The United States Grand Prix represents the 18th round of the season two weeks after the Qatar Grand Prix. The race will take place on Sunday, October 22, 2023 on the Circuit of the Americas located in Travis County, near Austin, Texas. In a World Championship that no longer has anything up for grabs but second places, Max Verstappen comes in as the favorite for the final victory. At least on the eve of the Grand Prix, no one can assume a different outcome. The Sprint Race will also be held in Austin, a format debated and disliked by the traditionalist public, the drivers and most of the insiders. Power is nothing without control: these are the words that echo in the most famous paddock in motorsport, that of Formula 1. The eve of the United States GP opens with the most awaited news of the season: the outcome of the Formula 1 tender, which saw the Italian Pirelli triumph. The Italian tire company re-signs the contract as Global Tire Partner for Formula 1 until 2027. Present since the birth of F1, and official supplier since 2011, Pirelli will thus become the absolute protagonist of the entire history of motorsport. With a press conference at the Pirelli headquarters in Milan on Tuesday 10 October, a new chapter in the history of Formula 1 was signed. The President of the FIA, Mohammed Ben Sulayem, declared in this regard:
"Formula 1 represents a unique challenge for the tire supplier and Pirelli has shown great commitment to producing tires that meet the extreme demands of these incredible cars. I would like to thank Pirelli for its continued support of motorsport, not only in Formula 1, but also in many other championships and categories at every level".
Formula 1 CEO Stefano Domenicali says:
"Pirelli's commitment to quality, innovation and deep knowledge of our sport will be fundamental in the coming years, as we approach the new regulations of 2026".
Precisely for the Austin GP, Pirelli, the sole tire supplier, offers the choice between C2, C3 and C4 compound tyres, the type of tires that characterizes the central range of the type of tires made available by the Italian company. Starting from the 2019 edition of the Grand Prix, Pirelli has always established this type of tire for this event. It is established for the fifth time in the season, and for the first time since the Belgian Grand Prix. Before the previous Qatar Grand Prix, Pirelli simultaneously names the type of tires available for the subsequent Grands Prix in Mexico City and of Sao Paulo.
In this regards, Mario Isola, Pirelli Motorsport Director, says:
"Austin kicks off a series of four races - three of them run consecutively - on the American continent . And it all begins with the United States Grand Prix: a land that is steeped in motorsport tradition but has truly made its F1 presence felt only in the last few years, thanks to all the different initiatives implemented by Liberty Media in a number of different areas. The Circuit of the Americas has hosted the United States Grand Prix every year since 2012, with the exception of 2020 when it was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. I would describe COTA as a complete track, with medium to high levels of downforce. Turn 1, a left-hander, is particularly distinctive at the end of a 22-metre climb, covered within just 200 meters of track distance. It makes the start particularly interesting, with drivers heading in a number of different directions to find the best line. That corner leads into a flowing first sector, characterized by a series of medium to fast corners all the way to the hairpin that is Turn 11. That's then followed by a long straight leading into the final part of the track, which is instead typified by a series of slower and 90-degree corners. The forces at work on the tires are mainly lateral, and they are quite well balanced between front and rear, without a specific corner of the car being subjected to particular stress. It's also important to have good traction in the slow corners. The asphalt is still quite bumpy, despite the partial resurfacing that took place last year. This can lead to the tire sliding very much slightly, which is a potential cause of overheating".
"The degradation seen at Austin is mostly thermal, while graining is quite a rare occurrence, The race has always been held in autumn: a time of year when the weather can be very changeable, even within a very short time span. It's not uncommon to see alternately sunny and rain days, with a wide range of temperatures. The Sprint format comes to Austin for the first time this year; another opportunity for a fanbase that is becoming more and more enthusiastic about modern F1 to soak up some spectacular action".
Max Verstappen, despite the Championship victory already assured, does not lose his enthusiasm and desire to win every single race:
"I'm really looking forward to the race in Austin this weekend, as a Team we have a lot of special memories from there . The atmosphere at the track is also like no other, there are so many Oracle Red Bull Racing fans there to cheer us on. It is of course another Sprint race so it could be quite hectic for us, we only have one session to try and find the optimum balance in the car. The temperatures look to be high too so I'm expecting another tough race. I'm also excited to see the new special fan designed livery on the car, it's going to be cool".
Sergio Perez says he is eagerly awaiting his home race in Mexico:
"I'm looking forward to the next few weeks of racing. Austin and Mexico are two of mine favorite weeks of the year, I have such incredible support in both places and that means a lot to me. Even when you can't hear it in the car, you can feel it it. I know I have to get back to my best at COTA, it's a fun circuit to drive and I am confident we can perform there. I was in Milton Keynes last week working very hard with the Team to ensure we are as best prepared as possible for the coming weeks. We had some good conversations and I spent time with myself engineers to ensure we know where we have been going right, where things have gone wrong and how we can improve".
At Ferrari, Charles Leclerc declares himself happy to be able to experience the American mood and its overwhelming enthusiasm again. The Austin track could highlight the strengths of the SF-23, thus allowing the Italian team to compete head-to-head with Mercedes and McLaren:
"I like the American atmosphere, there's so much enthusiasm and we are always given to very warm welcome. This track should suit the characteristics of our SF-23 a bit better and I hope we can fight with McLaren and Mercedes on equal terms, even with the Sprint format. We have just one free practice session and we have to get everything just right. If we manage that, then we can gain a competitive advantage which could make the difference over the rest of the weekend. But if we get it wrong, we risk spoiling the whole weekend. We have prepared very well for this race back in the factory and now is the time to put into practice the lessons learned from the simulator. Of course, we want to do as well as possible in the remaining races and we still hope to be able to take second place in the Constructors', but we also want to use the final Grands Prix of 2023 to learn as much possible for next year, as our goal for 2024 has to be to fight for the wins all the time".
The Spanish Ferrari driver Carlos Sainz Jr. reflects on how the Austin race is one of the most demanding in the world championship from a physical and psychological point of view, but also declares himself curious to test the competitiveness of the single-seater following various changes:
"If there it was one race to miss, then the one in Lusail was it, given the difficulty conditions from a physical point of view".
"While I was watching from the garage, I couldn't help imagining where I would be in the race, with the strategy we had prepared if I had been in the middle of the pack. My rivals have had to recover from it physically, I had to recover my morale. I think it will once again be a tough race, very close between the teams fighting for second place. A lot will depends on how we get on in the only free practice session, because if we will have prepared well, then we can expect to fight for a podium finish. I can't wait to get out on track to check how competitive we are. We have changed a few parts and I'm sure we won't have any more problems like this".
