A positive qualifying saw Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz line up in fourth and fifth position, as the pair were ready for a good result at the Circuit of the Americas.
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Photos: Scuderia Ferrari
As the lights went out, pole sitter Max Verstappen lost out after a tense battle with title rival Lewis Hamilton off the line, losing the lead after going wide at the first corner. Charles and Carlos had a tough start with both McLarens attacking the pair throughout the first lap, Daniel Ricciardo eventually splitting the pair and moving into fifth position.
Lap 9, and Carlos was instructed by race control to give his position up to the second McLaren of Lando Norris, due to an incident on the first lap which saw Carlos go off the circuit at turn 12 as Norris attempted a move on the Ferrari. However, Carlos refused, claiming that he had already given up the position for going wide to Ricciardo at turn 18, as the Australian had gotten past Norris in the corners beforehand.
Verstappen opted for an early stop on lap 10, joining the race in fifth place, as Norris also opted for a pit on the same lap, both cars coming back out on the Pirelli Hard compound tyre. Verstappen quickly passed Ricciardo for fourth and set after the top three, already nine tenths of a second quicker than Hamilton on his out lap.
Carlos was then the first of the Ferraris to pit on lap 12, re-joining in ninth position and crucially, ahead of Norris. Charles now held third position and was yet to stop, but was quickly chased down by the Red Bull of Verstappen. Lap 13 saw Charles now into the pits behind Sergio Pérez. With fresh tyres, Carlos was on the charge, passing Sebastian Vettel for seventh.
With both Red Bulls pitting, Mercedes was forced to pit Hamilton on lap 14, but lost the lead to a very fast Verstappen. After suffering engine issues prior to the start of the race, Pierre Gasly was forced to slow with another issue, pushing the Frenchman into the garage and into retirement.
A stop for the second Mercedes of Valtteri Bottas promoted Carlos into sixth position, as Charles held onto fourth position. However, Carlos began to close back in on the McLaren of Ricciardo for fifth place.
After forcing the Alfa Romeo of Antonio Giovinazzi off the circuit at turn 13, Fernando Alonso was forced by race control to give the position back, or be faced with a five-second penalty, which started a brilliant scrap between the pair for 12th position and in turn, forcing Giovinazzi to give the position back to Alonso after going wide at turn 12 also on the following lap.
A brief virtual safety car was called on lap 28 to allow a marshal to recover debris off the circuit, but the race was very quickly underway once again. Lap 30 saw a second stop for Verstappen for another set of Hard compound tyres, as Mercedes and Hamilton opted to extend the current stint. However, an issue on the right rear for Carlos saw him held up in the box as he pitted also on that lap.
Looking to benefit from Carlos’ slow stop, McLaren tried a double stop on lap 31, but thanks to a slow stop for Norris, Carlos remained in between the two McLarens in seventh, and once again was closing in on Ricciardo. Charles’ second stop went much smoother on lap 33, and he came back out just ahead of Bottas in fourth, and was able to pull away from the second Mercedes thanks to the fresher tyres.
A second stop for Bottas promoted Carlos back into sixth, and was now only two seconds away from Ricciardo’s fifth position. Hamilton then took his second stop on lap 38, which handed the lead to Verstappen with a gap of 8.5 seconds.
By lap 41, Carlos had caught the McLaren of Ricciardo and was attacking the McLaren for position, as a slowing Esteban Ocon was forced into the pits to become the second retirement of the race. Both Ricciardo and Carlos touched as the pair went wheel-to-wheel, and both were now being caught by a recovering Bottas.
With seven laps to go, Alonso became the third retirement of the race due to a rear wing issue, as Hamilton was closing to within 1.5 seconds of Verstappen. A spin for Kimi Raikkonen in the closing stages dropped his Alfa Romeo out of a promising points finish, as the race was on for the victory between the leading pair.
Despite a stong challenge from Hamilton, Verstappen took the chequered flag to extend his championship lead, with Pérez in third position. Charles finished a brilliant fourth to take his third fourth place in a row, as Carlos came home in seventh after losing out to Bottas on the final lap. Nevertheless, it is another promising result that keeps Ferrari strong in the tight battle with McLaren for fourth in the constructor's championship.
Written by Cóilín Higgins.
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