutive titles. It is also a reward for persistence: even in the long years of drought, Red Bull kept its team cohesive, investing in technology and betting on a young Dutch boy. It worked out.
It is Verstappen’s 33rd victory in F1, which surpasses Alonso and isolates himself as the sixth biggest winner of the category _his next target is Senna, with 41. It is also the 13th victory of the Dutchman in 19 stages this season and the second that he succeeds on the Austin circuit.
Hamilton was in second place, after a beautiful duel with his rival at the end of the race. Leclerc, who started in 12th place, completed the podium.
At the start, Sainz’s pole position was useless. He was slow to react, Verstappen came out much better and reached the first corner already ahead.
As things could get worse, the Spaniard sprawled in the corner and was hit by Russell. End of trial for the blacksmith. That makes it difficult… What a pity.
The race direction investigated the case, saw the Englishman’s mistake and punished him with five seconds.
At the end of lap five, the top 10 had Verstappen, Hamilton, Stroll, Russell, Pérez, Vettel, Gasly, Norris, Leclerc and Bottas.
On Friday, Russell overtook Stroll. Up front, Verstappen already had 2s5 on Hamilton.
Five laps later, Bottas, Ricciardo and Tsunoda opened the first pit stop window. At 13th, Hamilton stopped. Verstappen stopped at the next and soon resumed the lead.
In the 18th, Bottas brought some excitement to the race. He spun alone and abandoned. Safety car on the track and races to the pits of drivers who had not yet stopped.
The restart came on the 22nd lap, but for a few seconds: Alonso missed the eyeball, hit Stroll’s rear and the safety car had to be triggered again.
On the 26th, a new restart. Verstappen kept the lead, followed by Hamilton. Three laps later, Leclerc charged Pérez, but left the track and returned to third position. The Monegasque took a deep breath, prepared another boat, attacked again on the next lap.
This time, it worked. “He needs to return the position,” hissed the Mexican. “No, he stayed at the edge of the track,” replied his engineer.
With no opponent, Verstappen then decided to fight the wind. Over the radio, he began to complain insistently about the change in the direction of the wind in Austin. “It’s hurting my drivability a lot,” he said a few times.
That’s when the race finally gained more emotion.
On the 33rd lap, Gasly opened the second pit window. Tsunoda stopped, Schumacher stopped… And in the 36th it was Verstappen’s turn to pit.
Everything has changed. Red Bull made a rare mistake in the pits, getting in the way of changing the front left tire and returning it to the track behind Hamilton and Leclerc.
“There is a long way to go,” the Red Bull engineer told the Dutchman. “You don’t have to say that,” snapped the champion.
The 39th lap of the US GP was one of the best of the year. Verstappen passed Leclerc, got a cross, passed again. Second place.
Verstappen, on medium tyres, then set off to pick up Hamilton, shod with the hard ones.
With ten laps to go, the gap between the two was 2s5. In two laps, the Dutchman took 1 second.
In the 50th, with six to go, Verstappen arrived. He passed. But it wasn’t easy.
Hamilton tried to react, came to stand side by side with the rival, but had no car to toughen up even more. Anyway, it was nice to see, a nice déjà vu.
The last few laps still had a bit of drama, with both drivers at the limit of warnings for leaving the track. One more infraction and everything would change in the race. Even so, the Englishman had to hold back the urge to attack again.
Verstappen crossed the finish line 5 seconds ahead of his rival.
“We passed very, very close. I tried what I could to stay ahead, but we are still no match for Red Bull”, said the Englishman, at the end of the race. “We’re going to keep pushing for the last three races of the year, one day the result will show.”
Verstappen spoke about the toughness of the race and again reminded Mateschitz. “Everything looked good, but the pit was longer than I would have liked. It was a difficult weekend for us, so I dedicate this victory to Dietrich. He was fundamental to this team.”
The Dutchman equaled the record of victories in the same season: 13, of Schumacher (2004) and Vettel (2013).
There are three GPs left until the end of the championship. It’s only a matter of time before he puts another historic mark in his jumpsuit pocket.