Toto Wolff, Mercdes’ Team Principal, does not hide the frustration resulting from the race in Qatar, following the accident between the two Mercedes drivers:
"We have a busy couple of weeks coming up as the season heads towards its conclusion, starting with a triple-header in the USA, Mexico and Brazil. The last round in Qatar was a case of what might have been. As a team, you never want to see your cars collide. It was frustrating to leave a lot of points on the table, particularly as the pace of the car was strong. It was encouraging though to see how the drivers and the team reacted. Both Lewis and George know the team comes first and don’t ever intend to jeopardize that. I am sure we will all grow from this moment. We're now focused on Austin and making sure we get the most out of each upcoming weekend. It's always great to race at the Circuit of the Americas. There's a fantastic atmosphere and the city welcomes F1 with open arms. COTA is one of the most challenging modern tracks and a real thrill for the drivers. We'll be bringing a modified floor, which is the last significant update we will take to the track this year. It will hopefully bring a small gain but more importantly, is another milestone in setting our development path for W15. The battle for second in the Constructors' has become more intense in recent races. We will keep our heads down, keep pushing and aiming to score as many points as we can increase our advantage".
Frédéric Vasseur, Ferrari’s Team Principal, confirms the words of the Ferrari drivers, reiterating that they have worked hard on the reliability of the Italian single-seaters in order to recover the performances achieved in Singapore and Japan:
"We are about to tackle a very demanding Grand Prix triple-header, which actually involves five races in three weekends , as there are two Sprints. All team members, including the drivers, will have to be on top of their game throughout, in order to make the most of anything opportunities that present themselves . We come to Austin off the back of a race where we paid a high price for a reliability problem on Carlos' car, which meant there was only one SF-23 on the grid. Sincerely then, we have been working hard to ensure that a similar situation does note reoccur. We must return to the level of execution demonstrated in Singapore and Japan, because that's the only way to optimize our package so that Charles and Carlos can get the most out of it".
At McLaren, Lando Norris claims to be excited to return to Austin, one of the most fun weekends on the calendar:
"I'm really excited to head back to Austin and kickstart our final triple header of the season. The US GP is always a fun weekend, and it's extra special this year as it marks my 100th race in F1, and of course with McLaren. It's a great place to celebrate it, as the fans always bring a fantastic atmosphere. It was incredible to achieve another double podium in Qatar. We've been consistent, and our hard work is paying off. Last week I was back at the MTC to take a moment to celebrate with the team, review my weekend and what I could have done better and spent some time in the sim preparing for the next three races, seeing where else we can improve. It'll be a challenge, but we're determined to bring back some more points for the team".
His teammate Oscar Piastri does not hide the happiness of his first victory in a sprint race:
"What a weekend to remember in Qatar! Back-to-back podiums and a P1 in the Sprint. It's been a great couple of races, and I'm looking forward to experiencing the US GP for the first time as an F1 driver. I've never raced at the Circuit of The Americas before , so I can't wait to feel the incredible energy that the fans create there. It's a cool circuit with sections of the track that are reminiscent of others circuits on the calendar and it's also another Sprint weekend, so more opportunities for points".
Andrea Stella, McLaren’s Team Principal, rides the euphoric wave shown by the drivers of his team and claims:
"After a successful Sprint event in Qatar, we returned to MTC with four trophies and the record for the fastest pit-stop in F1. We now look ahead to the final five races of the season and another Sprint weekend in Austin. This weekend we're also celebrating another milestone with Lando's 100th race in F1, which is a significant achievement for a driver still so early in his career. Austin always brings a fantastic atmosphere, with incredible fans and exciting racing. We head into this penultimate Sprint event determined to maximise our results wherever possible. We expect our competition to be strong, and the next few races may be more challenging for us. However, we go racing with the aim of scoring important points for the Constructors' Championship".
Alex Albon from Williams reflects on the importance of this weekend's Sprint race:
"I'm very excited to be heading back to Austin; it's one of the best tracks of the year in terms of atmosphere and the fans. It also feels almost like another home race for the team and will be exciting for Logan to return home once again this year. We have another sprint race format, so it it will be important to be on the pace early in the weekend, with limited practice. Either way, I'm exciting to go racing at this circuit, as it's got a great flow to it".
Before the start of Friday's free practice session, the fourth unit relating to the MGU-K is installed on Kevin Magnussen's car. The seventh unit relating to the exhaust system is installed on Nico Hülkenberg's car, and on Daniel Ricciardo's car the sixth unit of the same component. All three drivers are not penalized on the starting grid as the new components installed are among those that can be used within the maximum number established by the technical regulations. Sprint weekends, having a smaller amount of data than traditional weekends, also represent a challenge from a tire point of view. Pirelli Chief Engineer Simone Berra outlines the picture of the situation:
"The Sprint weekends always pose an additional challenge for everyone, because there is less time to evaluate car and tyre performance before the teams have to tackle qualifying. That is also true for us, because, objectively, we have far less data with which to predict tyre behaviour over the rest of the weekend. However, today we still managed to gather sufficient information relating to all three compounds, especially the Medium and Hard, with which the teams did pretty representative long runs, both with a full fuel load in race trim as well as with a medium fuel level. Both compounds seemed to work well in terms of performance and consistency. As was easily predictable, the Soft seems to be only viable for a short stint, so its use in the races would only be possible in certain situations, for example a Safety Car period towards the end. One important aspect is that none of the three compounds showed any signs of graining despite the very high temperatures, with the track comfortably exceeding the 40 °C mark. Tomorrow we can expect a particularly busy Saturday with the Shootout kicking things off, followed by the Sprint over a distance of 19 laps. A fortnight ago in Qatar, the choice of which compound to use for the Sprint was pretty well balanced, with twelve drivers starting on the Medium and eight on the Soft, the latter taking a risk on the Saturday to try and gain an advantage in the following day's race and this is a scenario that could be played out again tomorrow afternoon".
Friday, October 20, 2023, Max Verstappen achieves the fastest performance of free practice. The world champion preceded Charles Leclerc by less than two tenths. The Ferrari was fast on the flying lap, but presented greater difficulties with the use of the hard compound tyres, due to the bumps on the track. Third place went to Lewis Hamilton, who however ran wide during the fastest lap to avoid a car. The surprise came from the fifth time for Kevin Magnussen, with the Haas, while Lance Stroll was only able to complete a few laps before a problem with the braking system forced him into the pits. The same problem penalized the performance of the other Aston Martin driver, Alonso. The final classification of the only free practice session scheduled within this Sprint format is Verstappen in P1 followed by Leclerc, Hamilton, Perez, Magnussen, Russell, Albon, Sainz, Hulkenberg, and Gasly. The top-10 drivers were all on soft tyres. With practice done and dusted, qualifying for Sunday's race awaits the best drivers in the world. In Q1, Logan Sargeant, first on track, sees his attempt canceled due to failure to respect track limits; for this reason it is Bottas who gets the first valid time. The Alfa Romeo driver's time is beaten by Norris, who is in turn preceded by Leclerc. Piastri is third. The Australian's time is improved by Sergio Pérez. Verstappen, on the other hand, is capable of beating Leclerc's time and taking the lead. The two Mercedes close their first rapid attempt with third and fifth fastest times. Nico Hülkenberg then takes the lead, with 1'36"235, before being beaten by Gasly (1'36"158). Ocon places fourth, while Stroll is sixth. Subsequently, the two Ferraris alternate at the top, with Carlos Sainz Jr. stopping the clocks in 1'35"824. It is then Verstappen's turn to climb to first, thanks to his performance in the third sector. Pérez climbs to third. Lewis Hamilton takes the lead command, followed by Norris in second place. Zhou Guanyu recovers to sixth, subsequently beaten by Magnussen and Tsunoda, who is fifth. At the end of the session, Hülkenberg, Alonso, Albon, Stroll and Sargeant are eliminated. In Q2, Leclerc immediately sets a time of 1'35"888, without Sainz being able to beat him. However, Hamilton succeeds, beaten, in turn, by his teammate George Russell (1'35"759). Piastri clocks 1'35"576, before Max Verstappen sets the reference time at 1'35"491.
