By Alan Baldwin
(Reuters) -Red Bull’s Max Verstappen won the U.S.Grand Prix and doubled his Formula One championship lead to 12 points after holding off title rival Lewis Hamilton by little more than a second at Austin’s Circuit of the Americas on Sunday.
Mercedes’ seven-times world champion Hamilton staged a late charge on fresher tyres but ended up 1.333 seconds behind, with a bonus point for fastest lap.
Red Bull’s Mexican Sergio Perez finished a parched third, due to a malfunctioning water bottle, in front of a crowd of 140,000.
“I think I’ve aged about 25 years in that race,” said relieved Red Bull team boss Christian Horner. “I really didn’t think we were going to hang on.”
The win was Verstappen’s eighth of the season and one he had to sweat for, the Dutch driver starting out on pole position but losing the lead into the first corner and then using an aggressive strategy to get it back.
Hamilton was quickest off the lights, squeezing through on the inside at turn one as Verstappen tried to close the door but then had to run wide, with plenty of overtaking going on in their wake.
The pair pulled away from the field, with Perez unable to stay with them and Verstappen chafing over the radio that he had more pace.
The Dutch driver was first to pit on lap 11, as Red Bull went for the ‘undercut’ — a strategic move to close the gap and get back in front when Hamilton pitted three laps later.
“Of course we lost out in the start so we had to try and do something else. The tyre wear is quite high around this track, we went aggressive and I was not sure it was going to work but the last few laps were fun,” said Verstappen.
“A bit sideways through the high-speed corners but super happy to hang on.”
Verstappen made his second stop on lap 30 to hand Hamilton the lead again.
The Mercedes driver was told it was now “target plus six” and stayed out for another seven laps before pitting again and slotting in 8.58 seconds behind Verstappen with 18 laps to go but on fresher tyres.
“It’s all about the last three laps,” Hamilton was told over the radio but while he closed the gap to under a second, he could not get close enough to attempt a move.
“It was such a tough race. I got a good start, gave it absolutely everything but at the end of the day, they just had the upper hand this weekend and we couldn’t really have asked for more,” said the Briton.
Charles Leclcerc was fourth for Ferrari, with Australian Daniel Ricciardo fifth for McLaren and Hamilton’s team mate Valtteri Bottas sixth.
Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz was seventh, followed by McLaren’s Lando Norris, AlphaTauri’s Yuki Tsunoda and Aston Martin’s Sebastian Vettel.
AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly and Alpine’s Esteban Ocon both retired with mechanical issues on a hot Texan afternoon while Alpine Fernando Alonso stopped in the pits with a rear wing issue five laps from the end.
The next race is in Mexico City on Nov. 7.
(Reporting by Alan Baldwin in London, editing by Christian Radnedge and Pritha Sarkar)Internet Explorer Channel Network