In Focus

Lewis Hamilton’s hopes of saving F1 title fade in Texas

A canny tyre strategy clocked up another win for Max Verstappen, who is surging ahead in the title race

The Formula 1 United States Grand Prix, held on the speedy track at Austin, Texas, has always been to Lewis Hamilton’s liking, said Rebecca Clancy in The Times: he’s won there five times since 2014. But on Sunday, the seven-time F1 world champion missed a valuable chance to make up ground on Max Verstappen. 

A thrilling race ended in a 1.333-second victory for the 24-year-old, who extended his lead in the drivers’ standings from six to 12 points. With five races to go, he looks increasingly likely to end the season as F1 champion. 

Yet Hamilton couldn’t have got off to a better start, said Tom Dart in The Guardian. From second on the grid, he overtook Verstappen by diving for the inside on the approach to the first corner, forcing his rival’s Red Bull wide. But after the early drama, “the contest segued into more of a chess match than a slugfest”. 

Twice, the Dutchman went in for earlier-than-expected tyre changes, an “undercutting” strategy that enabled him to drive significantly faster than Hamilton in the middle of the 56-lap race: when Hamilton took his second change on lap 37, he was nearly eight seconds off the lead. Once on fresher tyres, he valiantly hunted down Verstappen in the closing stages, aiming to pass him on the final laps. But hard as he pressed, he couldn’t quite get close enough to “try another bold overtaking manoeuvre”.  

Ominously for Hamilton, the next two races – in Mexico and Brazil – are at high-altitude venues, said Laurence Edmondson on ESPN. That should favour Verstappen: in recent years, the Honda engine used by Red Bull has performed better at altitude than the one in Hamilton’s Mercedes. The three races after that are in the Middle East, where conditions should be more to Hamilton’s liking. But there’s a very real chance that by the time F1 gets there, Verstappen’s lead will be virtually unsurpassable.

F1 2021 season: five races to go

Mexican Grand Prix 

  • When: 5-7 November 2021 
  • Where: Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez, Mexico City, Mexico 

Brazilian Grand Prix 

  • When: 12-14 November 2021 
  • Where: Autodromo Jose Carlos Pace, São Paulo, Brazil 

Qatar Grand Prix 

  • When: 19-21 November 2021 
  • Where: Losail International Circuit, Qatar 

Saudi Arabian Grand Prix 

  • When: 3-5 December 2021 
  • Where: Jeddah Street Circuit, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia 

Abu Dhabi Grand Prix 

  • When: 10-12 December 2021 
  • Where: Yas Marina Circuit, Yas Island, Abu Dhabi, UAE

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