During the closing laps of the United States Grand Prix, Red Bull Racing was not reassured that Max Verstappen would take the win. The team feared that straggler Mick Schumacher would cost them the victory because he initially did not step aside.
In the closing stages of the United States Grand Prix, Max Verstappen came under pressure from Lewis Hamilton, who almost made up for an 8.5 second deficit on his newer tires. In the penultimate lap, the Red Bull Racing driver ran into straggler Mick Schumacher. The Haas driver did not immediately step aside for the leader, who therefore had to stay behind Schumacher for the entire third sector. The German only pulled over just before the last corner. Verstappen lost time as a result, but was then able to make a small gap with DRS again to Hamilton to eventually win the race.
However, the situation with Schumacher raised concerns on the pit wall at Red Bull that Hamilton could attack on the last lap, team boss Christian Horner said. “It is very difficult to include laggards in your strategy. We lost a lot of time behind Yuki [Tsunoda] and then Mick cost us quite a bit in the last laps. I thought it was going to cost us the win as he held Max up for the entire last sector,” said Horner. “But luckily we caught the DRS on the start-finish straight, which at least gave Max some extra breathing room towards Turn 1. However, it certainly added extra stress on the pit wall.”
Praise for Red Bull engineers
Verstappen’s victory at the Circuit of the Americas comes after two races in which Mercedes had the upper hand over Red Bull. Especially in Turkey, the German factory formation had a considerable margin to the competitor. The circuit near Austin was also known as one that suited Mercedes well and so there is relief at Red Bull that a victory has been pulled out of the fire. “I think we were behind on Friday and Mercedes drove with more power in VT1,” said Horner.
“We weren’t in a good window with the car, but I think the team of engineers did a great job this weekend to get into a much better window. Checo was there every session and I think this was one of his strongest weekends of the year for him. He almost took pole position, was on the podium and was competitive all weekend.”
Not a sensible word to say about the outcome of the title battle
The next two races, on the other hand, will take place on circuits that would fit well with the Red Bull car on paper. In Mexico and Brazil, Red Bull always comes out strong, but Horner does not expect his stable to distance himself from Mercedes for a while. “It has been so tight between the two teams this year that there is no reason to think it will be any different in the coming races. So we have to stay focused on every session. We have to look at it per session and also per race. There are still five races to go, 130 points to be earned from the drivers and significantly more from the constructors. We’ve narrowed the gap with Mercedes to 22.23 points and Max is 12 points ahead of the drivers, so both championships are too close to call. And there is still a lot to race.”