F1 – United States GP – Sprint
Howdy, MiniFans! We’ve arrived in Texas, as all the cowboy hats and costumes so kindly remind us. Ricciardo is back, which means Lawson will return to his usual duties. Yet another sprint weekend awaits us on American soil as the grid will try to take victory away from Verstappen, aided by his unusual starting 6th place. However, the sprint shootout turned out better for the three-time world champion, who will start from first.
Every driver chose a medium tyre, save for Sainz, who went with a soft one instead. A pretty clean start led to a first fight between Verstappen and Leclerc, who almost went off on the inside of the straight trying to find the best surface, ended with Leclerc not only yielding to Verstappen, but also Hamilton, who had joined their duo thanks to their scuffle. Meanwhile, Sainz’s bet did pay off, as his higher grip helped him gain two positions in the first lap, settling behind his teammate. Behind them, both McLaren drivers fought between them, creating a small train behind them.
As Verstappen started to set his usual infernal pace, only Hamilton seemed to be able to follow him, not letting the Red Bull stray away and managing to stay in his DRS zone, whereas Ferrari’s one-lap pace didn’t translate into the race. Verstappen’s radio messages weren’t exactly cheery, complaining about the same issues he’s been talking about as of late, and an investigation on Russell for overtaking Piastri on the outside of the track ended with a five-second penalty for the British man.
Both McLarens were having two very different races. Norris was fiercly fighting Sainz for fourth, but Piastri was struggling massively, not managing to keep other cars behind him and losing positions, to the point of receiving a black and white flag warning for track limits not even halfway into the short race.
What had been helpful in the first couple of laps soon turned into a bit of a problem for Sainz. His soft tyres couldn’t keep up with the mediums and he lost positions to both Norris and Pérez. Russell was next on the list, but his five-second penalty would eventually help the Spaniard out, giving him a bit of a breather in case he got overtaken. He did fight the Mercedes when it made its way to him, in order not to help him out to open up enough of a gap so that the penalty wouldn’t matter, and giving his all, managed to keep him behind.
First and only retirement came courtesy of Stroll, who needed to box for safety reasons regarding his brakes, a reoccurring problem for Aston Martin during this weekend, as the team hoped Alonso wouldn’t suffer the same fate. Meanwhile, Verstappen comfortably cruised to the finish line, with no one being able to even slightly challenge his lead and a pace that promised a battle fought with blood, sweat and tears to repeat the result on Sunday.
An uncommon sight blessed the track during the sprint: Verstappen didn’t manage to shake Hamilton off in the first handful of laps, and Hamilton was almost continuously stuck in his DRS zone. However, the balloon soon popped and we went back to normal, with Verstappen upping the pace and flying off into the distance. The result provided by the sprint went according to plan, but tomorrow’s race will be one for the books, as the current world champion will not start from pole: Either Verstappen doesn’t win after proving his race pace was great in the sprint or he will stand on the top step of the podium and be the first winner from outside the front row.
MiniDrivers – F1
2023 United States GP