Here is the full text transcript from the United States Grand Prix sprint race at the Circuit of the Americas in Austin:
Good evening! Yes, yes, we know it’s late on a Saturday night for those of you in the UK and Ireland following with us on Sky Sports F1, but we think you’re really going to be rewarded tonight with the action at the Circuit of the Americas
We’re just under an hour away now from the Sprint race we’ve been building to since the Sprint Shootout earlier, when we’ll get 19 laps of flat-out racing around an Austin track that certainly rarely disappoints when F1 cars and drivers go wheel-to-wheel.
And everything we have seen so far through one practice session and the two different qualifying sessions certainly points to a very exciting evening of racing. Why so? Well, just 0.101s covered the top four in the earlier Sprint Shootout around a lap of 95 seconds and that has given us this rather mouth-watering top quartet for the Sprint grid:
1. Verstappen – Red Bull
2. Leclerc – Ferrari
3. Hamilton – Mercedes
4. Norris – McLaren
Pit lane back open at COTA
That means one thing: we’ve got 30 minutes to go until the formation lap of the Sprint. The drivers are starting to roll out of the pit lane and onto the track to complete their reconnaissance laps to the grid. As has been the case all weekend – the weather in Austin is sunny and rather warm.
The Sprint is a simple 100km race (or 19 laps tonight) with no mandatory pit stops. The top eight drivers score championship points (8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1) and the result has no influence on tomorrow’s Grand Prix – the grid for that was decided in qualifying yesterday.
Charles Leclerc has stated he will “do everything” to pass Max Verstappen into Turn 1. It wouldn’t be a big surprise if it happened because the second-place driver has often led after the first corner since the Circuit of The Americas joined the F1 calendar in 2012. Given some of the battles between Charles Leclerc and Max Verstappen in the past, this is a start you must not miss. Watch out for Lewis Hamilton and Lando Norris on row two as well – four different teams in the top four.
As expected, nearly everyone is on the medium tyres for this 19-lap Sprint. Carlos Sainz is the outlier as he’s on the softs, so should get a good launch off the line but could be vulnerable towards the end of the race.
It’s lights out and away we go for the Sprint! Max Verstappen aggressively chops off Charles Leclerc on the run down to Turn 1 and Lewis Hamilton benefits as he takes second place from the Ferrari driver! Lando Norris is fourth and Carlos Sainz is fifth. But, Carlos Sainz dives down the inside later in the lap at Turn 12 to take fourth. Nice move from the Ferrari on the inside of the lead McLaren halfway around the first lap.
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Lap 2/19: Is it 2021? Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton are flying away from the rest of the field, with just one second separating the rivals. George Russell made light work of making up the three places of lost ground from his grid penalty. So he runs eighth again, behind Perez who is right behind Piastri.
Lap 3/19: Wow, what a battle between Perez and Piastri. They went wheel to wheel on the previous lap and Perez goes around the outside at Turn 12, only for Piastri to keep his sixth place. But, Perez ducks underneath and moves across on the run to Turn 13 and takes the position.
Lap 6/19: Max Verstappen says the drivability of his car is “not there” and he’s completely losing the rear. His engineer Gianpiero Lambiase replies it “could have been the gust of wind”. Gap out in front is still one second.
5-second time penalty for Russell. That’s for overtaking Oscar Piastri a few laps ago with all four wheels off the track. Russell suggested the McLaren had run him out of road, but the stewards weren’t having that and so have imposed a 5s sanction. With no pit stops mandated in a Sprint, the time will be added at the end of the race. So Russell will need to be five seconds or more ahead of the car behind him to not lose any positions – currently he’s only 2s ahead of Gasly in eighth.
Lap 7/19: The soft tyres on Carlos Sainz’s car are starting to struggle as Norris dives to the inside at Turn 12 and Turn 13 but can’t quite get through. Sainz needs to keep Norris behind for as long as he can to help team-mate Charles Leclerc, who is another second down the road. Sergio Perez is about to join the battle for good measure.
Lap 9/19: We are at half race distance now and Verstappen is just increasing his margin over Hamilton slowly. It seems like Hamilton went for it early on but the dirty air from Verstappen meant he couldn’t quite get close enough to mount a proper attack. Alternatively, Hamilton is just saving his tyres a little to go for it again in a few laps time.
Lap 13/19: It’s going to be very difficult for Hamilton now as Verstappen’s pace is more consistent and he pulls out a lead of four seconds. Hamilton himself is four seconds ahead of Leclerc, with Norris a further six seconds behind.
Lap 14/19: And Russell dives down the inside at Turn 1 but Sainz cuts back and retakes sixth place. Great racing from both drivers.
Lap 15/19: Approaching the end of this quick-fire Sprint and Max Verstappen is headed for the third win in this Saturday format this season. Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes definitely doesn’t have an answer now but he’s as far ahead of Leclerc as Verstappen is of him.
Lap 17/19: So it’s Verstappen leading by five seconds from Hamilton. Leclerc is another five seconds behind and Norris…is also five seconds adrift. Perez is three seconds away from Norris, so the top five are unlikely to change positions. Then comes the battle between Sainz and Russell. The straight line speed of the Mercedes is not strong, which is keeping Sainz ahead of Russell. Pierre Gasly is running in eighth from Alex Albon and Oscar Piastri.
Chequered Flag: That’s job done – yet again – for Max Verstappen with the first ‘win’ of the US GP weekend. Lewis Hamilton finishes second, eventually nearly 10s back on the Red Bull after the Mercedes’ early flourish failed to yield a race-long challenge. But second still a decent result for Merc. It’s third for Charles Leclerc – but check out Lando Norris, he crosses the line right on the Ferrari’s tail in fourth having been over 6s behind at one point.
Remember, Leclerc-Norris-Hamilton is the 1-2-3 at the head of the grid tomorrow.