Schumacher DRS helped Verstappen win in Austin
By Mat Coch
Monday 25th October, 2021 - 1:51pm
A DRS slipstream off Mick Schumacher as he began the final lap of the Formula 1 United States Grand Prix helped Max Verstappen to victory.
Verstappen was desperately trying to fend off Lewis Hamilton in the closing stages of the race, the Red Bull driver at an eight-lap tyre disadvantage to his rival.
Separated by little more than a second for much of the final five laps, the presence of Schumacher’s Haas initially looked to have hurt the Dutchman’s hopes.
However, with Hamilton just outside of DRS range at the detection point, it instead afforded Verstappen an advantage as they entered the final tour.
“The last two laps were definitely difficult on the tyres, there wasn’t much grip left,” the Dutchman said.
“But, then with two laps to go, I had the Haas in front of me and I was able to benefit from the DRS, so we managed to hang on in the end.”
Hamilton had gained the upper hand at the start of the race, stealing the lead away at the first corner and heading the field throughout the opening stint.
It prompted Red Bull to change tact with Verstappen, adopting an aggressive pit strategy that saw the championship leader in for the first time on Lap 10.
He was then back in the lane 19 laps later, leaving him a long 26-lap stint to the flag.
Hamilton remained fixed on a more traditional two-stop approach, stopping for the final time on lap 37.
Though losing track position with his final stop, the Mercedes driver enjoyed a sizeable tyre advantage which saw him quickly reel in Verstappen out front.
Ultimately, he fell just 1.3s down, the Red Bull driver having managed his final stint in the anticipation of a late Hamilton charge.
“It was an exciting race and it feels incredible to win here in front of all the fans,” Verstappen said.
“The pressure was on for the whole race and not knowing how quickly Lewis would catch up.
“I actually thought I had a decent start, but Lewis had an even better one.
“So we went for an aggressive strategy after losing the lead into Turn 1 and we pitted early in the first stint.
“Then for the middle stint we were in that undercut range, so we had to respond and we went for track position which made the last stint very long, especially in this heat.”
Hamilton did, however, pick up the bonus point for fastest lap, meaning Verstappen holds a 12-point advantage with five rounds remaining.
The next of those is the Mexico City Grand Prix on November 5-7, an event Hamilton won in 2019 but has typically been regarded as a Red Bull stronghold.