Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen

Red Bull driver Max Verstappen, right, of the Netherlands, and Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton, of Britain, bump bottles following the Formula One U.S. Grand Prix auto race at the Circuit of the Americas, Sunday, Oct. 24, in Austin, Texas.  Verstappen won the race and Hamilton finished second.

The popularity of Formula 1 racing has risen over the past decade, partially due to the increase in internet and television coverage. 

This year, the very popular Netflix series “Drive to Survive,” a behind-the-scenes look at F1 drivers and their racing teams, has exposed more and more fans to the excitement of F1 racing. They also catch an eye at the driver considered the best the sport has ever seen, Lewis Hamilton and his legend. 

Hamilton is the only Black driver to ever compete at the Formula 1 level, the pinnacle of open-wheel racing. The 36-year-old racing superstar has won more F1 races (100) than anyone in F1 history, passing the legendary Michael Schumacher for the lead. 

Hamilton is tied with Schumacher for the most Driver’s Championship titles (7) and is in an exciting battle with 24-year-old Dutch superstar Max Verstappen for the title this year. 

To see the battle up close, I traveled to the Aramco U.S. Grand Prix at the Circuit of the Americas (COTA) in Austin, Texas, for the Oct. 24 race as a guest of Red Bull Racing - Honda/Acura.

Fast-forward to 2021, with just five races left in the 2021 Formula 1 season, the outcome of the United States Grand Prix battle between reigning champ Hamilton (AMG-Petronas) and the talented youngster Max Verstappen (Red Bull/Honda) did not disappoint.

With Verstappen at the pole position (P1) and Red Bull’s Sergio Perez (P3) sandwiching Hamilton (P2), the strategy for Red Bull was clear. Do NOT allow Hamilton to pass at the start. 

Race start was a superb reflex show by Hamilton, who got the jump on Verstappen and bolted into the lead from P2 to P1. 

“Game on,” said the SkyWest TV race announcer. 

Verstappen then radioed in that his rear was sliding through turns. That, combined with turbulent air from Hamilton, meant the task of regaining the lead would be more difficult.

On lap 13, Hamilton pitted and came out behind Verstappen in P2, with Perez in P3. On lap 14, AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly broke a suspension component on the notoriously bumpy COTA track and limped back to the pits.

On lap 25, Verstappen radioed more traction issues to his team, while Hamilton continued his charge on tires three laps fresher.

On lap 29, Verstappen changed tires for the second time and logged a slow-for-Red Bull 2.8 second time. So the tally was Hamilton P1, Verstappen P2 and Perez P3; with Petronas’ Valtteri Bottas making up ground in P7. On lap 31, Sergio changed tires again and came out in P4. Lewis radioed into Petronas team strategist Toto Wolf regarding the strategy to the end: “Leave it to me bro,” on lap 33.

On lap 38, Hamilton hit the pits for a second time with a fast 2.4-second time, coming out in P2, so the charge to then race leader Verstappen was on.

On lap 39, Petronas radioed: “It’s all about the last three laps.” 

By lap four, the gap between Hamilton and Verstappen was just over six seconds as Hamilton set the race’s fastest lap. 

With three laps to go, the gap for Hamilton was 1.5 seconds. When a driver comes within one second of the driver they are pursuing, the large rear wing on F1 cars opens, and the so-called Drag Reduction System (DRS) can give a speed advantage to the hunter, who is now in the slipstream of the hunted vehicle. Even though Hamilton got within one second of Verstappen, DRS did not activate, and after briefly losing rear-end traction on his car, his time to Verstappen rose above 1.5 seconds again.

That gap was too much for Hamilton to overcome, and Verstappen won an amazing race. Verstappen also won F1’s Driver of the Day Web poll.

In the points standing, Verstappen now leads Hamilton by 12 points, 287.5 to 275.5.

 

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