Find out about all the big stories in Equation One. Register here To receive the Prime Tire newsletter in your inbox every Tuesday and Friday morning.
AUSTIN, TX – Max Verstappen’s victory in 2023 may seem like another example of Formula One sticking to the same old script, but Sunday’s United States Grand Prix was anything but predictable.
The four-team battle for pole followed a three-team battle on Sunday after brake problems prevented Verstappen from repeating his horror race win. Lewis Hamilton and Lando Norris both looked like real contenders for victory, leading the field and putting Verstappen under serious pressure.
Between track limit violations, post-race qualifying failures and eventual disqualification for Hamilton and Charles Leclerc, it was a weekend where millimeter and moment mistakes were costly – and led to a shaky final classification.
Here’s our roundup of the top 10 drivers from the United States Grand Prix weekend. (Start and finish positions are from Sunday’s GP.)
1. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes)
Hamilton’s disqualification in Austin should take nothing away from his and Mercedes’ strongest weekend of the season.
Hamilton felt the improved surface of the Mercedes W14 improved from the first round in practice last Friday, giving him the extra confidence he has lacked this year. It was just one-tenth of a second off Leclerc’s pole lap on Friday, but Hamilton was more than alive in Sunday’s race and in both races.
If a couple of factors had gone the right way, such as saving track space from Verstappen at the first stop or not losing so much time in traffic, Hamilton could well have won in Austin. It would have made his failure all the more painful in the end, but Hamilton and Mercedes should still be encouraged by their performances throughout the weekend.
Unqualified but energetic: Hamilton and Mercedes take hope from US GP.
2. Max Verstappen (Red Bull)
The US GP may have marked another Verstappen win (making it 15 of the year and 50 of his career) but it wasn’t the cleanest weekend of racing.
He crossed the track limit en route to securing a temporary pole position on Friday, which was later canceled and he was set to start P6 come Sunday. And while Verstappen secured pole position for the sprint race, he spun at turn 9 during SQ2 but avoided damaging his car.
The sprint victory looked like a breeze, but the Grand Prix win was a bit more complicated, even with a back-to-back start. “At the beginning I tried to be patient, but at the same time, following for a long time, I hurt my tires a little,” said Verstappen, who struggled with the brakes throughout the Grand Prix. “That was a big factor, because I really didn’t have a lot of confidence to be consistent in braking.”
3. Lando Norris (McLaren)
After spending the US GP weekend playing down his chances of fighting at the front, Norris continued his recent strong form with a fourth consecutive podium.
Norris was confident the McLaren car’s slow pace weakness would hurt his team at COTA, only for him to finish second on Friday and narrowly miss out on the podium in the sprint race. A brutal start on Sunday saw him take an early lead, where he managed to keep things under control and match the pace of both Hamilton and Verstappen in the opener.
As the tires fell, McLaren struggled even more, with Norris unable to maintain the race until the end, dropping him to third (and congested after Hamilton’s disqualification). But it was still a weekend where he rose to the occasion. If this is one of McLaren’s ‘weaker’ tracks, then there will be many more opportunities.
4. Charles Leclerc (Ferrari)
Leclerc may have been ruled out, but as we wrote for Hamilton, it shouldn’t take away from a strong weekend leading up to the Grand Prix.
The Ferrari driver focused on the first sprint, lined up P2 and tried to challenge Verstappen heading into the first corner, but was out of action. A second battle with Hamilton ensued and Leclerc lost. As for the Grand Prix, he secured a pole position for Sunday’s race, but Norris beat him early on. The one-stop strategy proved to be the wrong call as Leclerc began to fall behind, despite his pace and speed from team-mate Carlos Sainz.
“Given our numbers, it was the right thing to do once, but unfortunately, it was definitely the wrong thing to do,” Leclerc said. “For some reason, there was something wrong with our numbers today because we were so far away from the best running strategy.”
5. Pierre Gasly (Alpine)
The US Grand Prix weekend was one of Gasly’s cleanest weekends this season, and he brought home 10 points for Alpine in the process.
The Frenchman could only qualify for the sprint P10, but that was due to a lack of fresh soft tyres. Starting the ninth, he scored two points, quickly passing Alex Albon and later Oscar Piastre. On Sunday, Gasly lined up on the grid in P7 but fell back a few places at the start. But he fought his way back and produced a clean weekend with a strong result for Alpine.
