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United States GP Driver Ratings: Verstappen resists Hamilton's charge

Another exciting round of the 2021 Formula 1 season saw Max Verstappen come out on top against Lewis Hamilton in an intense United States Grand Prix. RacingNews365.com rates the whole field on how they performed at the Circuit of the Americas.

Max Verstappen held off Lewis Hamilton after an enthralling race-long battle at the United States Grand Prix to extend his lead in the Drivers' Championship. Sergio Perez finished third as Red Bull and Mercedes went head-to-head in one of the most strategically intense races of the year so far. We have rated all 20 drivers based on their qualifying and race performances. Team errors such as a slow pit-stop or a sub-optimal strategy do not affect our ratings as they are no fault of the drivers. Our ratings solely look at how well the drivers got on throughout the United States GP weekend.

Max Verstappen 9.5/10

Started: 1st - Finished: 1st Verstappen had a weekend worthy of a champion. He was behind teammate Perez after the first run in Q3 and Hamilton momentarily took pole position. But, when the pressure was really on, Verstappen delivered with an excellent lap. In the race, he didn't put a foot wrong after losing out at the start. An aggressive strategy needed stellar tyre management and Verstappen used all of his experience from his 136 races in F1 to nurse the Pirelli rubber home with enough pace in hand to hold off Hamilton. If Verstappen was not at his best in Austin, he would not have won the race. Despite this being his first title race, he showed that he can deliver when the pressure is sky-high.

Lewis Hamilton 9.5/10

Started: 2nd - Finished: 2nd Hamilton was just as good as Verstappen and the difference at the chequered flag summed up the weekend. An almost perfect start from Hamilton saw him take the lead up to Turn 1 and he was very smart with his tyre management. He held Verstappen in his dirty air during the first stint, but didn't let him get close enough to go for an overtake. By taking it relatively easy at the beginning of each stint, Hamilton gave himself every chance of attacking at the end of the race. The seven-time World Champion just didn't quite have enough of a tyre advantage to get within DRS and mount a serious challenge. Nevertheless, Hamilton and Mercedes didn't make any clear errors with their on-track performance.

Sergio Perez 8.5/10

Started: 3rd - Finished: 3rd Perez had one of his best events of the year in Texas and looked strong straight out of the box. The difference is that he managed to continue to improve as the weekend progressed. He didn't have the pace to go with Verstappen and Hamilton, but they were in a class of their own, and Perez did the job to make it back-to-back podiums. Considering Perez didn't have a drink for most of the race and was ill, it was a mighty effort and it has given Red Bull a better chance of winning the Constructors' Championship.

Charles Leclerc 9.5/10

Started: 4th - Finished: 4th Charles Leclerc was the other star at the Circuit of the Americas, replicating his form from Istanbul by maximising Ferrari's strong pace. Once again, he was the fastest midfield driver in qualifying and managed his tyres brilliantly on Sunday. He even thought catching Perez was possible. Leclerc is going through a purple patch of form and he went under the radar at the weekend, mainly due to his relatively quiet but outstanding race.

Daniel Ricciardo 8.5/10

Started: 6th - Finished: 5th Daniel Ricciardo had a much-needed strong weekend, and it was an event which he enjoyed too. He had a swagger about him and was able to edge out teammate Lando Norris when it mattered most. Ricciardo's defence against Carlos Sainz was pivotal and he fought hard to maintain fifth place. The US GP was one of Ricciardo's best races in 2021 and he can take confidence from his performance going into the final races.

Valtteri Bottas 6.5/10

Started: 9th - Finished: 6th We got a pretty ordinary Valtteri Bottas at the weekend. Qualifying was solid, being only three-tenths behind Hamilton, but his racecraft let him down once again. Apart from Monza this year, Bottas seems to not be able to follow cars closely without getting caught out by the dirty air or overheating his tyres. This means he's not close enough to the car in front to make an overtake and there was too much of that on Sunday. Sixth place, in a fast car, is not a good result.

Carlos Sainz 8/10

Started: 5th - Finished: 7th A slow pit-stop likely cost Sainz fifth place and he handled the difficulty of starting on the Soft tyres very well. Looking at the result, you might think that Sainz had a poor race on paper compared to his teammate. But it was simply a magnificent drive from Leclerc which saw him shine, whilst Sainz struggled to get by Ricciardo at the end of the race, eventually losing out to Bottas.

Lando Norris 7.5/10

Started: 7th - Finished: 8th By Norris' high standards this year, the United States GP was one of his weakest events of the year. Norris failed to properly get into the fight for a top five position, lacking a tiny bit of speed to Ricciardo. A key moment of the race for Norris came on Lap 1 when he made it three-wide on the back straight between himself, Sainz and Ricciardo. Norris backed out, which was probably a smart move, because the chances of a collision were very high. Due to this, though, he lost out when he could have gained two positions.

