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Max Verstappen and Red Bull-Honda have triumphed once again, securing a remarkable 50th Formula 1 victory for the Dutch driver. However, this time, it was anything but a walk in the park. Perhaps it was the starting position from the third row that made the race challenging, or maybe it was the two pit stops that required precise tire strategy, despite the fact that the differences in tire wear and mileage between the medium and hard Pirelli compounds seemed negligible in the end.

Verstappen's challenge didn't come from Charles Leclerc's Ferrari, which started from pole position. Instead, it was the surprising McLaren-Mercedes of Lando Norris and the exceptional performance of Lewis Hamilton in the Mercedes that posed a serious threat throughout the weekend, overshadowing George Russell. Norris and Hamilton did everything in their power to keep up with the Red Bull, which, this time, didn't manage to build a substantial lead as it often does in other races.

Norris and Hamilton delivered stellar performances. While McLaren lost some ground towards the end, the Mercedes team has reached high standards this year, as demonstrated in the Sprint race. The strategy from Zak Brown's team was spot on, though the same cannot be said for Mercedes, which experienced some uncertainties regarding Hamilton's pit stop timing and even a minor issue with the right front tire that cost them at least a second and a half. These uncertainties may have cost them the victory.

In essence, this race was more fiercely contested than usual. Verstappen appeared visibly agitated, as evidenced by two radio comments where he sternly silenced his engineer at inopportune moments. Nevertheless, Max managed to navigate a challenging situation, avoiding the errors that Hamilton and Norris each made, errors that could have cost precious tenths or even seconds. Considering that Verstappen won with just a 2.2-second margin over Hamilton, it's evident how demanding this race was for him.

When Hamilton senses the opportunity for a significant result, he transforms into a formidable competitor. Additionally, George Russell emerged from this contest with his reputation somewhat bruised, finishing only seventh, a result similar to Sergio Perez of Red Bull, who consistently lagged behind his teammate and claimed fifth place.

Ferrari impressed in qualifying but struggled to maintain its pace in the race. As seen in previous instances, the SF-23 excels in single-lap speed but faces tire management issues during long distances. Carlos Sainz managed to secure fourth place, but Leclerc faced misfortune due to the pit stop strategy, which hindered his chances of a third-place finish. However, he would have still had to contend with Norris.

Oscar Piastri experienced bad luck, forced to retire due to contact with Esteban Ocon on the first lap. Both drivers had to abandon the race shortly after. Alpine-Renault continued to collect points, maintaining a presence in the mid-pack. This time, they secured eighth place with Pierre Gasly. Lance Stroll returned to the points in the Aston Martin-Mercedes, despite an error in the formation lap, while Fernando Alonso started from the pit lane after reverting to the previous aerodynamic package. His recovery was promising but was cut short by damage to the car's undertray.

Yuki Tsunoda finished tenth with Alpha Tauri-Honda, earning an extra point for the fastest lap. Daniel Ricciardo had a solid performance upon his return after an arm injury, but the one-stop strategy didn't pay off for him. Logan Sargeant achieved a 12th place, just behind his Williams teammate Alexander Albon. Regarding Haas and Sauber, there isn't much to report. Both teams started from the pit lane with their drivers, but they failed to secure significant results.

Lewis Hamilton and Charles Leclerc were then excluded from the race results. This decision was made after post-race inspections revealed irregularities on the undertray skid blocks of both drivers' cars.

Subject to scrutiny, alongside Ferrari and Mercedes, were the Red Bull of Max Verstappen and the McLaren of Lando Norris. Unfortunately, cars from the two leading teams did not comply with Technical Regulation Article 3.5.9. This specific article stipulates that the undertray skid block, when measured perpendicular to its lower surface, must have a thickness of 10 millimeters, with a maximum tolerance of just 1 millimeter.

FIA Technical Delegate Jo Bauer confirmed that both Ferrari and Mercedes cars exhibited wear beyond what was allowed, with values ranging from -825 to -1025. It's essential to remember that skid blocks cannot be replaced in parc fermé, and the undulating Austin circuit didn't make it easier for this particular component. Moreover, the weekend's compressed format, with car setups frozen after the first weekend session, didn't work in their favor.

This decision led to significant changes in the race results. McLaren's Lando Norris moved up to second place, delivering a strong performance, while Ferrari's Carlos Sainz claimed the third step of the podium. The two Williams cars also benefited from these exclusions, with both drivers making it into the top 10, and Logan Sargeant, finishing tenth, securing his first Formula 1 point right at his home Grand Prix.

© Cavalieri Garage & Co.


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