Gasly climbs to third, a tenth behind Verstappen. Bottas, Ricciardo, Magnussen and Zhou are interspersed between the two Ferraris, while Norris sees his result annulled, again due to failure to respect track limits. Esteban Ocon climbs to third, while Pérez, fifth, is just 0"188 behind. Tsunoda gets the eighth fastest time, just three tenths from the world champion's time. Leclerc resumes leading the standings, with 1'35"004, ahead of Sainz. This time Verstappen, despite improving, remains just four thousandths behind the Monegasque's time. Norris takes fourth place, just ahead of Oscar Piastri, who in turn is also preceded by Gasly. Hamilton ensures passage to the round, with the third fastest time, while Russell is only ninth. Tsunoda, Zhou, Bottas, Magnussen and Ricciardo do not enter the final phase. Q3 begins with Verstappen setting the first valid time in 1'35"081. Leclerc is able to close the lap in 1'34"829; Norris sets the third fastest time, seven tenths behind Verstappen's, while Sainz is able to slot in between the two. Piastri temporarily finishes fifth. The Australian is also beaten by Gasly, who climbs to fourth position. Hamilton does better and is second, while Russell sees his time cancelled. Leclerc improves, bringing the limit to 1'34"723; Norris places himself behind him (1'34"853), while Sainz is fourth. Shortly afterwards Verstappen takes the lead, by just five thousandths over Leclerc. His time, however, is canceled by the stewards, due to failure to respect the track limits. The Dutchman climbs to sixth, preceded by Hamilton, third, and Russell, fifth. Charles Leclerc gets the twenty-first pole position of his career, the third of the season, the first since the one obtained in the Belgian Grand Prix and the first in the United States Grand Prix, fifteenth place in the all-time ranking and one point behind from starts at the pole in Alonso's world championship. For Ferrari it is the two hundred and forty-seventh start in first position in history and the fifth of the championship, the first since the one obtained in the Singapore Grand Prix with Sainz. The Maranello team repeats the pole position obtained in the 2022 edition with the Spaniard, obtaining ninth overall in the United States Grand Prix, one point away from Lotus's pole position record.
The Monegasque driver, appearing happy with the lap done in Q3 and the pole position obtained, declares:
"On Sprint weekends, it’s important to get it right, starting from FP1. We did a great job as a team to prepare the car and so it felt good to drive from the very start as well as during all the phases of qualifying. My lap in Q3 was good and I’m very happy, as I love racing on this track and the atmosphere in this city is amazing. Tomorrow, we start from scratch again, with the whole day given over to the Sprint, but for now we can enjoy this pole position for Sunday".
Carlos Sainz Jr. stopped two tenths of a second from his teammate's pole position. The Spanish driver, classified in fourth place, comments on his qualifying in a fairly positive manner and compliments his teammate's pole position:
"It wasn’t a bad qualifying. I was struggling a bit in the final sector, so tomorrow I’ll try to improve there. The rest of the lap felt more or less okay and it seems we are in decent shape. Congratulations to Charles for grabbing pole for the team. We’ll try to score some good points over the whole weekend".
Ferrari's Team Principal Frédéric Vasseur is happy with the result achieved with pole position. The two red riders are well positioned for the race and now the focus shifts to preparing in every detail for the rest of the weekend:
"Today’s pole position is a great result, down to hard work from the whole team. There is still a long way to go this weekend, with plenty of potential pitfalls along the way. The hard part will be Sunday but today’s result means both our drivers are well placed to get a good result in the Grand Prix. I am very happy for Charles, as this pole is well deserved and is a great start to his weekend. Now we want to do equally well in tomorrow’s Sprint. So far, our performance has matched our expectations, we are competitive over the whole lap, although it is too early to have a clear picture about the race. Already today we have seen that the fight is going down to the thousandths of a second, so it will be vital to carry on working like this, preparing the execution of every part of the weekend right down to the smallest detail".
Max Verstappen started sixth after the time on his final attempt would have been sufficient for pole position before it was invalidated for exceeding track limits. The three-time world champion, who regrets having lost pole position due to time being canceled due to track limits, maintains his focus and maximum determination to achieve the best possible result in the rest of the weekend:
"It was a shame to miss out on pole with my deleted lap but I knew in Turn 19 it would be a close call. I made a mistake in Turn One so I had to really push for the rest of the lap, I didn't understeer or anything, I just really tried to maximise the corner and I misjudged it. Margins are very fine when you are pushing to the limit. Of course, it's unfortunate but it makes the Sunday race more enjoyable. Now our focus turns to the Sprint race tomorrow, we want to win that and the race on Sunday. It's a long weekend and a lot can happen, I'm going to have some fun out there that's for sure".
The other side of the Red Bull garage brings a result that is not easy for the car's expectations. Sergio Perez, with the difficulties in balancing, comments on his difficult qualifying and hopes to improve his performance over the weekend:
"It wasn’t a straightforward one out there today. I was struggling with the balance from low speed to high speed, especially in the low speed, we had made some changes that probably didn’t help us in the way we thought. The margins were so tight today that a tenth would have made your qualifying so different, but we are on the wrong side of it. Hopefully tomorrow we have a better Sprint Shootout and then get some points on the board, we are expecting some changes in the conditions, there will be a lot of wind around".
Christian Horner, commenting on his team's qualifying performance, still expects an opportunity to achieve a good result in the race:
"It looked like we were going to get pole today but then a small lock up at turn 1 put Max on the back foot so he had to give it absolutely everything. He tried, but unfortunately we didn’t quite do it today. Checo struggled with balance slightly but it was tight margins with not a lot in it but it will make for an interesting race on Sunday. We start from P6 and P9 for the race which makes things a little harder for us but there is always an opportunity for victory and we look forward to seeing what Sunday brings".
A positive day for Mercedes. Lewis Hamilton ended his qualifying in third position, one tenth from pole. The seven-time world champion comments positively on all the efforts his team has made to allow him this performance:
"I have to say a big thank you to everyone back at the factory. They have been pushing so hard to improve our car and we have taken a step closer to the front this weekend. I know everyone is working flat out for that and I appreciate all the efforts. Unfortunately today, we weren't quite at the very front, but we will give it another shot tomorrow. I love being in the United States! It's such a beautiful country and this circuit is just incredible. It is definitely one of my favourites. It has a legendary layout, it's bumpy, and all the drivers find it very tricky. Each section is an incredible challenge. I hope tomorrow we can fight for P1 again. I'll be giving it my best shot and with this crowd, I think anything is possible".
