Here is our full text transcript from the 2023 Formula 1 United States Grand Prix at the Circuit of the Americas in Austin:
Welcome back to Austin for the 2023 United States Grand Prix. After all the Sprint action yesterday, it’s finally Race Day and we have a fascinating grid. Qualifying on Friday saw Max Verstappen’s second Q3 lap deleted, so he lost pole position and was demoted to sixth. Charles Leclerc will start on pole alongside Lando Norris on the front row and the McLaren driver will be desperate to get into the lead and make hay while the sun shines.
Lewis Hamilton starts third on row two with team-mate George Russell and the Mercedes may choose to split their drivers’ strategies. First though, they need to not trip over each other at Turn 1.
Given how Max Verstappen sprinted away in the 19-lap sprint last night to win by nearly 10 seconds, there’s certainly more than a lingering sense of inevitably about what might unfold over the 56-lap full race distance tonight.
But there is one big difference at least to start with compared to yesterday: Max starts with five cars in front of him, instead of none. Now, that hasn’t often made much of a difference to his victory prospects over the past couple of seasons either when it’s been like that – Max won from sixth on the grid in Belgium in July, and ninth on the grid back in Miami in May, for instance – but it still doesn’t make it as straightforward as it may otherwise be to at least begin with, whatever his race pace is.
Charles Leclerc speaking to Sky Sports F1 ahead of the United States GP:
“It’s going to be tight with Lando because first place doesn’t have a great amount of grip. At the same time we have always been quite strong with starts, so I’m crossing my fingers that it’s the same today and we can keep our first place after Turn 1. We had great place all weekend but. Having said that, yesterday we struggled a bit more on degradation. We think we can do some things to optimise it. It won’t be a miracle but it should go in the right direction. These small details can make a difference. So I really hope today we can see a better degradation. Also the strategy will have a big influence on today’s result. It’s quite clear what we have to do, so I’m hoping for a great result today.”
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Asked if he can win the race: “I’m going to go for it! Max is going to come strong sure. Lando was extremely fast yesterday, Lewis as well. It’s going to be tough but I’m going to do my best.”
The Aston Martins of Fernando Alonso and Lance Stroll, plus the Haas’ of Kevin Magnussen and Nico Hulkenberg will start in the pit lane after breaking parc ferme rules to make big changes to their cars. Both teams have brought upgrades to their cars this weekend but appear to not have improved, which is why changes have been made to trial a new setup in today’s race.
We may have three grands prix in the booming US market now – with Las Vegas to come next month – but the Circuit of the Americas was the event that put F1 back on the map in the country back in 2012 and remains a very popular and atmospheric event.
Tyre talk coming up. This could be key – Lando Norris has two sets of the hard tyres available whereas all of the other top runners have just one set of that compound. If the hard tyre proves to be the better race tyre, Norris will be in prime position to deny Verstappen victory. He will almost certainly go with the medium-hard-hard strategy, whereas the other leading drivers will go medium-hard-medium or medium-medium-hard. That’s unless a one-stop becomes viable if tyre wear is not as significant as Pirelli predict.
Strategy is going to be key today and all of the top runners are starting on the medium tyre. Only Nico Hulkenberg and Lance Stroll, starting from the pit lane, are on the hards. Nobody is on the softs.
Lights out and away we go! Lando Norris leads! He gets a better launch than Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz emerges in third ahead of Lewis Hamilton. Max Verstappen goes off at Turn 1 but is in fifth. He was forced wide due to Sainz attacking Hamilton and it got very very tight but contact was avoided.
Lap 2/56: This is exactly what Norris needs because he couldn’t afford to get stuck behind the Ferraris. Now he’s already two seconds ahead while Leclerc and Sainz might hold up Hamilton and Verstappen. Definitely game on.
Lap 3/56: George Russell is the big loser from the leading drivers as he’s dropped to eighth and is under investigation for leaving the track and gaining an advantage.
Lap 4/56: Lewis Hamilton is all over the back of Sainz through the first sector and overtakes him into Turn 12. That was crucial. Hamilton is already four seconds behind race leader Norris and will now set about going after Charles Leclerc in second.
Lap 5/56: The world champion starting to make his move? It was easy enough to take fourth place away from Carlos Sainz there. He’s now got 1.9s to catch up to Lewis Hamilton, who currently has sights set on the other Ferrari of Leclerc in second. Norris leads by 3.2 seconds! Lap 6/56: Lewis Hamilton outbrakes Charles Leclerc into Turn 12 and makes a great move into the hairpin. Martin Brundle says it looks like the Ferraris know their fight is not with Hamilton and Verstappen today. Hamilton is three seconds behind Norris.
Lap 10/56: Verstappen has been within Leclerc’s DRS range for a couple laps but can’t get past at the moment. He seems to be losing out in the slow speed corners and just isn’t close enough to the Ferrari driver on the back straight. Lap 11/56: The other car involved in that first-lap clash, Oscar Piastri, has been instructed to slowly bring his car back to the pits to retire several laps after Esteban Ocon. Two weeks after his stellar showing in Qatar, it’s been a tougher weekend for the Australian rookie. But McLaren still have rather a lot of interest in this race with Lando leading by 2.8 seconds!
Lap 12/56: Verstappen has to fight hard to get by Leclerc but he does it by going around the outside at Turn 13. He went for it at Turn 12, only for Leclerc to hold his own, so he was forced to dance his way around Leclerc. The pair made brief wheel to wheel contact at Turn 12 as they got the fans on their feet.
