Formula 1: Max Verstappen holds off Lewis Hamilton to win United States Grand Prix

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Max Verstappen doubled his points lead in Austin.

Verstappen held off Lewis Hamilton for the final five laps of the 56-lap race to win his first United States Grand Prix and extend his points lead from six to 12 with five races to go in 2021.

Verstappen pitted before Hamilton on each of the race's two pit-stop rounds. Hamilton stayed out as long as possible during his middle stint to have a fresher tire advantage over the final laps of the race. And while he cut Verstappen's lead to a second at a couple of points over the final two laps, he was never able to get the DRS advantage on a straightaway.

Hamilton could have won the race had he gotten that advantage. The Mercedes is much faster in a straight line than the Red Bull and would have had an absurd speed advantage on Verstappen on the long backstretch at Circuit of the Americas with the Drag Reduction System activated. But he didn't get close enough to have that opportunity as Verstappen held on with tires that were eight laps older. 

Verstappen's Red Bull Racing teammate Sergio Perez finished a distant third. 

Verstappen's first USGP win

Verstappen's first USGP win came at a crucial time. Hamilton seemed to have the advantage heading into the race with five wins at the Austin track and a car that looked a whole heck of a lot faster in Friday's practice sessions.

But Red Bull caught the Mercedes on Saturday and Verstappen took the pole during qualifying. Hamilton got the lead on the first corner of the race with a great start, but Verstappen and Red Bull went for the undercut on the first set of stops.

With temperatures around 80 degrees and an abrasive track surface, Sunday's race was a two-stop race for everyone. Verstappen pitted first to get a fresher tire advantage earlier and took the lead after Hamilton pitted. Hamilton then stayed out after Verstappen's second stop and stretched it as far as he could with the aim of catching and passing Verstappen in the final three laps of the race. 

Hamilton quickly started catching Verstappen after he got his tires up to temperature on the final stint. But he stalled out a bit after the gap got to within two seconds and a bobble off Turn 11 ahead of the long backstretch on the penultimate lap likely hurt his chances for a win.

If Hamilton got off that corner better he might have been close enough to activate the DRS on the frontstretch heading to the white flag and on the backstretch to make a pass on the final lap. Instead, Verstappen masterfully kept Hamilton at bay enough to prevent any pass attempt.

Formula 1 is off next week before three races in three weekends in Mexico, Brazil and Qatar. Verstappen is trying for his first championship while Hamilton would win a record-breaking eighth title. The all-time F1 wins leader, Hamilton is tied with Michael Schumacher for the most F1 titles ever. 

The biggest racing event of the weekend

Sunday's race was a sign of the hold Formula 1 has taken in the United States. As the grandstands were maybe a third full at Kansas Speedway for Sunday's NASCAR playoff race, there were allegedly 140,000 fans expected for the F1 race.

Stars and athletes from around the world were seen on the pit lane ahead of the race, the first in the United States since 2019 because of the coronavirus pandemic. It's not out of the question that the Formula 1 race — which was broadcast on ABC — will have nearly as many television viewers as the NASCAR race on cable. If F1 somehow draws more TV viewers than NASCAR, it reasons to be the first time in the modern era that a Formula 1 race drew more viewers than a regularly scheduled NASCAR race at the same time. 

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