Formula 1 reporter
Formula 1 reporter
The two second lead over number two Lewis Hamilton (who later lost his position due to a punishment) looked narrow. And the lively conversations on the on-board radio underlined that Verstappen’s RB19 did not run smoothly in the American grand prix. No, that fiftieth grand prix victory was not a piece of cake.
The 26-year-old Red Bull Racing driver predicted it on Friday after qualifying, in which his fastest time was deleted due to exceeding track limits. “It will be hard work from sixth place on the grid to win this grand prix.”
Max Verstappen’s fiftieth victory appears in the statistics business-as-usual. After all, the world champion has been winning consistently in Formula 1 for two seasons in a row breaking news if Verstappen does not triumph for a change.
That gives the impression that it almost happens automatically, but at the Circuit of the Americas in Austin (Texas) there was indeed sand in the well-oiled machine.
The fact that Verstappen needed half the Grand Prix length to take the lead in the race was already a sign on the wall. On Saturday he dominated from start to finish in the sprint race and the RB19 drove “great”, according to Verstappen, but 24 hours later things went a lot less well. The cause: fickle brakes.
Watch the reactions from team bosses Christian Horner (Red Bull), Zak Brown (McLaren) and driver Oscar Piasti (McLaren) below:
“It was not comfortable for a moment. I had to be constantly on my guard and adjust. The car felt a lot less than in the sprint,” says Verstappen after the grand prix. “Could I have lost this race? It’s hard to say, but once I got the lead, the gap was just big enough. I was hoping for a little more speed.”
How can an F1 car function flawlessly on Saturday and suddenly become a nuisance on Sunday? Verstappen himself is also looking for the answer. “We have to look at that thoroughly. I had braking problems the entire race. That almost never happens to us. They were constantly blocking and you ruin your tires.”
That things were not going well on board was heard loud and clear for everyone, when Verstappen hot-tempered his strategist Gianpiero Lambiase over the on-board radio. It sounded solid, but Verstappen saw it differently after the flag dropped. “I kindly asked my engineer not to talk to me while braking. Kindly, yes. Because I have please said.”
Norris and Hamilton are no match
Despite his faltering brakes, Verstappen only had two real opponents in the grand prix: Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) and Lando Norris (McLaren).
Norris led the way in Texas until halfway through the race, but was no match in the second half. “My tires had a hard time. I owe my podium to my good start. Otherwise it would have been a difficult story. As a race leader you can set the pace and manage the wear of your tires better.” Norris is happy with his podium finish. “There was nothing more than this.”
Seven-time champion Lewis Hamilton got out cheerfully, although he would later hear that the plank under his car had suffered more wear than allowed.
“This was the most positive race weekend of the year. Things are going in the right direction. I can finally really throw the car into the corner again.” According to the 38-year-old Briton, there was even more to it. “Could I have won this race? Yes, I think so. If we had been a little stricter with the pit stops. I lost a lot of time with that.”
Hamilton focuses on the bright spots. “I am happy with the fresh upgrade of the car. It felt good from the first training. That has not happened to me often this season.”
Verstappen’s fiftieth was a relatively difficult delivery, but the Red Bull driver achieved a double milestone in one fell swoop. America also marked its fifteenth victory of the season. Verstappen equals himself in this. He has plenty of opportunities in Mexico, Brazil, Las Vegas and Abu Dhabi to improve on the 2022 record.
It will come as no surprise that Verstappen once again wastes few words on those statistics. “Of course it’s a good number. I’ll try to win a few more,” he says emotionlessly.
His words are drowned out by loud boos. The large numbers of Mexican fans present would prefer to see another winner, but the apple of their eye Sergio Pérez has been hopelessly out of shape for months.
Pérez’s mediocre performance gives Verstappen’s performance extra shine, says Formula 1 legend Mario Andretti. The 83-year-old American (world champion in 1978) was beaming at the podium ceremony. “It’s unprecedented what that boy has achieved. Only 26 years old, and already so good and so stable. I really enjoy his car control. You can see from his teammate that it’s not just the car.”
Verstappen already passed Ayrton Senna on the victory list this year and can overtake Alain Prost (51) and Sebastian Vettel (53) in the remaining races. Andretti is already thinking further.
“The gap to Michael Schumacher’s 91 and Lewis Hamilton’s 103 seems large, but he will also have that in a few years. For sure. The only question is: how long will it take him? But Max can last at least another ten years. He’s going to drive everyone off the books.”
The post first appeared on nos.nl