Verstappen cruises to US Sprint win

Max Verstappen has eased to a lights-to-flag victory in the United States F1 Sprint. Image: XPB Images

Max Verstappen has eased to a lights-to-flag victory in the United States F1 Sprint. Image: XPB Images

Max Verstappen has eased to a lights-to-flag victory in the United States F1 Sprint.

Verstappen saw off Charles Leclerc at the start before heading Lewis Hamilton throughout the 19-lap encounter.

The Red Bull driver went on to deliver his third Sprint win of the year with Hamilton second and Leclerc third.

Piastri had a tough afternoon and slipped from fifth on the grid to finish outside the points.

Verstappen got the jump, sweeping immediately across the road to protect from Charles Leclerc in second.

That saw the Ferrari driver lose out to Lewis Hamilton who went the long way around the first corner to take the place.

Lando Norris slotted into fourth with Carlos Sainz slipping to fifth and Oscar Piastri holding sixth.

A slow start saw Daniel Ricciardo fall from 10th to 13th inside the opening lap, recovering one of those to cross the stripe 12th.

On soft tyres, the only driver to have opted for the red-walled rubber, Sainz put a move on Norris to take fourth place.

Meanwhile, Piastri was under the attentions of Perez, the Red Bull using DRS to attack into the hairpin at the end of the back straight.

The Mexican was forced to the outside and eventually ran out of road which saw him slot back in behind the Australian.

It was a frenetic opening as that then left the Red Bull driver exposed to the fast-started George Russell, who’d gained three places on the opening lap.

Perez tried again next time around, this time getting the move done as he cut back underneath the McLaren on exit of the left-hand hairpin.

Off balance, Piastri quickly fell victim to Russell to as he slipped from sixth to eighth in the space of two corners.

However, to complete the move the Mercedes driver went off track, a point which caught the eye of officials – picking up a five-second penalty as a result.

Piastri was struggling for pace as he soon fell behind Pierre Gasly, the Frenchman ambushing his rival under brakes at Turn 1 as they began Lap 5.

The McLaren driver had been in the thick of the action since the start, when Sainz clouted his left-front wheel.

Soon after, officials showed Piastri the black and white flag after he exceeded track limits.

His lack of pace was explained by tyre struggles as he overworked the Pirellis in the opening laps.

After 10 laps, the soft tyres on Sainz’s Ferrari starting to give up their advantage as he slipped back towards Perez after losing a spot to Norris.

Out front, Verstappen put in a commanding performance to ease clear of Hamilton, who endured a lonely race following the initial exchange.

It was a similar case for Leclerc in third, while Norris pulled clear of Perez behind, who found a way by the fading Sainz as his soft tyres cried enough.

The Spaniard dropped into the clutches of Russell, and while they battled for a time on track in reality the Englishman was working to salvage eighth place, and a championship point, given the time penalty looming over him.

Sainz then held on to sixth with Russell taking the flag in seventh but dropping behind Gasly to be classified eighth.

After his struggles midway through the Sprint, Piastri’s performance stabilised and he finished 10th, two spots up from countryman Ricciardo.

Lance Stroll was the sole retirement, the Aston Martin driver complaining of brake issues.

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