Red Bull’s Max Verstappen clinched his 13th victory of the 2022 season at US Grand Prix, as his team claimed the constructors’ title for first time since 2013.
Verstappen made a clean start to leapfrog pole-sitter Carlos Sainz for lead and led the race throughout the opening two phrases despite two Safety Car periods following a spin for Valtteri Bottas then huge crash for Lance Stroll.
A slow front-left tyre change at his second pit-stop on Lap 36 looked to had ruined Verstappen’s race but he roared back to pass Lewis Hamilton on Lap 50 at Turn 12 for lead, and ultimately victory just one day after the death of Red Bull’s co-founder Dietrich Mateschitz.
Charles Leclers rounded out the podium in third after recovering from 12th on the grid ahead of Sergio Perez, but Sainz’s retirement on Lap 2 with a water leak meant that Red Bull secured their first constructors’ title since 2013.
George Russell recovered from an opening corner tangle with Sainz to finish fifth with the point for fastest lap ahead of Lando Norris, Fernando Alonso, Sebastian Vettel, Kevin Magnussen and Yuki Tsunoda.
A post-race investigation following a protest from Haas however found Alonso’s car to have been raced in an unsafe condition, with the Spaniard consequently handed a 30-second time penalty to drop him to 15th in classification.
Verstappen is already champion following his victory in Japan but Leclerc regained second place ahead of Perez, whilst Russell remains fourth in the driver standings ahead of Sainz and Hamilton.
Red Bull meanwhile wrapped up their first constructor title since 2013 after having outscored Ferrari by 22 points, having needed to avoid being outscored by the Scuderia by 19 points coming into this race whilst Mercedes reduced their deficit to Ferrari to 53 points in the fight for second.
Prior to the race start, several post-Qualifying penalties meant that Sainz and Verstappen shared the front row, as Leclerc took a ten-place grid penalty, which dropped him to 12th on the grid.
Perez, Fernando Alonso, Gunayu Zhou and Yuki Tsunoda meanwhile all received five-place grid penalties for various technical infringements, dropping them to 9th, 14th, 18th and 19th on the grid respectively.
Alpine’s Esteban Ocon meanwhile was ordered to start from the pit-lane following a change of power unit parts without approval of FIA Technical Delegate.
At lights out, Sainz made a slow getaway as Verstappen stormed away into the lead but got a wobbly exit out of the first corner, which sent the Spaniard sliding into the path of a helpless Russell who couldn’t avoid hitting Sainz’s Ferrari.
The damage however was enough to cause a water leak in Sainz’s radiator to end his race in the pits a lap later.
Up front, Verstappen proceeded to dominate Hamilton who tried to overcut the two-time champion by pitting on Lap 13 for hard tyres, only for Verstappen to cover him off a lap later as Leclerc stayed out and worked his way up to second.
The Safety Car however was deployed on Lap 18 after Valtteri Bottas lost the rear of his Alfa Romeo at Turn 19 and spun out into the outside barriers, with the race resuming at end of Lap 21.
Alonso though had other ideas on the restart as he mistimed a move on Stroll on the back straight towards Turn 12, with the right side of his front wing striking the Canadian’s rear-left tyre which launched Alonso airborne whilst Stroll spun out as drivers took evasive action to avoid flying debris.
Stewards post-race however adjudged Stroll to be at fault for the collision, due to a late reactionary move to block Alonso, and served the Canadian a three-place grid penalty for Mexico.
The Safety Car consequently was immediately deployed but Verstappen again comfortably led the restart unchallenged on Lap 26 as Magnussen passed Ocon at Turn 1 for 11th position.
Hamilton therefore opted to attempt the undercut again as he pitted at end of Lap 34 for fresh hard tyres but his gamble paid off, as Verstappen suffered a slow front-left change in his stop for the medium tyres a lap later which enabled Leclerc to leapfrog him.