George Russell, despite the demanding day, is quite satisfied with the P5 obtained in qualifying and from the positive aspects he hopes to find more pace for the rest of the weekend:
"It's been a really challenging day. I've been off the pace, and I've not been able to identify why. I can definitely feel the improvements we've made with the update, but it's been a strange Friday. I'll put it on my shoulders though as the driver; I just need to work on finding out why I've not been as quick as I think we can be. I'm pretty pleased with P5 as at some points it looked like we may not have even made it through to Q3. My final lap was a reasonable effort; I made a small mistake at turn one which probably cost me one more position on the grid. Turning to tomorrow, we can be encouraged. With the exception of Qatar, the Sprint Shootout on Saturday morning tends to go better for us. I will take all those positives and work on finding some more pace tonight".
Mercedes’ Trackside Engineering Director Andrew Shovlin recounts his team's challenging yet encouraging weekend. Hamilton's day with the result very close to pole position was positive. While, Russell in terms of single lap had a tougher day. But at the same time the team is optimistic to have a good pace in the race:
"Sprint races are always difficult with the limited practice time we have. It's particularly challenging to try and bring an update kit into one. Going through the data, the upgraded floor looks to be giving us what we hoped for, and the drivers are feeling a benefit. That is encouraging. In terms of the on track running, Lewis has had a relatively straightforward day. We thought at times that we had a chance of pole position and in the end, it was pretty close. Unfortunately, he couldn't squeeze any more out of it on his final effort but still took a strong P3. George had a tougher day in terms of the single lap work. He chipped away at it but getting through the first two parts of qualifying was stressful. Fortunately his lap in Q3 was a solid effort and he can do a lot from P5 on the grid. The long runs of both drivers looked good this morning in FP1. It's hard to know what fuel loads everyone was running with this format, but we're optimistic we can race well. We were managing to keep the tyre temperatures under control and that's going to be the key to good long run pace on Sunday".
Qualifying with mixed feelings for McLaren. Lando Norris, after obtaining second position, is very happy with the lap done and the pace he had in the car and is confident of obtaining other important points in the rest of the weekend:
"I'm very happy with P2, the pace in the car has been great and I put in a good lap to get on the front row on Sunday. There was maybe a little more in it, but I'm sure Charles [Leclerc] will be thinking that too, so overall I'm pleased with qualifying. We've got another chance to score a good result and important points tomorrow, so we'll turn our focus to that now and aim to go one better in the Sprint".
Oscar Piastri, despite the fairly strong pace in the car, regrets not having found the right balance in the overall performance:
"Not my best qualifying. The pace in the car was quite strong, I just didn't get it together. We'll try again tomorrow. The pace we have is pretty solid, so if we leave out the mistakes, we should be able to get a better result in the Sprint Shootout tomorrow".
McLaren’s Team Principal Andrea Stella is overall satisfied with the car's potential despite the track not being particularly congenial compared to recent events and is aiming with great enthusiasm to achieve positive objectives in the rest of the weekend:
"As usual here in Austin, we had tricky conditions. The track was hot, and the soft tyres are only good for one lap, so the drivers had one go at making their fast laps count. Add to that the challenge of track limits and the result is a very tricky session. Overall, we're happy with the potential of the car, at a track which we expected to be less suitable than recent events. Lando secured a front row and did a great good job. He struggled a little to repeat the strong pace shown in Q1, but it came back when it counted in Q3. On Oscar's side, laptime in Q3 moved away from him due to a large wheelspin event at the exit of Turn 11, which overheated the tyres and largely compromised the rest of his lap. We're in a position to score good points on Sunday, which is our ultimate aim this weekend. We also have all the Sprint Saturday ahead of us, and a car with promising pace. We will take the learnings from today and aim to carry this momentum into tomorrow".
Fernando Alonso comments on the difficulties his team had in qualifying, with the new package of updates not being properly optimized for performance. The Spanish driver hopes for a cleaner continuation of the weekend:
"Not an ideal Qualifying for us with both cars out in Q1. There was a lot of traffic today and we completed our out lap with around one second left to the chequered flag. We started too close to the cars in front. I don't think this helped. It was very close between lots of cars with just a few tenths being the difference. We had a difficult FP1 with some issues and we weren't able to optimise the new package we brought to Austin. We are in parc fermé now so we will see what we can do tomorrow with hopefully a cleaner day".
Alex Albon is disappointed with the performance he had which led to his elimination in Q1:
"The car was quite different from FP1, feeling a little disconnected which can happen when the wind picks up. It meant that to get a clean lap it was very difficult, and my lap just wasn't that good. The car was better than Q1 today, so it's a bit frustrating".
Saturday, October 21, 2023, is time for the fifth Sprint race of the 2023 season, anticipated by the Sprint Shootout. At the start of the Sprint Shootout Lewis Hamilton is the first to set a valid time, turning in 1'36"402, using Medium tires. Nico Hülkenberg, Valtteri Bottas and Kevin Magnussen come in behind him. Next, Lando Norris climbs to second place, while Alex Albon climbs to third. Soon after, Charles Leclerc turns in 1'36"302 and climbs to first, while Carlos Sainz Jr. stops 0.02s behind the Monegasque.
George Russell without the third best time, before Max Verstappen manages to improve the limit set by Charles Leclerc, turning in 1'35"997. The other Red Bull Racing driver, Sergio Pérez, sets the fifth fastest time and is ahead of Esteban Ocon. The McLaren drivers decide to run two quick laps in succession. Lando Norris improves, but is only eighth, while Alex Albon rises to third again and Oscar Piastri progresses with his times, but drops to 14th. Soon after, Charles Leclerc improves again, but remains 0.002s off Max Verstappen's time. Hülkenberg, Magnussen, Bottas, Tsunoda and Sargeant are eliminated. In SQ2, Max Verstappen is the first driver to set a valid time, lapping in 1'35"181, much faster than the time in the first part of qualifying. Sergio Pérez is second, 0.6s off his teammate's time. The Mexican is beaten by both Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz Jr. Lance Stroll is fifth, beaten by Oscar Piastri, while Guanyu Zhou comes in seventh. Lando Norris sets the fourth best time, while the two Mercedes drivers make only one fast attempt. Next, Max Verstappen makes a mistake at Turn 9, spinning out. George Russell enters the standings by setting the seventh fastest time, while Lewis Hamilton follows his teammate in eighth. Not entering the third stage are Ricciardo, Alonso, Ocon, Stroll and Zhou. In SQ3 the drivers decide to use only one fast lap, to set a valid time. First on the track is Max Verstappen, but in the first sector it is Lando Norris' time that is the best. Verstappen closes his lap in 1'34"538. Norris closes his attempt at 0.1s from the World Champion's time. Oscar Piastri stops instead at 0.2s. Charles Leclerc climbs to second place, 0.055s behind Max Verstappen, while Carlos Sainz Jr. climbs to fifth, ahead of Sergio Pérez. Also in the upper parts of the standings is Lewis Hamilton, who sets the third fastest time, while George Russell is eighth. The fastest time worth the first position for the Sprint is faster than the pole time. The top four drivers are separated by 0.101s, with four different teams occupying the first two rows. At the end of the Sprint Shootout, George Russell and Charles Leclerc are summoned by the stewards because the British driver obstructed the Monegasque driver at Turn 19 during SQ1. Russell is penalized three positions on the Sprint grid. Pierre Gasly has a time cancelled by the stewards for not respecting the track limits, during the Sprint Shootout (at Turn 19).
