Max scored his seventh podium finish of the season with third place at the US Grand Prix as Lewis Hamilton wrapped up his sixth world championship title with a second-place finish behind race-winning teammate Valtteri Bottas. Alex, meanwhile finished fifth, after making three pit stops following a first lap collision that dropped him to the back of the field.
When the lights went out at the start Max made a good start and drew alongside front-row starter Sebastian Vettel on the approach to turn one. Max had a better line through the blind corner, however, and as the pair emerged into the ‘Esses’, the Dutchman tucked into second place behind pole sitter Bottas.
Further back, though, Alex hit trouble. Carlos Sainz, starting from P7 on the grid, took a wide line into turn one and as Alex drifted towards the kerb on exit the pair tangled. The result was a pit stop for Alex at the end of the opening lap and after taking on medium tyres the Thai driver rejoined in P20 and launched a fight back through the order.
Vettel, meanwhile, was losing more ground. He reported “crazy understeer” after the start and by the end of lap one he was down to P7 as both McLaren’s Lando Norris and Renault’s Daniel Ricciardo surged past. A handful of laps later and the Ferrari driver’s race was run. On lap 8 his rear right suspension collapsed as he ran over the kerbs in turn eight. He pulled over at the side of the track and retired.
By lap 12 Bottas had carved out a three-second gap to Max, with Hamilton a further eight tenths of a second behind. Hamilton now began to close on the Red Bull and as a result the decision was taken to pit Max at the end of the following lap. He bolted on a set of hard tyres and rejoined in P4 ahead of Ricciardo.
Mercedes responded to Max’s stop by pitting leader Bottas at the end of the following lap and after a slightly slower stop than that of the Red Bull he rejoined in P3, just ahead of Max. Both quickly powered past the much slower Leclerc and resumed their battle in P2 and P3 respectively.
Hamilton continued to circulate in the lead on his starting medium tyres until he was overtaken by Bottas on lap 24. The Briton then dived for the pits at the end of the lap and after switching to a set of hard tyres he rejoined in third place behind Max.
Ahead, Bottas now led Max by six seconds, with Hamilton a further 11 seconds back in P3. Leclerc was a lonely fourth, some 25 seconds off Hamilton and 14 seconds clear of Ricciardo. The McLarens of Norris and Sainz were now sixth and seventh respectively and after dismissing Pierre Gasly, Alex found himself in P8 just 1.7s behind the man he’d tussled with on lap one. This time there was no clash and Alex powered past the Spaniard on lap 31 to split the McLarens.
The next target was Norris and within two laps Alex had caught his fellow rookie. He made quick work of reclaiming his starting position of sixth with a great move past the McLaren man down the inside into turn one.
With his tyres fading, Max was now beginning to drop back from leader Bottas. Max dived into the pit lane on lap 35 to take on a new set of medium tyres. Mercedes again covered the move by pitting Bottas at the end of the next tour and as Hamilton once again assumed the race lead Bottas emerged in P2, a little over four seconds ahead of third-placed Max.
Further back, Alex’s march continued and he soon eased past Ricciardo to take fifth. With Leclerc 26s up the road there was little hope of any further progress, however. The Team then made the decision to pit the Thai driver for a third time, on lap 41, and after taking on soft tyres he rejoined in P10.
When Norris also pitted in the final 15 laps Alex quickly rose to P9 and after muscling past Sergio Pérez, Pierre Gasly and Carlos Sainz he climbed back to sixth place.
With 10 laps remaining he was just 4.4s behind Ricciardo and after rapidly catching the Australian he powered past on the next lap to once again take fifth.
At the front, Bottas was now just 1.3s behind Hamilton, with Max five seconds further back. On lap 50 the Finn broke into DRS range of his teammate and began to attack. His first effort was rebuffed, but with five laps remaining there was nothing Hamilton could do as Bottas made the most of DRS on the back straight to power past on the inside and reclaim the lead.
And as Hamilton’s pace faded, Max got within striking distance. With two laps left he was inside DRS range of the championship leader, but though he pushed to find a weakness, no opportunity presented itself. Bottas crossed the line to take his fourth win of the year, Hamilton took second to wrap up his sixth Formula 1 World Drivers’ title, and Max was forced to settle for third place, his seventh podium finish of the season.
Behind the top three, Charles Leclerc finished a distant fourth, some 52 seconds behind the race winner. And after a first-lap collision, three pit stops and two journeys back through the field, Alex took the flag in fifth place. The result marked his fifth top-five finish since joining the Team.
At the end of another committed drive, sixth place went to Ricciardo with Norris seventh ahead of teammate Sainz. Nico Hulkenberg took an extra two points for Renault with ninth place and the final point on offer went to Racing Point’s Sergio Pérez.