The United States Grand Prix was not short on drama, but in the end there was a familiar outcome to one of the most exciting races of the season.
Nothing has stopped Max Verstappen this season and not even a bungled pit stop was going to deny him a 13th victory of 2022 at the Circuit of the Americas, on an emotional weekend for the Red Bull team.
The death of the Red Bull team’s co-owner Dietrich Mateschitz before qualifying on Saturday meant there was a sombre mood in the paddock ahead of the race, which Verstappen was determined to win in honour of Mateschitz.
The 25-year-old delivered on his promise, in the process securing the constructors’ championship for Red Bull for the first time since 2013 and equalling Michael Schumacher and Sebastian Vettel’s shared record for most wins in a single season.
Verstappen is 4/7 to break that record next weekend with win number 14 at the Mexican Grand Prix but will hope for a far smoother road to victory than the one he was forced to take in Austin.
Verstappen had looked set to cruise to a second straight United States Grand Prix success before an 11-second pit stop allowed the rest of the grid to catch up, and in the case of Charles Leclerc and Lewis Hamilton, pass the Red Bull man.
Hamilton moved into the lead on lap 41 and for a while the seven-time world champion was able to contemplate his first win of the year.
However, the Red Bull, on medium tyres, eventually began to reel in a Mercedes on the slower, hard compound, catching at a second a lap to provide a thrilling conclusion.
Having snuck past Leclerc, Verstappen found himself on the tail of Hamilton and with six laps to go, moved back into the lead en route to claiming the chequered flag.
It was another demonstration of how far ahead of his rivals Verstappen’s Red Bull currently is, catching and passing a Ferrari and Mercedes with relative ease before powering clear to win by 5.023s.
With three races to go and Verstappen so dominant, Hamilton admits it will be very tough to maintain his record of winning at least one race a year since he became a Formula 1 driver in 2008.
While Hamilton was disappointed to miss out on the win having got so close to victory, he did take pride in finishing second in a car that has lost ground on Red Bull and Ferrari recently.
It was the Brit’s first podium in six races, maintaining his record of finishing in the top four in every race at the Circuit of the Americas, while team-mate George Russell was fifth after an eventful race in which has was penalised for a collision with Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz.
Sainz, who was starting from pole for the third time this season, was forced to retire as a result of the first corner coming together, much to the Spaniard’s annoyance.
It was another infuriating moment for the Scuderia in a season full of them with their car having been performing well all weekend.
Leclerc ably demonstrated how well suited to Texas the F1-75 is on Sunday when going from 12th on the grid to finishing third as he made it five straight podium finishes.
Leclerc was helped by two safety cars mid-race, the second of which was caused by a collision involving Aston Martin’s Lance Stroll and Fernando Alonso as the Alpine driver tried to pass his team-mate for next season.
A late move by Stroll, which was later deemed dangerous and saw him incur a three-place grid penalty for Mexico, bumped Alonso into the air at 180mph and into the barrier.
Despite extensive damage, the two-time world champion was able to carry on and drove superbly to move from last after the crash to take seventh.
The 41-year-old’s performance was to be in vain as a post-race appeal by Haas over Alonso’s car being too damaged and therefore dangerous to be on the track was upheld, resulting in a 30-second penalty for Alonso which relegated him to 15th.
But it was a drive that will have pleased Alonso’s future employers at Aston Martin, who look set to carry some momentum into 2023 with a solid end to the year.
Sebastian Vettel piloted his Aston to seventh having led the race at one point, making it the fourth top-10 finish in the last six races.
While there was plenty of on-track action for the fans in Austin to enjoy, for the sixth United States Grand Prix in a row there was no home driver to get behind.
However, that will all change next season with Williams confirming that Logan Sargeant will drive for the team in 2023, if he can earn his Super License.
The Florida-born racer drove for the Oxfordshire-based team in first practice on Friday having caught the eye with his performances in F2 and is now set to fill one of the last remaining spots on the grid for 2023.