Russell, Alexander Albon, Oscar Piastri, Lando Norris, Nico Hülkenberg, Kevin Magnussen, Gasly, Valtteri Bottas, Yuki Tsunoda, Sergio Pérez, Zhou Guanyu, and Daniel Ricciardo do not receive penalties from the stewards for not complying with the instructions set by the race management. All drivers exceeded the one minute and 56 seconds time limit valid between the second safety car line and the first of it. The drivers enter the Sprint Race using Medium tires, with the exception of Carlos Sainz Jr. who opts for Soft tires. The start is good for Verstappen and Leclerc, who is closed by the poleman on the inside. Hamilton opts for an outside line, thus passing Leclerc, for second position. Sainz Jr., taking advantage of the soft tires, passes the two McLarens, to put himself in fourth position. Russell passes Gasly and Albon, moving up to eighth. Hamilton remains close to Verstappen, while Charles Leclerc is a couple of seconds behind the Briton. On lap three, Sergio Pérez passes Piastri, and moves up to sixth. The Australian tries to counter-overtake, unsuccessfully, thus favoring George Russell, who climbs to seventh. The marshals put the Mercedes driver under investigation because, in order to make the overtake on Piastri, he exceeded the track limits. Russell is subsequently penalized five seconds, on the Sprint time. On lap seven, Lando Norris attacks Sainz Jr. but to no avail. The marshals also put Alexander Albon under investigation, for an overtaking maneuver he made, against Piastri. After ten laps Verstappen brings his lead over Lewis Hamilton to 2.8s. Leclerc is 3.6s behind Hamilton, while Sainz Jr. is 6.2s behind his teammate. Soon after, Norris takes over fourth from Sainz Jr. at the end of the long straight. A lap later the Spaniard also has to yield to Pérez, and he is also threatened by Russell. Norris comes close in the final laps to Leclerc, but without being able to challenge him for the podium. Max Verstappen wins the sixth career Sprint after the introduction of the short race in the 2021 season, out of eleven races so far in the history of the world championship, as well as the third overall in the championship after winning the Austrian Grand Prix and the Belgian Grand Prix, extending the record for the most wins for a single driver in the Sprint race. Hamilton, second, has yet to win the short race. For the Briton, it is the best result in a Sprint since finishing second in the inaugural British Grand Prix 2021. For Leclerc, third place is the best result in a Sprint since the one held in the Azerbaijan Grand Prix, where he finished second.
At the end of the Sprint, race management announced that, according to sporting regulations, all cars must be covered and ready for sealing within two hours from when the checkered flag was shown. Max gets off from his RB19 and gets ready for his interview. He says, with a reference to the race start:
"We had a strong day out there today. It was quite tight at the start with Charles but after that we could focus on our own race. The pace of the car was really good, a bit better than we expected, we looked after our tyres quite well. Starting in P6 tomorrow will be interesting, we'll try and stay out of trouble on the first lap and then we'll take it step by step making our way through the field. Hopefully we can have some fun out there tomorrow".
Sergio Perez is overall satisfied with today’s results but explains that he had some issues with degradation:
"I took off quicker than I thought I was going to and unfortunately that did hurt us a bit. We started well and had some good pace but we the degradation was a bit higher than I ideally wanted, so we were not able to push how we would have wanted to and got caught in a lot of dirty air. We need to sort the degradation issues for the race because that will be important, we may be doing things that are hurting us there. We have to make sure we understand where we can improve the balance come tomorrow too and work hard overnight, we need more pace than we showed today. We have some tricks we can do and have some good directions to go in. Tomorrow will be an interesting one, with a lot of interesting battles out there".
And adds Christian Horner, Red Bull Racing Team Principal:
"It was a strong sprint race for us and will provide a lot of data around performance of the tyres and our opponents. max drove a well controlled race and equally, it was a good performance from Checo. This sets us up well for tomorrow. Yes we are starting further down the grid than we would usually like but you can overtake here, there are opportunities and we look forward to seeing what’s to come".
Lewis Hamilton enjoyed the race:
"That was a fun race! I made a good start into turn one and had a really good battle with Charles. Running in second, I was then focused on trying to get closer to Max in those early stages. Their pace at the moment is undeniable though so I wasn't able to get close enough to challenge him. We've still got a long way to go to equal the pace he showed throughout the Sprint. Nonetheless, I'm really happy to be back on the podium. Starting ahead of Max tomorrow is helpful. Ultimately, I think he will be breathing down our necks before too long given the pace that he had today. I think that will open up a good fight though between ourselves, the Ferraris and the McLarens. We're all quite similar in pace this weekend by the looks of it so I hope we get to have a good battle tomorrow. Keeping Max behind would be awesome but if not, we'll do everything we can to finish on the podium and bring home good points".
So says George Russell, finished eighth at the finish line:
"It's been a bit of a scrappy day for me. Both penalties that I received today were fair. I was unable to give the position back to Piastri in the Sprint as Gasly had already passed him. If I let Piastri past, I would have had to let Gasly past too. It was a bit of a shame as it was an optimistic move from myself. Ultimately though, there aren't a huge amount of points up for grabs on a Saturday. We're in a good place to fight for a podium from P5 tomorrow. It's going to be an interesting race".
"The tyres felt good in the Sprint but that was helped by the cloudy conditions and the temperature dropping a little. It will be close between a one and a two-stop tomorrow and we're going to have to be dynamic in order to react to the situation. We should have a good fight with the Ferraris and the McLaren of Norris. We may have the speed on them, but they are starting ahead so we will see what we can do".
Toto Wolff thinks that the Mercedes team can be optimistic, given the results they had so far:
"We can be carefully optimistic with how the weekend has gone so far and how our updates have performed. We didn't think this would be a track where we would be anywhere near the front. There are a lot of fast corners that are not usually our strength, so we've made a good step. That has proved key in putting us in a position to score solid points today. After a tougher Sprint Shootout, both drivers showed strong pace in the Sprint itself. Lewis pressured Max early on but ultimately his speed proved too strong. We know we've still got a lot of work to catch up to the very front, but we can be encouraged by our first sprint podium of the season. George did everything he could today and bringing a point home having started P11 is useful for the team. His penalty was completely justified, and we should have given the position back. That was my fault as I thought we had more pace to get further ahead than five seconds. If we play the strategy well tomorrow, we should be racing for a solid podium position".
Andrew Shovlin, Mercedes’ Trackside Engineering Director, is of the same mind:
"There's lots of encouragement we can take away from today, even if we could have walked away with a few more points if everything had gone our way. Lewis had good pace in the Sprint Shootout. We were 0.139s off pole on Friday but 0.069s today. That's a good sign that the update has moved us in right direction. George didn't have a new set of soft tyres for his final run which is costly here, so he was never going to be able to trouble the front rows. In the F1 Sprint, George did a good job to pick up positions. It's a shame to drop a place with the penalty but it's good to have got into the points. Lewis meanwhile did a great job. Second was the best that the car had in it today, but it was encouraging to see how much pace he had over Leclerc. That's another sign that we are moving in the right direction. We've now got some good data to review overnight as part of our preparations for the race. The longer race opens up some options on strategy, so hopefully we'll be able to make progress with both drivers. Max was able to keep us at arm's length today, but it looked like we had the pace to challenge everyone else. Our stretch target for tomorrow therefore has to be a double podium".
