The United States Grand Prix certainly did not disappoint on its return to the Formula 1 calendar after two years away, with COTA serving up a thrilling showdown between 2021’s title contenders. 

Austin produced a nail-biting conclusion to a classic race determined by a strategic game of chess and delivered a result that could be pivotal to the final outcome of this year’s world championship.

Here are our biggest winners and losers from the 17th round of the 2021 F1 season…

Winners 

Max Verstappen 

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A phenomenal performance from Max Verstappen, who resisted immense late pressure from his championship rival Lewis Hamilton to claim his eighth victory of the season. 

Despite losing the lead at the start, Verstappen kept his cool and had Red Bull’s quick-thinking and aggressive strategy to thank for helping him to regain track position. 

Nevertheless, the Dutchman still had to finish the job, and he did so with potentially the best drive of his career to date to perfectly manage his tyres and fend off a charging Hamilton without putting a foot wrong. 

It was a display worthy of a champion, and one that sees him take a step closer to that maiden world title after doubling his world championship lead. 

Charles Leclerc 

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It was a great - albeit lonely - Sunday afternoon for Charles Leclerc as he turned in another brilliant drive on his way to taking a strong fourth place in Texas. 

Much of Leclerc’s efforts went unnoticed by the TV broadcast as he executed a flawless drive to convert his strong qualifying lap into a ‘best of the rest’ finish. 

Leclerc was just 10 seconds shy of the podium and Sergio Perez’s Red Bull as he comprehensively outperformed his nearest rivals and maximised his US Grand Prix.

A great result for Ferrari too, as the Italian outfit reduced the gap to McLaren to just 3.5 points after outscoring them for the second race in a row. 

Daniel Ricciardo 

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Daniel Ricciardo continued his upward curve of recent performances with one of his strongest drives of the season in Austin.

The Australian’s opportunistic approach paid off despite initially losing ground to Carlos Sainz’s Ferrari and his teammate Lando Norris. Ricciardo cut back underneath Norris after an entertaining first-lap scrap to regain a place, before sweeping past Sainz with a lovely move into Turn 18. 

Things got spicy between Ricciardo and Sainz as they touched on Lap 43 of 56, with Ricciardo defending hard as he held onto P5 to split the quicker Ferrari duo. 

Yuki Tsunoda 

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2021 has featured more lows than highs for F1 rookie Yuki Tsunoda, but he has started to show encouraging signs that he is turning things around and finding some much-needed consistency. 

Austin marked the second event in a row he progressed to Q3 and unlike in Turkey, this time Tsunoda was able to convert that into a solid points finish. After holding up Hamilton’s Mercedes last time out, he impressively stalled Bottas’ charge. 

On a day his teammate Pierre Gasly was forced to retire and AlphaTauri's main rival Alpine failed to score, Tsunoda was there to pick up two valuable points.

Sebastian Vettel 

Having won the battle to start highest out of the drivers to be hit with engine penalties in qualifying, Sebastian Vettel nabbed the final point on offer in P10. 

Aston Martin struggled for competitiveness at COTA but Vettel made steady progress through the order and pulled off some excellent moves in a noteworthy performance. 

The four-time world champion was promoted to 10th thanks to Kimi Raikkonen spinning out of the points late on, but Vettel deserved to be rewarded with a slice of luck for his great effort. 

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Losers 

Mercedes 

The US GP was a tough pill for Mercedes to swallow, with Hamilton falling just short of victory in the end.

Mercedes was beaten by a quicker car and better strategy on the day as it lost ground in both world championships at a circuit it has been so formidable at in the past. 

The result has undoubtedly dented Hamilton’s title prospects. Had he been able to win, he would have come away from the US leading the world championship by two points but, as it turned out, he’s now 12 behind heading to two circuits that are expected to favour Red Bull - and he may yet need to take another engine penalty. 

Meanwhile in the sister car, Valtteri Bottas failed to build on the momentum of his excellent win in Turkey as he endured a difficult and frustrating race in which he could only make up three places after his engine penalty. 

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Lando Norris 

For much of 2021 we have been used to seeing Lando Norris enjoy the upper hand over Ricciardo, but Austin was a rare occasion where the Briton was on the back foot compared to his McLaren teammate. 

Norris was unfortunate to lose out to Ricciardo and Sainz during a swashbuckling duel on the opening lap that included a daring lunge into Turn 12, but from there on in he struggled to keep up with the duo as he slipped back. 

He was eventually picked off by Bottas in the closing stages as he dropped to a low-key P8. 

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Kimi Raikkonen

While the fact Raikkonen was even running inside the top 10 was an impressive feat, the Finn squandered the chance of logging a rare point for Alfa Romeo with a spin in the closing stages. 

It was an uncharacteristic error from the highly-experienced Raikkonen, who finished his final US GP 12th at the venue he claimed his last F1 victory three years prior. 

In all likelihood, one missed point won’t change much for Alfa Romeo in the constructors’ championship given Williams’ healthy buffer, but it was a still a shame for Raikkonen to throw it away. 

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Alpine 

A day to forget for Alpine as it leaves America empty handed thanks to a double retirement in Austin. 

Early contact with Antonio Giovinazzi ruined Esteban Ocon’s race and forced him into an unscheduled stop, before his Sunday ended prematurely on Lap 40 when an issue with the rear of his Alpine emerged.

Fernando Alonso was working his way through the pack well with another battling display when sudden damage to his rear wing ended his charge and his chance of contending for the points.

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Pierre Gasly 

A suspected engine issue threatened to end Gasly’s race before it had even started, but AlphaTauri was able to fix the problem in time for the start. 

However the Frenchman’s work was done before he even reached half distance when he suffered a terminal suspension failure. 

With Gasly running in the top 10 before his race-ending issue, it was a missed opportunity for AlphaTauri to fully capitalise on Alpine’s double DNF and further close the gap to P5 in the constructors’ championship.

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