Max Verstappen equals single-season win record at US Grand Prix on emotional weekend for Red Bull
Max Verstappen fought back after pit-stop drama to win the US Grand Prix on Sunday, handing Red Bull the constructors’ championship on an emotional weekend for the team.
The Dutchman’s victory came just one day after it was announced that owner and co-founder of Red Bull, Dietrich Mateschitz, had died aged 78.
As well as turning his energy drink into a market leader, the Austrian billionaire founded the racing team which has gone on to dominate the sport in recent years.
“That one was for Dietrich,” Verstappen said after racing over the finish line in front.
The 25-year-old wrapped up the drivers’ title with relative ease in Japan two weeks ago, but was made to work for his win in Austin, Texas, which leveled the record for number of race wins in a season, a record he now shares with Michael Schumacher and Sebastian Vettel with 13.
Verstappen had started second on the grid behind Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz but raced ahead after a slow start from the Spaniard.
Things only got worse for Sainz after he spun out after contact from George Russell on the first corner, eventually having to retire from the race altogether.
Now in front, Verstappen looked in control but his lead disappeared altogether after a botched pit-stop during the 36th lap of the 56-lap race.
The stop lasted over 11 seconds with Red Bull mechanics scrambling for a replacement wheel gun after Verstappen’s front left tire was not tightened sufficiently.
“Beautiful,” said Verstappen sarcastically, returning to the track in sixth and setting about regaining his position.
The world champion didn’t mess around and retook the lead with six laps to go as he used his car’s impressive handling and straight line speed to overtake familiar foe Lewis Hamilton.
“It was a tough one. I had to fight my way forward again. We gave it everything out there today,” he told reporters after the race.
Despite having won its first constructors’ championship since 2013, Red Bull team principal Christian Horner put celebrations on hold to honor the impact of Mateschitz.
“A very emotional moment, a big moment for the team and for everyone at Red Bull,” he told reporters. “A tribute to Dietrich for everything he has done for the team, for the company.”
It was a fittingly dramatic race for its Hollywood audience, with the likes of Brad Pitt watching on from the stands.
Two safety cars caused chaos to the standings, the second triggered by a high-speed crash between Lance Stroll and Fernando Alonso.
In a bid to stop Alonso overtaking, Stroll had moved in front of the Spaniard which sent the Alpine driver’s car rearing into the air.
It came crashing back down to the track and hit the barrier, but Alonso escaped injury and somehow continued racing to finish seventh.
Hamilton, who got so close to his first race win of the season, had to settle for second while Charles Leclerc took third.