Verstappen's Texan Triumph Turned Tale of Turbulence.
The stage: U.S. Grand Prix. The year is 2023, and the racing arena witnessed the 15th win of the season for Max Verstappen, marking the 50th jewel in his Formula One crown.
Verstappen fought his way from the sixth spot on the grid to seize victory. This win isn't just any ordinary triumph. It puts Max on the same podium as his own record for the most wins in a single season, with four races still to unfold.
One more first-place finish, and he'll be locking horns with the legendary Alain Prost for a spot on the all-time winners' list.
In the final laps of this Texan tango, a certain Lewis Hamilton had a trick or two up his sleeve. His strategic cunning carved a path that almost snatched victory from Verstappen's grasp. For a fleeting moment on that ultimate lap, the gap between the two was a mere 1.8 seconds. The checkered flag greeted Verstappen just 2.2 seconds ahead of Hamilton.
But, as the best stories go, this tale had its share of ups and downs. In a twist that nobody saw coming, Hamilton's Mercedes was found to violate F1's technical regulations. Can you imagine that? The seven-time world champion was stripped of his podium finish a mere four hours after the race concluded.
Now, if you were watching the race itself, you'd probably know that Mercedes seemed to have let their best shot at victory slip through their fingers. They dabbled with shifting Hamilton onto a one-stop strategy, only to revert to a two-stop as his tyre performance nosedived.
Meanwhile, Verstappen's ride wasn't all smooth sailing. He grappled with a brake issue that appeared well before the midpoint of the race. In the heat of the moment, he even uttered some colourful language over the team radio, calling his championship-winning Red Bull a "piece of s---." Can you blame him?
By the 12th lap, Verstappen had clawed his way up to third place, and a daring move on lap 28, at Turn 12, saw him snatch the lead from Lando Norris.
Ah, Lando, what a valiant effort he put up. He attempted to reclaim his position in Turn 13 but ended up soaring wide in the right-hander as Verstappen dug his heels in, defending his coveted lead.
Now, Verstappen's journey back to the front also involved a pit stop to pass Charles Leclerc. In a scenario that was pretty much a done deal, the Ferrari driver ventured into the realms of an unlikely one-stop strategy, leaving him with deteriorating tyres. It was a bold move, but not one that paid off in the end.
Sadly, history repeated itself when it came to rule-breaking. Just like Hamilton, Leclerc was also disqualified after the race for a similar offence. Why FIA?
With the disqualifications of Hamilton and Leclerc, the podium looked a bit different. Carlos Sainz, though uncelebratory, secured third place. Sergio Perez found himself promoted to fourth, and Hamilton's misfortune meant he gained points instead of losing them in the battle for second place in the drivers' championship.
And then there was George Russell, inheriting sixth in the other Mercedes, followed by Lance Stroll in seventh. Yuki Tsunoda, with the fastest lap in his pocket, claimed eighth place.