Max Verstappen saw off Lewis Hamilton’s early challenge to claim victory in Saturday’s sprint race at the United States Grand Prix.
For the first time since their 2021 championship duel for the ages, Verstappen and Hamilton ran line astern in the 19-lap dash at Austin’s Circuit of the Americas.
But Hamilton was unable to prevent Verstappen from taking the spoils, and accumulating yet another win of this most one-sided of Formula One campaigns.
Hamilton took the chequered flag a distant 9.4 seconds adrift of Verstappen with Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc third.
Verstappen, crowned champion of the world for a third time in Qatar a two weeks ago, took pole position earlier on Saturday and then put his elbows out at the start to ensure Leclerc did not sneak up his inside on the uphill drag to the opening bend.
Verstappen moved over to his left to squeeze the Ferrari man allowing Hamilton a clean shot at Leclerc on the exit of the first corner.
Hamilton ran over the kerbs and past the Monegasque, and then set his sights on Verstappen.
Hamilton has not won a race for nearly two years, the longest losing streak of his career. Indeed, 685 days have passed since he claimed victory at the penultimate round of the 2021 campaign in Saudi Arabia.
But for half-a-dozen laps here, Hamilton will have dared to dream that a victory could be on the cards.
Hamilton has triumphed six times in America – with five of those victories in the Lone Star State – and his early pace certainly provided Verstappen with food for thought.
The seven-time world champion stayed within one second of Verstappen to provide him with a possible DRS slingshot past his Red Bull rival.
“Driveability is not there,” moaned Verstappen on the radio. “I lost the rear completely.”
Hamilton then hinted his nemesis was gaining an advantage by using more of the track than is allowed.
“Max has gone off quite a few times,” said the Mercedes driver.
Hamilton has lauded the improvements from his updated machine, but the superiority of Verstappen’s Red Bull came to the fore.
Six laps had passed and Verstappen was suddenly out of DRS range. A slim hope of victory for Hamilton was dashed.
Yet the 38-year-old, who starts third for tomorrow’s 56-lap main event, will expect to be a contender again.
And his chances of a possible win will be aided by Verstappen starting only in sixth after his pole lap in Friday’s qualifying was deleted for exceeding track limits.
“Once I cleared the DRS I was settled in my own rhythm and the pace of the car was good,” said Verstappen.
“Starting sixth tomorrow will be different to today, but it makes it interesting and hopefully we can have fun. But of course I want to win.”
Hamilton said: “That was a fun race. A good start down to Turn 1 and a good battle with Charles.
“I was trying early on to get close to Max but their pace is undeniable at the moment. I am happy we are closer, but we still have a long way to go to compete with the pace they had in the race.”
Lando Norris took fourth spot ahead of Verstappen’s Red Bull teammate Sergio Perez, with Carlos Sainz sixth.
George Russell finished seventh but was demoted to eighth after he served a five-second penalty for an illegal move on McLaren’s Oscar Piastri.