Charles Leclerc explains that he tried to take the opportunity to overtake Max but finished to lose a position, because Mercedes was a bit faster than the Ferrari in terms of race pace:
"There was an opportunity at the start so I went for it and tried to overtake Max in the first corner. I lost a position to Lewis there, Mercedes were a bit stronger in terms of race pace than we expected and so now we have to work on being a step ahead for the race. We have quite a lot of data available for analysis, as we ran our two cars on different strategies, which helped us to gain an insight into the behaviour of the Soft compound. Hopefully this will give us an advantage tomorrow and we will do everything we can to bring home the win".
While Carlos Sainz Jr. who could not get beyond sixth place, adds:
"Those 19 laps were tough. Choosing the Soft was a risk that we opted to take, even though we knew we would struggle with pace and degradation at the end. I started well and some good overtaking took us to P4 in the first laps, but from then on came the difficult part, all about tyre management and defending. Keeping Lando and Sergio behind was very tough and the battle with George wasn’t easy at all, but we managed to bring it home and score some points. Now we focus on tomorrow, we’ve got much more info to analyse and we’ll try to maximise our Sunday".
Frédéric Vasseur, Ferrari’s Team Principal, explains that they chose to split the strategies to gain the greater amount of information for tomorrow’s race:
"We can’t be completely satisfied with today’s race but these 19 laps were above all useful to give us a clearer picture of the situation, of where the teams stand and our options when we line up on the grid tomorrow. We split the strategies between the two cars to get as much information as possible regarding tyre behaviour over a long run. Carlos struggled in the middle of the race, but managed to defend from the Mercedes. Charles suffered a bit as a result of what happened at the start, but he still scored plenty of points. We start with him on pole tomorrow, but it’s still going to be a very hard challenge. We have to look at improving our race pace, getting all the potential out of our package".
Lando Norris thinks that the race was overall good, despite the start:
"That was a good race, despite the tough beginning. With Carlos starting on Softs it took a few laps to get past him, but when I did, the pace looked very, very strong. A lot better than the Ferrari. One lap more and we would have had Charles and P3. There's a lot of positive signs for tomorrow. A good day, and good preparation for tomorrow's Grand Prix".
Oscar Piastri thinks this was not an ideal Sprint race:
"Not an ideal Sprint. We had a lot of battles at the start. I went through the tyres extremely quickly and they had overheated a lot. So, not quite the result we wanted, but on the positive side we've learned a lot for the race tomorrow, which is where the majority of points are earned. We'll switch focus to the Grand Prix now and aim to move forward tomorrow".
Andrea Stella, McLaren’s Team Principal, explains that Lando had a strong pace during the Sprint race:
"We scored good points today with Lando, who showed strong pace in this Sprint race. The car behaved consistently in the stint, which is promising for tomorrow, looking ahead to the race. On Oscar's side, the pace was not enough to remain in the points. We can see that the tyres overheated rapidly after the start and we know that he engaged in battles with cars that were on slightly less used tyres than his starting set. After the race we also saw that he picked up some light damage to the front wing, which will have also had an impact. The positive is that we can gain the learning for tomorrow, when more points are at stake. We look forward to scoring well with both cars in the United States Grand Prix".
Alex Albon is overall satisfied as well:
"We went for it in the Sprint, as we were looking much stronger than yesterday, so we gave ourselves the biggest opportunity to score points. It's so tight out there and to just miss out is frustrating but at the same time, it was a good race and we can't discredit that. Obviously to finish P9, just outside of the points is what makes it frustrating. The tyres are interesting here and if I were to do it over, I would do things a bit differently, but this track can be difficult and my tyres started to deg, then came back at the end allowing us to push and try close the gap. We have race pace, so starting P18 tomorrow, hopefully we can fight the cars around us".
Of different mind is Fernando Alonso, who finds that today they were not competitive and able to optimize their package:
"We were uncompetitive today in the Sprint and we haven't been able to optimise our package all weekend. We need to keep looking at what we can learn from this weekend and try to score some points tomorrow. The whole Campus has worked flat out to bring the upgrade here to Austin, but the biggest problem so far this weekend was the challenging FP1 session where we had such limited time and laps to test the upgraded car out".
Finally, Mario Isola, Pirelli Motorsport Director, explains:
"It was an action-packed Saturday, as is always the case with the Sprint format. Unlike what we saw in Qatar a fortnight ago, the compound choice for the short race was almost unanimous, with just Sainz going it alone, eschewing the Medium in favour of the Soft. The Spaniard went on to finish in the same position from which he had started but apart from that, his race allowed us and his Ferrari team to acquire important information about the behaviour of the C4 over a long run, which had not been possible in yesterday's free practice. Looking ahead to tomorrow's race, we can say that a two stop will be the favourite strategy, running a combination of Medium and Hard, depending on how many sets of the two compounds each driver has available. Looking at the starting grid, we can definitely expect a good battle at the front and, who knows, maybe a few surprises".
On Sunday, 22 October, 2023, everyone is ready to race in Austin. Verstappen, winner of the Sprint race, will start sixth, while Leclerc in on pole. Before the start there are a few changes to the starting grid, with both Aston Martin and Haas drivers set to start from the pit lane after changes were made to their cars overnight. All the drivers are on medium tyres, except for Stroll and Hulkenberg, who are on hards. Lights out and Norris passes Leclerc on the run down to Turn 1, while Sainz makes his way past Hamilton for third. Piastri is sixth despite being tagged by Ocon and looks to get ahead of Verstappen into Turn 12, although the world champion manages to keep the him behind. On Lap 2, Norris is over two seconds ahead of Leclerc at the front while Ocon complains about having sidepod damage. Russell, having dropped from fifth to eighth, is noted for leaving the track and gaining an advantage into Turn 1. He passes Ocon at Turn 11 and Perez follows him past the Alpine driver one corner later. Hamilton tries to pass Sainz and despite the Spaniard’s best efforts to keep him behind, the Mercedes driver overtakes his rival at Turn 12. Gasly, 10th, says on the radio to call for Ocon not to hold him up, while his teammate is struggling for pace and drops to the back of the field by end of Lap 5. Verstappen overtakes Sainz into Turn 12. Hamilton passes Leclerc at Turn 12, and goes catching Norris. Ocon cannot continue with the damage and his team opt to retire his car for the third time in five races. Also Piastri retires due to radiator damage sustained from his contact with Ocon. On Lap 11, Verstappen is closing in on Leclerc and pass the Ferrari into Turn 12. Hamilton sets the fastest lap of the race on Lap 13, and closes the gap to Norris to two and a half seconds. Alonso and Stroll run in 11th and 12th, behind Ricciardo, in 10th. Back at the front, Hamilton is just behind Norris. Verstappen is the first of the front-runners to pit on Lap 17 for a second set of new medium tyres. A lap later, Norris, Sainz Jr., and Perez all do the same: the latter two opt for the mediums, the former is on the hards. On Lap 20, Hamilton struggles with his tyres as he locks up at Turn 11.
