Max Verstappen outduels Lewis Hamilton to win U.S. Grand Prix, extend F1 points lead

F1 Verstappen COTA
Chris Graythen/Getty Images
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AUSTIN, Texas — Max Verstappen held off F1 title rival Lewis Hamilton over the final thrilling laps at COTA for his eighth Formula One victory of the season, doubling double his lead in the championship standings Sunday in the United States Grand Prix.

Verstappen, who entered the Circuit of The Americas with a six-point lead over Hamilton in the F1 standings, now leads the seven-time champion by 12 points with five races remaining.

Hamilton in his Mercedes was bearing down on Verstappen over the final 18 laps and had cut the Red Bull driver’s lead to less than 1 second by the final lap. But he couldn’t make the pass at the end and settled for second.

Verstappen, the 24-year-old Dutchman chasing his first championship, now has some breathing room heading into Mexico City, a high-altitude stronghold for Red Bull.

Hamilton, a five-time winner at COTA who couldn’t catch Verstappen in the end, is seeking a record eighth F1 title.

As the popularity of Formula One explodes in the U.S., the championship rivals delivered a dramatic finish under a blazing Texas sun in front of an estimated crowd of 140,000. It was one of the largest sporting events since the start of the pandemic and drew the rich and famous to the Austin circuit.

Among the celebrities in attendance were actor Ben Stiller, rapper Meghan Thee Stallion, golfer Rory McIlroy and tennis champion Serena Williams, who all participated in the pre-race grid walk. Shaquille O’Neal hosted a post-race DJ dance party and delivered the winner’s trophy to the podium, where the 7-footer loomed large over Verstappen and Hamilton.

Verstappen and Hamilton were locked in a tense fight all weekend, first when Verstappen called Hamilton a “stupid idiot” and flipped him the middle finger during Friday practice. Then Verstappen edged Hamilton for pole position on the final lap of qualifying Sunday.

It set up a fierce fight for the lead headed into the first turn because the winner at COTA has always come from the front row. Hamilton quickly jumped past Verstappen and the two traded the lead four times over 56 laps.

But Hamilton just couldn’t make one more pass in the end. It’s a missed victory at a circuit where Mercedes have been dominant and Sunday’s result could prove pivotal if Verstappen hangs on to dethrone Hamilton.

Verstappen has had high expectations since he first joined the F1 grid as a 17-year-old in 2015. Hamilton, at 36 a series veteran, has been the dominant figure in F1 for a decade and has won four consecutive championships.

One more Hamilton title will break his tie with Michael Schumacher for most in F1. But he hasn’t been in a fight like this in a long time.

The U.S. Grand Prix was canceled in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic and returned with a flourish as fans poured in to watch the F1’s best championship duel in years.

Cadillac confirms WEC driver lineup with Chip Ganassi Racing that will race Le Mans in 2023

Cadillac Ganassi Le Mans
Cadillac Racing
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Cadillac and Chip Ganassi Racing announced their driver lineup for a 2023 entry in the FIA World Endurance Championship, the sports car series that includes the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

The Cadillac V-LMDh entry will be driven by Earl Bamber and Alex Lynn, who were teamed on the No. 02 Cadillac that competed in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship DPi class this season and won the Twelve Hours of Sebring. The third driver will be Richard Westbrook, who will return to Ganassi after helping the team to a GT class win at Le Mans in 2018.

The team also will compete in the Rolex 24 at Daytona in the rebranded Grand Touring Prototype premier category, which is designed for crossover between the top prototypes in IMSA and WEC. Ganassi will field a second entry at Daytona with its No. 01 Cadillac that will compete full time in IMSA with Sebastien Bourdais and Renger van der Zande.

Next year will mark the return of Cadillac to Le Mans for the first time since 2002.

Before joining Ganassi last year, Lynn made 28 WEC starts since 2016, winning the LMGTE Pro class at Le Mans in 2020.

“I’m absolutely thrilled to continue with Cadillac and Chip Ganassi Racing,” Lynn said in a release. “It’s a huge honor to drive for Chip in any capacity but certainly on a full factory sports car program, it’s seriously cool. Cadillac has so much heritage as a luxury North American sports car brand, so to be able to represent them is a huge privilege. I’ve had a lot of fun in my first year doing it and to continue that onto the World Endurance Championship stage is fantastic.

“For me, returning to WEC is sort of what I’ve always known and it’s a bit like going into my wheelhouse. This year in IMSA was a bit different with getting to know all-new circuits and a new style of racing so 2023 will be filled with a bit more of what I’m used to with more of a European focus. I think what’s significant about WEC is without a doubt Le Mans. As a sports car race, Le Mans is the crown jewel and everything that we want to win. To be able to take Chip Ganassi Racing and Cadillac back to Le Mans to fight for overall honors is a huge honor and that’s something that I’m going to work tirelessly to make sure we achieve.”

Bamber won the Le Mans overall in 2015 and ’17 with Porsche teams and also was a 2019 GTLM champion in IMSA.

“I am really happy to continue at Chip Ganassi Racing and Cadillac,” Bamber said in a release. “I’ve loved my first season in DPi and now to continue over into the LMDh era and WEC is super exciting. Looking forward to fighting for a world championship and another Le Mans victory.

“The World Endurance Championships gives us the opportunity to race at the world’s biggest race, which is Le Mans, the crown jewel of sports car racing. I’ve been lucky enough to win it before and it’s obviously a huge goal for Cadillac and everyone at Chip Ganassi Racing. To have that goal in sight is really exciting. It’s been great to have Alex as a teammate in 2022. We’ve been able to learn and grow together in the DPi, and we have a really good partnership going into WEC. We know each other really well and believe adding Richard will be a seamless transition.”

Said Westbrook: “After four really good years at Chip Ganassi Racing, I’ve got so many friends there and I’ve always dreamt to come back one day. It just worked so well between 2016 and 2019, and I’m delighted we found a route to come together again. I can’t wait, it’s an exciting era in sports car racing right now.

“I feel like I know Alex and Earl really well. I did Le Mans with Alex in 2020 and I’ve known him for years. It feels like I’m going back with an ex-teammate and exactly the same with Earl. Although I’ve never shared a car with Earl, we’ve always done the same sort of racing be it in WEC or in IMSA. We’ve had lots of battles, including this year in our dueling Cadillacs. We’ve always gotten along quite well, and I can say we’re going to have a great year together.”

The seven-race WEC season, which also includes a stop at Spa, will begin March 17 with the 1,000 Miles of Sebring at Sebring International Raceway in Florida.