Yuki Tsunoda 7/10

Started: 10th - Finished: 9th Yuki Tsunoda had one of his best weekends of the season, getting to grips very quickly with a track he'd never raced at before. For the second event running, he impressively kept a Mercedes behind for a few laps and was closer to AlphaTauri teammate Pierre Gasly. These results should boost Tsunoda's confidence and, as long as he can be close to Gasly, that's a success for now.

Sebastian Vettel 8.5/10

Started: 18th - Finished: 10th Another driver who went under the radar was Sebastian Vettel. He executed qualifying perfectly, beating Fernando Alonso and George Russell to start ahead of the pair (since they also had grid penalties for a new power unit), but didn't reach Q3 in order to have free tyre choice. After a slow start to the race, Vettel picked cars off one by one to end up in the top 10, which was a great result given that Aston Martin didn't look particularly strong in Austin. An excellent weekend overall for Vettel.

Antonio Giovinazzi 6/10

Started: 12th - Finished: 11th Antonio Giovinazzi's 2021 story of a strong Saturday, and an average Sunday, suggested that he didn't manage his tyres that well. Points were ready to be scored but Giovinazzi was simply a few tenths of a second slower than teammate Kimi Raikkonen in the same car. Perhaps this was Giovinazzi's last major chance to have a standout weekend to save his seat in F1.

Lance Stroll 4.5/10

Started: 13h - Finished: 12th Lance Stroll had a dismal weekend at the Circuit of the Americas. He failed to get out of Q1 and was spun around by Nicholas Latifi on the first lap. From there, his pace was poor and he cannot be happy with his performance. An event to forget for Stroll.

Kimi Raikkonen 7/10

Started: 15th - Finished: 13th It's difficult to rate Raikkonen this week because his qualifying was slower than his FP3 time, but he had extraordinary pace in the race. During some periods of the Grand Prix, he was faster than the McLaren and Ferrari drivers, indicating that he mastered the Pirelli rubber. However, a spin when running inside the top 10 cost him points. It looked like a rookie error at first but his contact with Fernando Alonso appeared to have damaged his floor, which was why his high-speed spin was so unusual.

George Russell 6.5/10

Started: 20th - Finished: 14th George Russell had a very quiet weekend, which was hindered by his grid penalty. He didn't participate in Q2 so who knows if he would have been able to pull off one of his magical qualifying laps. Neither Williams car was seen all afternoon on Sunday, the team seemingly stuck in no man's land behind the midfield, but comfortably ahead of Haas.

Nicholas Latifi 5.5

Started: 14th - Finished: 15th Continuing on from Russell's relatively invisible weekend, Latifi followed suit with the usual three-tenths of a second on average pace deficit. He nudged the rear of Stroll at the start, sending the Aston Martin driver into a spin, but he was rightly not penalised as the field simply concertinaed together at Turn 1.

Mick Schumacher 7.5/10

Started: 16th - Finished: 16th Mick Schumacher had another solid weekend, beating Haas teammate Nikita Mazepin in qualifying and easily outshining him in the race. Schumacher's race pace was excellent as he kept Latifi and Esteban Ocon, before he retired, in sight, whilst finishing nearly a lap ahead of Mazepin.

Nikita Mazepin 4/10

Started: 17th - Finished: 17th Whilst Schumacher was strong, Mazepin was poor and endured a tough time at the Circuit of the Americas. The gap between Schumacher and Mazepin hasn't changed for the majority of the season and there are no signs that the Russian driver is getting closer on a consistent basis.

Fernando Alonso 4/10

Started: 19th - Finished: DNF Alonso had one of his worst races this season, finding himself involved in incidents which he was generally at fault for. He forced Raikkonen off the track, damaging both cars, and argued that his late lunge on Giovinazzi was a fair overtake even though he completed the move outside of the track limits with no interference from the Alfa Romeo driver. It was disappointing from Alonso, as he let his 'darker' side creep in on Sunday.

Esteban Ocon 5/10

Started: 11th - Finished: DNF Alpine had a nightmare weekend, with Ocon's terminal mechanical problem summing up their time in Texas. Even with a handy slipstream in qualifying, the Alpine just did not have the raw pace over one lap nor in the race. A suspension problem ended Ocon's race but he was unlikely to score points even if he saw the chequered flag, following his early pit-stop for a damaged front wing.

Pierre Gasly 7/10

Started: 8th - Finished: DNF AlphaTauri seemed to be in no man's land as well at the Circuit of the Americas, behind McLaren and Ferrari but ahead of Aston Martin and Alpine. Gasly had a poor start which saw him drop behind Tsunoda and it ended any hopes he had of fighting against Norris and Sainz. The Frenchman had trouble with his power unit prior to the race but it was a suspension issue that caused his DNF.

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