Leclerc and Verstappen proceeded to scrap over a then net second place whilst Perez led up front until his own stop, which saw Vettel achieve his 3500th and 3501st laps in the lead of a Grand Prix until Hamilton passed him at Turn One on Lap 41.
Verstappen meanwhilee lunged up the inside of Leclerc at that same corner on Lap 39 only for the Monegasque to get the switchback out of the corner to repass the Dutchman, who ultimately overtook his rival into Turn 12 with a late braking move.
Once Vettel pitted on Lap 42., Verstappen launched a fierce charge on his quicker medium tyres to close down a 3.3 second deficit to Hamilton, as he managed to get within one second of the seven-time champion by Lap 50.
Verstappen’s faster tyre advantage meant that he was able to breeze past Hamilton into Turn 12 on Lap 50 to resume the lead, from which he scrambled away to clinch his 13th win of season (15 if include sprint race victories in Imola and Austria).
Hamilton ultimately settled for second ahead of Leclerc and Perez as the latter overcame a missing front end plate to finish fourth, which was enough for Red Bull to wrap up their first constructors’ title since 2013 and fifth overall.
Further down the order, Vettel recovered from a slow front-left tyre change at his second stop to snatch eighth on the final lap from Magnussen, who had at one point ran sixth on an one-stop strategy.
Post-race, Haas lodged formal protests against the legality of Perez and Alonso’s cars after losing a front end plate and wing mirror respectively during race, which failed to see both drivers served with black-and-orange flag for car damage.
Stewards dismissed the protest against Perez’s car but upheld their complaint about Alonso’s car which failed to meet Article 3.2 of F1 Sporting Regulations in terms of a car being driven ‘in a safe condition throughout a race,’ of which Alonso’s car was deemed unsafe.
Alpine responded to their decision by protesting Haas’ original protest as they insisted that the team had ‘acted fairly’ when they inspected the car upon Alonso’s pit stop, whilst iterating that the FIA had the right to show black-and-orange flag if so wished yet opted not do.
Further enforcing their point, Alpine pointed out the FIA Technical Delegate deemed the car to be legal and that Haas’ protest had been submitted 24 minutes after the deadline so should of been considered invalid, of which the stewards eventually overturned in a hearing prior to Mexico City GP.
Alonso consequently was given back his seventh-placed finish and six championship points, with everyone else who benefitted from his initial penalty bumped back down a position to their original classified finishing position.
F1 now heads to Mexico next weekend for the 2022 Mexico City GP, where Verstappen can make history for most wins in a single season if he claims a 14th race victory.
|1||Max Verstappen||Red Bull||56||1h 42m 11.687|
|2||Lewis Hamilton||Mercedes||56||+ 5.023|
|3||Charles Leclerc||Ferrari||56||+ 7.501|
|4||Sergio Perez||Red Bull||56||+ 8.293|
|5||George Russell||Mercedes||56||+ 44.815|
|6||Lando Norris||McLaren||56||+ 53.785|
|7||Fernando Alonso||Alpine||56||+ 55.078|
|8||Sebastian Vettel||Aston Martin||56||+ 65.354|
|9||Kevin Magnussen||Haas||56||+ 65.834|
|10||Yuki Tsunoda||AlphaTauri||56||+ 70.919|
|11||Esteban Ocon||Alpine||56||+ 72.875|
|12||Guanyu Zhou||Alfa Romeo||56||+ 76.164|
|13||Alex Albon||Williams||56||+ 80.057|
|14||Pierre Gasly||AlphaTauri||56||+ 81.763|
|15||Mick Schumacher||Haas||56||+ 84.490|
|16||Daniel Ricciardo||McLaren||56||+ 90.487|
|17||Nicholas Latifi||Williams||56||+ 103.588|
|RET||Lance Stroll||Aston Martin||21||Collision|
|RET||Valtteri Bottas||Alfa Romeo||16||Spin|
|RET||Carlos Sainz||Ferrari||1||Water leak|