Mercedes mount the hard tyres on Hamilton’s car, while Leclerc is the last of the front-runners to change his tyres. Multiple drivers have times deleted due to track limits. Alonso overtakes Zhou to make his way up into the top-10. Norris locks up at Turn 11, while Verstappen is closely following him, and on Lap 29 the Red Bull driver passes the McLaren at Turn 12. Norris tries to re-take the position, but nothing to do. Perez, in fifth, is showing a good turn of pace as he closes in on Sainz for P4. A lot of drivers are mounting the hard tyres onto their cars, including Perez and Sainz, but on Lap 38, Mercedes call Hamilton for new medium tyres. Verstappen gets past Leclerc, followed by Norris, while Hamilton begins setting some personal best sectors. On Lap 42, Sargeant is issued with a black and white flag for exceeding track limits, Albon, on mediums, passes Ricciardo. Hamilton overtakes Leclerc for third. On Lap 46, he is now two and a half seconds behind Norris, in second. Stroll passes Tsunoda, while Alonso complains of a rear suspension failure, as he is forced to retire the car a few laps later. Hamilton now is trying to catch Norris, and after a few attempts he makes it at Turn 1 despite the McLaren driver's defence. Now everyone tries to understand if he can also pass Verstappen. Meanwhile, the two Ferrari drivers are battling, Sainz passes Leclerc and also Perez is closing in. Albon is handed a five-second penalty for exceeding track limits too many times, while Hamilton is within two seconds of Verstappen, who still complains of brake issues. On the final lap, the gap seems too big for Hamilton to close as Verstappen crosses the line to take his third consecutive win and his 50th win in Formula 1, while the Briton takes his second P2 finish of the weekend following the Sprint. Norris takes third place, with Sainz unable to close the gap to his former team mate, finishing fourth. Perez overtakes Leclerc for fifth. Russell is seventh, followed by Gasly, Stroll, and Tsunoda, who finishes in 10th. Albon and Sargeant finish 11th and 12th for Williams, with Hulkenberg in 13th for Haas. Bottas is 14th, with Zhou following his team mate across the line in 15th, as Magnussen takes 16th ahead of the last of the remaining runners, Ricciardo. Despite starting sixth, Max Verstappen managed to recover and crossed the line just two seconds ahead of Hamilton for his 15th win of the year:
"It feels incredible to win my 50th Grand Prix here in Austin, I'm very proud of course but I want to keep pushing for more. Starting in P6 today was interesting, I worked my way slowly through to the front. We didn't have a massive pace advantage today and I was struggling with my brakes. I didn't have the same feeling in the car as I did yesterday so that made the race much tougher than anticipated. You could see it was very close at the end and there too. We had to rely on the strategy today and the Team did a great job with that".
Sergio Perez is not totally satisfied, even if also he managed to make some progress:
"I wanted more for today, obviously. At times we had really good pace, but we are still lacking that consistency. It was a hard race, the Ferrari seemed to have improved, but I also think we made a good step from yesterday. It was quite difficult to overtake, especially because the exit of turn 11 was quite tricky as it was very windy and rough over there. We had a few occasions where we could have undercut people, so I think we need to review that as a Team. I think we know what we did wrong across the weekend, so we are really optimistic going into future races. We need to make sure we learn from this weekend as there are some good understandings to make for Mexico. There is a bit more pace in there and I am massively looking forward to my home Grand Prix".
The Red Bull Racing Team Principal, Christian Horner talks about strategies and then congratulates Max for his victory:
"Before the race all our simulations were telling us that the two stop was the fastest race for us and that's what we committed to. The debate was: do we run the hard in the middle stint or the medium? We knew going up against Lando that they committed to the two hards so we felt going medium, medium was the best strategy. It was crucial for Max to make use of that, get the pass, take the track position and then run our fastest race to the end of the race. Max was dealing with a brake issue throughout the race, as I’m sure you could hear. It was tough for him and I think his focus was largely on that, although he was able to overcome any issues and bring home the victory".
"His half century. Another phenomenal achievement for Max. Checo also drove well. He’s had some tough races but he had good pace today and I think he'll take a lot of confidence from that. Hopefully that will put him in a good space before his home race next weekend. As all eyes turn to Mexico, we look forward to seeing what’s to come and what we can achieve".
Particular day for Lewis Hamilton, who first lost a place to Sainz, but made his way past both Ferraris and clearly had very good pace. He tried a one-stop strategy but his tyres lost grip and he was forced to make another stop. He managed to get on the podium and lost out on the win by just two seconds. However, after the race he was disqualified due to a technical rules violation with the skid block under his car:
"Firstly, congratulations to Max and Red Bull. They have done an incredible job all year long, they've dominated and been nearly flawless. We were catching them towards the end, though. I was hopeful that I could, but I just need a couple of more laps. There has been so much work to bring this upgrade here and it was difficult after the last race in Qatar. I really felt like I let the team down, so I had to go through such a deep process to get myself back to here. It's one of those experiences of "it's not how you fall, it's how you get back up. I came here in the mood to fight hard, felt great and I'm really happy with my performance. Overall, we still didn't perform optimally today. We had good pace and I was feeling great in the car. It was tough racing those around me as they were so quick, but we can be happy with many things. I feel positive as we're moving forward, even if reflecting on it we could have possibly won today. It is of course disappointing to be disqualified post-race but that doesn't take away from the progress we've made this weekend".
George Russell ended sixth:
"The race start really cost me today. I lost three positions and then, and I don't know why, when we put the Hard tyre on, I was massively off the pace. I had to manage the lift and coast too and I was just dropping like a stone. When we put the Medium tyre on, suddenly we were amongst the quickest cars on the track. I closed over 10 seconds on Max in that final stint. It's disappointing when I definitely felt that there was the potential to fight for a podium. The positive is that the car has improved. We have full focus on 2024 but we also know that the upcoming weekends should suit us more than here. We need to wait and see how we get on there. It's been a scrappy weekend for me but I'm feeling excited and motivated for the final four races of the year".
Toto Wolff, Mercedes’ Team Principal & CEO, analyzes this particular race weekend:
"We can take a lot of positives from the car performance today. We hate coming so close to winning and falling short. But this is a circuit where only a few races ago we wouldn't have performed well because of the fast, sweeping corners. The upgrade seems to have made the car happier in those areas and it is working well. Directionally, it's a very good sign. Turning to the race result and the disqualification, set-up choices on a sprint weekend are always a challenge with just one hour of free practice - and even more so at a bumpy circuit like COTA and running a new package. In the end, all of that doesn't matter; others got it right where we got it wrong and there's no wiggle room in the rules. We need to take it on the chin, do the learning, and come back stronger next weekend".
