Red Bull driver Max Verstappen won the Formula One race at the Circuit of the Americas here Sunday, holding off the charging Mercedes of Lewis Hamilton in the final laps. “You could see it was very close to the end!” Verstappen said after the race. “I was struggling a lot on the braking.”

It was the 15th Grand Prix win this year for Verstappen, tying his own record from last year, as he chased Formula One history after he clinched his third straight world championship this month. He started in sixth place after a mistake in qualifying that scrambled the usual order.

With his 50th Grand Prix win, Verstappen joins an elite club, with only Hamilton, Michael Schumacher, Sebastian Vettel and Alain Prost having won at least 50 races. “It’s a great number. I’m very happy with it. Very proud of it,” Verstappen told reporters. “But yeah, let’s try to win a few more.”

At the podium ceremony after the United States Grand Prix, loud boos filled the audience as Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican, presented the winner's trophy to Verstappen.

It was an intriguing race of competing strategies and managing tires in scorching heat, with the Red Bull team pulling off another master class by committing early to two pit stops for Verstappen.

McLaren's Lando Norris, who had a dream start and lunged into the lead in the first corner, tried a one-stop before he switched to a two-stop, which gave Verstappen the edge. Hamilton also gambled on a one-stop race by seeking to make his fresh tires last a long time, before he abandoned the strategy and stopped again. Hamilton overtook Norris for second place in the closing stages.

McLaren Racing CEO Zak Brown told NBC News that the Circuit of the Americas deserves “a lot of credit” for having brought Formula One back to the U.S. in 2012 after a drought of races.

“It’s just built and built and built, and it’s great to see all the U.S. fans here. They love Formula One,” Brown said on the grid moments before the race began. “It’s only going to grow. We haven’t even had Vegas yet. We have a new television contract. We got the Brad Pitt movie coming. So all these things are going to just continue to accelerate the growth of Formula One.”

Massive crowds packed the grandstands during the weekend despite scorching temperatures that topped 90 degrees Fahrenheit. Fans have complained about rising prices as interest in tickets has grown.

Leo Garcia, the Circuit of the Americas’ executive vice president of operations, said his team limited ticket sales to balance the need for a positive fan experience.

“To the community, to the fans — it’s a big, big event for us all,” Garcia said. “To know it’s on TV, to know that there’s millions of fans all over the world watching this race, that’s exciting for us.”


A battle for second in the championship

While Verstappen has already clinched the driver’s championship this year, a consequential battle for second place is heating up.

Red Bull’s other driver, Sergio Perez, started the season neck and neck with Verstappen, but after a poor stretch, Hamilton has closed the gap to 19 points, eating eight more out of his lead Sunday.

Perez, who is Mexican and says Austin feels like a second home race, was greeted throughout the weekend by chants of “Checo! Checo! Checo!” — his nickname.

After the race, Red Bull team principal Christian Horner said in a brief interview that to finish first and second in the driver’s championship would be “nice to have” and voiced confidence in Perez.

“It’s not like winning the championship, but it’s something we’ve never done before,” Horner said.

Hamilton, a seven-time world champion, said overtaking Perez in the championship would be “a showing of resilience and strength and depth from our team” after a difficult 2022.

“I don’t know whether or not we’ll catch Sergio, but given the difference of our cars throughout the season, I’m really proud of the work that we’ve done,” Hamilton told reporters Friday. “We’ve just got to keep our heads down, keep fighting, keep pushing.”

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