An exciting start to the sprint race at the Circuit of the Americas ensured that Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton immediately moved up to second place. It was caused by a fierce battle between Max Verstappen and Charles Leclerc to see who would go through Turn 1 first. After the start, Verstappen immediately pulled completely to the left in an attempt to lock down and keep Ferrari’s Monegasque at bay. His defensive action was perhaps fueled by the statistics in Austin. In the last five Grands Prix, four times the person who started from second place was the first through the first corner.
But not this time, after which a trapped Leclerc was overtaken by Hamilton. The seven-time world champion from Mercedes quickly showed that he not only intended to take advantage, but also to attack. He promptly managed to stay within DRS distance of Verstappen for a few laps. And once the Dutchman had shaken him off, he quickly came up with an excuse. “Max has gone out of line quite often,” he clicked over the on-board radio.
Watch the replay of the start:
That message sounded mainly desperation, because in the end Hamilton simply could not keep up with his rival. Verstappen easily drove to victory in the sprint race and still had a lead of more than nine seconds at the finish. He thus sent a signal towards the upcoming main race. Because the speed of the Red Bull is fine. Sergio Pérez also showed this. The Mexican, who had a disappointing qualifying and a mediocre ‘Sprint Shootout’, managed to move up a few more places in the sprint race. But he never came close to the podium, he finished fifth.
That top 3 remained, in a race without major incidents, as it was after the first corner. With Leclerc in third place behind Verstappen and Hamilton. As a result, the Mercedes appears to be somewhat stronger than the Ferrari and the McLaren at the Circuit of the Americas. Which would mean that Hamilton could also become Verstappen’s main challenger during the main race.
Only the Dutch will then have to pass the British instead of the other way around. He will have a lot of confidence that he will succeed, because he said he completed the sprint race the way he did ‘simply lovely’.
The post first appeared on www.parool.nl