Andrew Shovlin, Mercedes’ Trackside Engineering Director, concludes:
"We are of course naturally very disappointed to lose our podium finish. Unfortunately, it is one of the pitfalls of the sprint format where we have a solitary hour of running before parc fermé. Without running at a race fuel load in FP1, combined with a circuit as bumpy as this and the parts of the track where the drivers have to put the car during the Grand Prix, have contributed to the higher than expected wear levels. We will go away and learn from this but also take the positives from our experience as a whole. Lewis had a very strong weekend, and it was exciting to see him closing in first on Lando and then Max, with a shot of winning the race. Unfortunately, we ran out of laps. In hindsight, it is easy to say that we should have covered Verstappen in the first round of stops. However, at the time the one-stop strategy still looked viable. If it had worked out, that would have put us in a very strong position to win. As always, we will analyse the race in the calm of the factory to see if a different strategy would have given us a better chance of the win. George had a lonelier race, suffering in the middle stint on the Hard tyre as he was having to save fuel. That contributed to the tyres not being at their optimum. He was much happier once on the Medium tyre in the final stint. He can take some encouragement from this for the remaining races. We can afford to be cautiously optimistic that the step we have made will translate into future race. Both drivers felt the improvement and it is positive for our development trajectory for 2024. Whilst we are disappointed with the ultimate outcome today, we can be encouraged by the pace shown".
Norris made a good start and held on to the lead through the first pit stops, but soon found himself under pressure from Verstappen behind. He finished P3, which became P2 after Hamilton was disqualified:
"It was great to be leading the race at the start. I could control the race a lot but it just wasn't enough today. However, I'm happy, it was a good race from my side. We knew what was going to be difficult today, which was the degradation, but the pace over the first ten laps of every stint was strong. We're getting there. We're making progress every weekend, just a few more steps needed. To finish on the podium here was better than we were expecting coming into the weekend. So overall, very happy".
Bad day for Piastri, who had a contact with Ocon on the opening lap and was forced to retire due to a radiator damage:
"It's a shame to have had to retire the car after only 10 laps. We had a good start and made up a few places but had a water leak that unfortunately ended our race. It's not been the easiest weekend, but there's been a lot of learnings. We took a step forward from yesterday and did improve but not to the level I want to be at. These are character building weekends that are very important in my first season, so we'll take from it what we can and bounce back in Mexico next week".
Andrea Stella, McLaren’s Team Principal, is satisfied with the result:
"Another strong result for McLaren, which makes it four podiums in a row. It came in a race where we tried to go for the victory. We pushed hard with Lando and potentially paid a price in terms of consistency in the stints, but this doesn't change the final result. It's encouraging to be competitive in a track that we didn't expect to suit our package. It's a real shame what happened on Oscar's side, because we could have finished with really strong points. Unfortunately, his race ended after making contact on Lap 1, damaging the cooling system and causing the engine to overheat. Before that he'd made great progress through the field. Up to that point, despite damage to the car, the pace today was much better, so we are pleased with the improvement we have been able to make on Oscar's side and we will bounce back in Mexico".
Carlos Sainz Jr. admits that the competitors were faster than them:
"I think today’s result was the best we could do. The pace was decent and solid throughout the race and we even closed the gap to the car in P3 during the last laps. Unfortunately the competitors ahead were faster and we couldn’t quite reach them. We are not where we want to be and we knew it was going to be a tough one, but now we need to quickly switch our focus to Mexico and prepare for next week".
Charles Leclerc made a long first stint, trying to go for a one-stop strategy, but in the end he started to run out of tyre life and dropped back through the field. At the end, like Hamilton, he was disqualified for excessive wear to the skid plank on the underside of his car:
"It’s fair to say that we didn’t go with the right strategy today. On paper, our numbers said that the one and two-stop strategies were very similar, but in reality, this was not the case. I felt good in the car all weekend and our race pace wasn’t bad, so it’s a shame that we didn’t bring home a better result. We have to use the rest of this season to learn as much as possible and make sure we extract the maximum out of every opportunity in the future".
Frédéric Vasseur, Ferrari’s Team Principal, is surely not happy:
"We cannot be happy with a fourth and a sixth place, especially as Charles started from pole position. As for Carlos, the race management went quite well, while the main problem today was with Charles’ strategy, decided on before the start, but which did not work out and therefore compromised his race. Our data suggested that there was not a particularly big difference between a one and a two-stop strategy, but events proved us wrong. As things worked out, we clearly had to switch our drivers’ positions to try and get the best result possible and Charles did his very best in managing to stay ahead of Russell. Now we head to Mexico, knowing there are several areas where we need to improve if we wish to reach the goals we have set ourselves".
Ahead of the race Fernando Alonso opted to swap back to a previous spec floor, so started from the pit lane. At first, he was running in the points in ninth but was suddenly forced into retirement with damage to his floor:
"It was a great comeback race for us with a lot more pace in the AMR23. We were aiming to score some points having started from the pitlane, but, unfortunately, we had to retire with some damage. It's a shame as during the race today we looked quite competitive. We collected a lot of useful data and comparisons on the two cars today that will be crucial heading into the remaining races".
Alex Albon started on used medium tyres, put into place some overtakes and finished 11th. He did pick up a five-second time penalty for repeated track limit infringements, but it didn’t cost him any places:
"I'm very happy for the team and especially Logan for scoring points today. We had our luck, but we were there to take it! My race felt a little compromised without any new Mediums, as we used them all yesterday in the Sprint. We also struggled with the Hards, forcing us to run our used Mediums. Nonetheless, to walk away with points is great for the team as we close out the remainder of the season".
Mario Isola, Pirelli Motorsport Director, analyzes the track and the strategies put into place by the teams:
"On one of the most probing tracks of the season, we witnessed a very closely contested race, with exciting duels both on track and between the strategists".
"On the topic of strategy, the way the race played out confirmed that a two-stop was the quickest option, especially because the one-stop alternative would require very careful tyre management thus making it difficult for a driver to push hard for many laps, while those on two stops were able to do so. That was the case with Leclerc who, although he did not see a drop in performance towards the end due to degradation, found his pace was not strong enough to defend from several drivers who chose to pit twice. Looking at tyre performance in general, the Medium proved to be the most suitable compound, because it offered more grip than the Hard, but its degradation did not result in much slower lap times. The Soft was hardly used - only by AlphaTauri in the closing stages - and looking at Tsunoda's performance it showed it was a great tyre over a single flying lap, but not really an option over a long distance on this Austin track with today's temperatures. Finally, it's worth noting that even in the race there was no graining".
Even in the United States, the story does not change: it is always Max Verstappen and Red Bull Racing who wins. It seems, at this stage in the history of the World Campioanto, that no one can even get close to the World Champions. This is very sad. Added to this is the qualification suffered by Lewis Hamilton and Charles Leclerc: the Englishman, still battling with Sergio Perez for second place in the standings, with today's result could have hoped to take a step closer to achieving a goal that is highly coveted at the moment. And, instead, the only two cars out of four checked (the other two belong to Lando Norris and Max Verstappen) were found to be non-compliant with technical regulations. This, too, influences to mortify a championship that has had very little to tell so far. The drivers do not have to wait too long to get back in the car as we head to Mexico next weekend for the second race of the triple header.