Lap 13/56: The seven-time champion is certainly not letting the McLaren of race leader Lando Norris get too far out of reach. A new fastest lap of 1:41.8 will certainly help Lewis’ cause, a tenth quicker than Norris that time around. 2.6s is the gap. Verstappen is 4.8s behind Hamilton and not lapping faster than the Mercedes or leading McLaren so far since moving into clean air.
Lap 15/56: Hamilton is now within two seconds of Norris as we come towards the end of this first stint. McLaren must be weary of the undercut threat here.
Lap 17/56: Well, we didn’t expect that. Verstappen puts on the mediums and comes out in ninth place. He’s going for the undercut and Mercedes should respond here with Hamilton. Perhaps McLaren too with Norris. Lewis Hamilton doesn’t come into the pits, so he’s going longer and Red Bull think he could be on a one-stop. Hamilton is asked if he can do another five laps. He says: “I’m not sure. It’s tough”.
Lap 20/56: Hamilton is told Verstappen is in his pit window and that he’s struggling. But he now comes into the pits and comes out behind Verstappen in fifth. This has not worked out for Mercedes at all. Hamilton will surely not be happy about that.
Lap 24/56: Charles Leclerc seem to be committed to a one-stop strategy. And the Monegasque does come into the pits for the hard tyres. He comes out in sixth, three seconds behind Perez and could go to the end from here without pitting. This is fascinating.
Lap 26/56: It’s Norris versus Verstappen for the win here we think. Norris leads by one second from Verstappen and is currently on the hards, whereas the latter is on the mediums. Verstappen must run the hard tyres for his second and final stint, whereas Norris has the option of a new hard or a used medium. Hamilton is another seven seconds down the road on the hards and probably out of the running for victory today. Leclerc is almost certainly on a one-stop in sixth place, having only pitted a few laps ago. He’s got Sainz and Perez just ahead of him.
Lap 28/56: Max Verstappen takes the lead of the United States GP. He dives down the inside at Turn 12, catching Norris by surprise. Norris tries to duck underneath and get a better run into Turn 13 but can’t hold it around the outside.
Lap 31/56: Norris is pushing on though and is still within a second of Verstappen. On paper, the hard tyres should have similar or faster pace at this point in the stint than the mediums.
Norris’ tyres are really starting to hurt as he drops out of DRS range now. Running in that dirty air and sliding in the corners has overheated his tyres as he’s now nearly two seconds behind Verstappen. Hamilton is four seconds adrift of Norris and says the wind is very strong.
Lap 35/56: Well, that might well be a change of plan from what they were planning earlier. Lando Norris pits for the second time, dropping out of second for now, and takes on his second set of new hard tyres. He rejoins in sixth place. What will Red Bull and Mercedes do now? And Red Bull respond as expected. Verstappen pits but it’s a slightly slow stop, one second slower than Norris. But, Verstappen still comes out ahead of the McLaren driver by 1.5 seconds. Hamilton inherits the lead.
Lap 38/56: He had inherited second position by running long but Sergio Perez has now also pitted again in the second Red Bull. He rejoins in seventh place behind George Russell, who has just been passed by Carlos Sainz. Verstappen is on the back of Leclerc, who could be going to the end. Meanwhile, Sainz overtakes Russell for fifth place further back.
As Hamilton pits, Max Verstappen moves back into the lead for real after easily passing the long-running Charles Leclerc for the second time today. Lando Norris soon follows through too on the Ferrari to retake second position. Verstappen is back in the lead but is ONLY 1.2s in front of Norris with 16 laps to go! Norris dives down the inside of Leclerc at Turn 12 to take second place. The McLaren driver is only one second behind Verstappen.
Lap 43/56: The Mercedes is on the Ferrari’s gearbox with DRS and gets the move down on the long run down to Turn 12. He needed to do that as quickly as possible, which he has managed. So it’s back into third for Hamilton? Can he catch the top two on his quicker tyres, while keeping them in good condition? Hamilton is 3.7s behind Norris.
Lap 49/56: The fight continues through the final sector and on the main straight. Norris jinks hard to the left to defend but goes deep and Hamilton ducks underneath to take second place. The gap for Hamilton to close to Verstappen is five seconds. Mercedes tell him Verstappen is nursing a brake issue.
Lap 52/56: Fernando Alonso is wheeled into the garage with an issue. He was on course for a point or two but is joins Oscar Piastri and Esteban Ocon on the list of retirees.
Lap 52/56: Sainz is ahead of Leclerc which shows the two-stop way is the right to go. The Spaniard rocked up to the back of his team-mate and breezed by, now pulling away from a frustrated Leclerc.
Lap 53/56: And Perez does overtake Charles at Turn 1. Perez cuts back at the hairpin and gets a much better run to take fifth place.
Final lap: Hamilton is 1.5 seconds behind but Verstappen only has a few corners to go. Chequered Flag: Max Verstappen does indeed just hold on and he claims his 50th career victory and record-equalling 15th in a single season. But just how close was that at the end!? A charging Lewis Hamilton finishes second after a mighty fine drive, just 2s behind. Lando Norris is third after his hopes of a maiden victory faded from mid-distance. Carlos Sainz is fourth, while Charles Leclerc drops to P6, having started from pole. Terrible strategy. He deserved better.