6. Carlos Sanz (Ferrari)
Sainz’s third podium in five races could spoil his form in Austin, as he was certainly the slower of the two Ferrari drivers on the weekend. Sainz wasn’t completely comfortable preparing for the car, the result of an hour of practice on Friday, but he still produced a clean weekend.
Even the fourth fastest car at COTA, Sainz put up a good fight, especially in the opening stages against Hamilton. A two-stop strategy gave one-stop Leclerc a last-ditch advantage, making the decision to swap cars in a straight and logical manner as he crashed through the cage.
Norris couldn’t make it to the final, despite Sainz enjoying the radio, but a fourth checkered flag and third in the final category was just reward for a consistent and well-executed race.
7. Alex Albon (Williams)
Williams didn’t expect a particularly strong weekend, but Albon managed to consolidate his team’s dominance in P7 in the Constructors’ Championship.
After a Q1 exit in Friday’s qualifying, Albon headed into SQ3 on Saturday and broke the points margin to finish just 0.3 seconds behind the penalized George Russell in P8.
Albon didn’t quite have the pace to compete against the faster Aston Martins and AlfaTauris, but when the likes of Daniel Ricciardo and Fernando Alonso struggled, he was there to pick up the pieces.
The time penalty for passing the tracks was frustrating, with the stewards delaying the infringement and then passing on the penalty, but in the end it cost him nothing. The P10 on the road has become a P8 after the crashes, adding to the year Albo has been putting in a quietly impressive run.
8. Yuki Shunoda (Alphatori)
The race weekend started for Tsunoda after he missed out on Q3 and qualified P11 for the Grand Prix and P19 for the Sprint race. However, the competition proved to be stronger than the qualification.
Sundoda came off a P14 finish on Saturday, and come Sunday, he was in contention for the points. “In the end we got a bit lucky with Fernando[Alonso’s retirement]but we increased his performance because if we hadn’t driven there we wouldn’t have been able to benefit and get points,” he said in the team. “I had a heart attack when the team called me to the pits at first, because I thought there was a problem, but they told me we were going to set the fastest lap on the soft tyre,” he said.
Overall, the AlphaTauri driver made up for frustrating qualifying sessions with some standout races. He finished P10 but was promoted to eighth after a disqualification. The five points narrowed the gap between Haas and Alfatauri to just two points, with four grands prix and a sprint race left on the calendar.
9. Fernando Alonso (Aston Martin)
Start: Pit Lane
Alonso’s weekend is difficult to accurately assess. Aston Martin went in the wrong direction with setup on both cars on Friday, causing Alonso and Lance Stroll to retire in Q1. Alonso said there was little he could do in Saturday’s race, having dropped as low as 13th in the points.
Aston Martin took Alonso to the Qatar-spec car and launched it from the pit lane, allowing it to compare with the Stroll’s updated chassis, as well as tuning the chassis. It worked wonders for both drivers as they each filled the order.
Alonso would battle Gasly for eighth in the final season.
10. Logan Sergeant (Williams)
Sergeant was seen struggling with his car over the weekend as his team-mate Albon qualified second in P9 as he finished last for the Grand Prix and last for the Sprints. The rookie was the last of the cars to finish Saturday’s race, and while it didn’t crash like it did on previous weekends, it appeared to be disconnected.
It’s until Sunday.
Dave Robson, the team’s head of vehicle performance, said in the team summary: “All sprint races are difficult for novice drivers and this very technical track is one of the worst. Logan struggled on Friday but improved quickly over several laps and put in a very strong performance (Sunday).
Sargeant started P16 as both Aston Martin and Haas drivers had pit lane starts, and from there, he seemed to come alive as he finished the grid. The pace was strong, and he put together a clean drive – something crucial this season as next year’s seat is yet to be confirmed.
The 22-year-old had a strong start but after taking the sausage stand at Turn 1 he went into the anti-rock, which saw him lose a few places. He finished P12, but with his disqualification, Sargeant moved up to P10 and secured his first F1 point – becoming the first American to score in F1 since 1993.
F1 United States GP: Ask your questions for the post-race mailbag
(Lewis Hamilton Lead Image: CHANDAN KHANNA/AFP via Getty Images)