At the end of the race, Hamilton was very close to a weakening Verstappen
Lewis Hamilton was disqualified from second place at the US Grand Prix after narrowly battling Max Verstappen’s Red Bull for victory.
Hamilton was just two seconds behind Verstappen at the finish, but his car was later declared illegal due to excessive wear on the underbody skid blocks.
Ferrari driver Charles Leclerc suffered the same fate after his sixth place.
Hamilton’s disqualification pushed McLaren’s Lando Norris to second and Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz to third.
Verstappen allowed himself to be measured, slowly grabbed the cars in front of him and then held on for his 50th career win.
Hamilton overtook Norris for second in the final laps but ran out of time to catch Verstappen at the front.
What happened to Hamilton?
Hamilton’s disqualification meant it was difficult to draw conclusions from a race after which, before the late technical drama, Hamilton and Mercedes would in hindsight have wiped out a lost potential win had they chosen strategy differently.
The skid blocks are designed to prevent teams from driving their cars too low, which can be a potential aerodynamic advantage.
The Red Bull didn’t have the pace distortion as so often this year and Norris and Hamilton let Verstappen work towards the win.
But Mercedes’ inadvertent transgression clouds the picture of a race in which the team appeared to have taken a step forward with an improved car.
Mercedes tried to implement a one-stop strategy while Verstappen and Norris went for a two-stop strategy, but the decision backfired on them and cost Hamilton more time than the lead with which he ultimately lost the race.
Mercedes had to abandon the plan when Hamilton’s tires suddenly lost power just two laps later. This forced Hamilton to adopt an off-set strategy where he had to catch and overtake both the McLaren and the Red Bull to win.
Hamilton managed to get past Norris with six laps to go and secure second place.
With seven laps to go he went to the inside of turn one and Norris defended himself with a late maneuver.
The seven-time champion had to jump back to the outside and from there got a cutback on Norris on the exit of the corner, overtook him on the outside of turn two and ran after Verstappen, not quite managing enough to take the lead until the end of the race.
The world champion had a five-second lead with six laps to go and was able to keep the Mercedes well away from the checkered flag despite brake problems that led to a series of angry and cursing radio messages.
Charles Leclerc lost fourth place to his teammate Carlos Sainz in the final laps after the one-stop strategy chosen by the team did not work for Leclerc.
Leclerc was told to let Sainz past, a decision he questioned over the radio, although he agreed with it.
But the reason for this was obvious: the Ferraris were being chased by Red Bull’s Sergio Perez, who easily passed Leclerc with his tires failing with two laps to go
Mercedes’ George Russell finished seventh behind Leclerc.
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How did Verstappen hold up?
Verstappen’s victory was hard-fought, in a Red Bull that didn’t have its usual big race pace advantage over its closest rivals over the bumps of the Circuit of the Americas.
The Dutchman, who started sixth, overtook Russell in the first corner, while Norris, ahead of him, took the lead from pole-sitter Leclerc and Sainz pushed Hamilton back to fourth.
Norris led the early laps from Leclerc, Sainz, Hamilton and Verstappen, but Hamilton and Verstappen soon defeated the Ferraris, setting up a three-way battle for the lead on lap 11.
Verstappen pitted for the first time on lap 16 when he was 6.5 seconds behind leader Norris, who was less than two seconds behind Hamilton.
While Norris followed Verstappen the next time, fitting the hard tires instead of the medium tires chosen by Red Bull and de facto keeping the lead, Verstappen turned the screw, caught up and overtook the McLaren on lap 28 and took the lead.
It was a good move that Verstappen jumped in late from far back, but the race was far from over.
Hamilton postponed his first stop until lap 20 as Mercedes considered a one-stop strategy. But the decision backfired as he quickly ran out of tire life and lost 10 seconds to Verstappen in just five laps.
Like Norris, Hamilton also used the hard tires and was again 7.1 seconds behind Verstappen, who was 2.5 seconds behind Norris at this point.
Verstappen was now committed to a two-stop strategy, while Norris and Hamilton theoretically had the chance to make a one-stop.
High tire wear meant no one could think about it, but Mercedes stuck to their offset strategy and stopped Hamilton three laps later than Verstappen at the second stop, hoping he could catch Norris and Verstappen before the end.
It came to a fascinating climax: Hamilton started his final stint six seconds behind Norris and Verstappen a few seconds further ahead.
Hamilton complained that Mercedes had given him a lot of time to catch up, and in the end he was right – although he closed relatively quickly on Norris, Verstappen was just out of reach.
Hamilton closed in and was two seconds behind Verstappen on the final lap, an advantage the three-time champion would never lose.
Mercede stumbled at the pace Hamilton was showing and, with the benefit of hindsight, realized they could potentially have won the race if they had kept Verstappen behind them during the first few pit stops rather than opting for the offset strategy .
The downside, however, was that Hamilton was encouraged by the speed of his car, which featured the last major upgrade of the season.
However, the later disqualification made these considerations obsolete, although the team was still convinced that they had taken a step forward with the car.
Source : www.bbc.co.uk