Senior Sports Journalist
Max Verstappen converts pole to victory to seal record third Sprint win of 2023 season; Lewis Hamilton beats Charles Leclerc to second after opening-lap overtake; watch the United States Grand Prix live on Sky Sports F1 and Main Event at 8pm on Sunday
Last Updated: 22/10/23 12:47am
Max Verstappen held off Lewis Hamilton’s early challenge to claim a record third Sprint victory of the season at the United States Grand Prix.
Red Bull’s Verstappen, who sealed his third successive drivers’ title at the previous round of the 2023 championship in Qatar, led the 19 laps from start to finish to become the first driver to win three Sprints in a season.
Hamilton was given the benefit of the doubt by the stewards after running off track as he overtook Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc on the opening lap, and applied early pressure to Verstappen in the early stages.
However, the Dutchman moved out of DRS range about a third of the way through the race and then opening up a nine-second gap, which suggests he will have a strong chance of sealing another victory in Sunday’s Grand Prix despite only starting sixth on the grid.
Leclerc, who will start on pole on Sunday, finished a further eight seconds back from Hamilton, suggesting Ferrari are in for a challenging afternoon.
After losing a place on the opening lap, Lando Norris regained his starting position of fourth and showed promising pace in the final stages to hint that he, along with Hamilton, are most likely to challenge Verstappen on Sunday, starting from second and third, respectively.
Verstappen’s team-mate Sergio Perez climbed from seventh on the grid to take fifth, but lost ground on Hamilton in the drivers’ standings as he attempts to hold onto second to seal Red Bull’s first ever one-two.
Carlos Sainz benefited from being the only driver to use soft tyres rather than the medium compound to jump two places at the start, but ultimately finished where he began in sixth.
Pierre Gasly took seventh for Alpine, while George Russell hung on to the final point for Mercedes after being given a five-second time penalty for going off track when passing McLaren’s Oscar Piastri.
United States GP Sprint Result
1) Max Verstappen, Red Bull (8 points)
2) Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes (7 points)
3) Charles Leclerc, Ferrari (6 points)
4) Lando Norris, McLaren (5 points)
5) Sergio Perez, Red Bull (4 points)
6) Carlos Sainz, Ferrari (3 points)
7) Pierre Gasly, Alpine (2 points)
8) George Russell, Mercedes (1 point)
9) Alex Albon, Williams
10) Oscar Piastri, McLaren
Sprint fizzles out after exciting start
There was plenty of mystery going into the Sprint after two hugely entertaining qualifying sessions in which Verstappen was pushed, and even beaten on Friday.
Verstappen had taken Sprint pole earlier on Saturday but Leclerc, Hamilton and Norris were all within just over a tenth of a second of his leading time.
It remained to be seen whether that tightness would translate to race – or at least shortened-race – pace, and the early signs were promising.
Leclerc attempted to pass Verstappen after getting a good run to the first corner, but in doing so left himself exposed to an attack from Hamilton, who was also fending off Norris.
While Verstappen held the lead, the sparring resulted in a reshuffle behind him, as both Leclerc and Norris fell backwards after failing with their attempted overtakes.
Hamilton’s Mercedes, which has been fitted with a significantly modified floor for as part of their final major upgrade package of the season, initially appeared to have pace to rival the class-leading Red Bull as he remained within a second during the opening six laps.
However, hope of an unlikely victory dissipated as Verstappen suddenly began to rapidly pull away for a comfortable victory.
“It (the start) was quite tight,” Verstappen said. “Luckily there was a lot of space going into Turn 1, so that helps.
“After that we could do our own race and control the pace a bit. Had a bit of fun at the end, pushing a bit more.
“The DRS with such big wings on this track, it’s quite powerful. Once I cleared the DRS we all settled in our own rhythm and I think the pace of our car was very good.”
Verstappen’s lead over Perez in the drivers standings grows to 213 points, while the 26-year-old will have the opportunity to equal his 2022 record of 15 victories in a season on Sunday, along with likely breaking the points total he set last year.
When to watch the US GP and F1 Academy finale live only on Sky Sports F1
Sunday October 22
- 3.30pm: F1 Academy Race Three
- 6.30pm: Grand Prix Sunday: US GP build-up
- 8pm: THE UNITED STATES GRAND PRIX (also on Sky Sports Main Event)
- 10pm: Chequered Flag: US GP reaction
- 11pm: Ted’s Notebook
Watch Formula 1 return to Texas for the United States Grand Prix on Sunday, with lights out at 8pm at Circuit of The Americas. Stream F1 on Sky Sports with NOW