Ex-Red Bull juniors prepare to do battle as Mercedes eye chance for Austin win

2022 United States Grand Prix pre-race analysis

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As former team mates who entered Formula 1 in the same team as each other back in 2015, Carlos Sainz Jnr and Max Verstappen’s careers have diverged in two very different paths since their first year-and-a-half together.

Verstappen, now a double world champion, fulfilled the great promise always expected of him within the Red Bull ecosystem. Meanwhile Sainz’s route to the front of the field took him from Faenza to Enstone, from Enstone to Woking and then finally from Woking to Maranello where he would join the fight alongside Verstappen once more, only now dressed in red.

After the paddock was informed the news before qualifying that the founder of the Red Bull energy drink and media empire, Dietrich Mateschitz, had died following a lengthy illness, there was serendipity in how the two currently most prominent products of the Red Bull junior driver programme, Sainz and Verstappen, would be the ones to line up on the front row of the grid.

For the first time, Sainz will start on pole position with Verstappen alongside him. After so many rounds following the summer break where Sainz had come so close to pole only to miss out by fractions of a second, the Ferrari driver was relieved to have finally secured the top spot.

Carlos Sainz Jr and Charles Leclerc, Ferrari, Circuit of the Americas, 2022
Sainz pipped team mate Leclerc in qualifying
“I kept my head down and kept trusting that one day [it] was going to come,” Sainz said.

“There’s been qualifying this year where I was half a tenth off pole and I had done a fairly big mistake in the last sector or in the second sector that had cost me, so also having a decently clean lap for the wind conditions that were out there contributed.”

Sainz’s third pole of the season is only the second time he has been the fastest driver in qualifying. But just as in Silverstone, where he was helped by a mistake from Charles Leclerc which compromised Verstappen’s final lap, Sainz benefitted from another mistake from his team mate on Saturday. Leclerc was half a tenth quicker heading into the final corner, Andretti, but by the time they reached the timing line to complete the lap, it was Sainz who was half a tenth to the good.

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“When you speak about such a small margin, you can always do better,” Leclerc reflected. “But every driver can do better in Q3 when you see the lap afterwards. Carlos did a better job today and he deserves to be on pole.”

Circuit of the Americas, 2022
COTA tests F1 cars to their fullest
Leclerc’s 10-place grid penalty for a sixth engine and a sixth turbo charger demotes him off the front row and down into 12th on the grid, promoting Verstappen up to second. As the newly re-crowned world champion, Verstappen could afford to let Ferrari have this result over him.

“I ran out of tyres a little bit in the last sector with big oversteer in the second-to-last corner,” he explained. “But all in all, we’re still very close to pole.

“Last race, it was the other way around where I was on pole, but it was all fine margins. And now when you don’t get it entirely together, you are P3 but at the same distance between the three cars… I think still it’s a great result.”

With its ‘pick and mix’ track design featuring fast sweepers, 90-degree bends, slow hairpins and long straights, the Circuit of the Americas naturally rewards cars with good all-around performance across many types of corner. Sainz may have beaten Verstappen on Saturday, but he was understandably concerned about the driver lining up alongside him who has taken the chequered flag first 12 times already this season.

“I’m not going to lie, I think for tomorrow Red Bull are still favourites,” Sainz admitted.

“They normally get us in the race. Max does a great job and Red Bull has a very good car in race trim. But we’re going to do everything we can to try and stay ahead tomorrow and win the race, which would be an amazing way to start these last four races.”

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As second practice was used for testing 2023 prototype tyres, teams do not have the same quantity of tyre data heading into the race as they typically would in a dry weekend. Sainz says Ferrari are wary of their ability to keep their tyres in good condition compared to their rivals.

George Russell, Mercedes, Circuit of the Americas, 2022
Mercedes believes they’re in the hunt
“We’ve had quite a lot of degradation, I think across the whole grid,” he said. “We know when there’s a lot of degradation sometimes we struggle a bit more than Red Bull or Mercedes. There’s nothing to not be confident to try and go for the win tomorrow and try and put together a good race, but we are also aware that with the temperatures tomorrow, it could be a tough day out there.”

As the season’s dominant driver, Verstappen has every reason to feel confident in his chances of victory – and he does. “We have a quick race car, so I think we should be strong,” he said.

Once again, Mercedes had to settle for being behind both Ferraris and Red Bulls at the end of the session. But Lewis Hamilton and George Russell will line up third and fourth due to penalties for Leclerc and Sergio Perez. As the team seeks its first win of the season, team principal Toto Wolff says that Mercedes will head into the race with an attacking mentality.

“Clearly the favourites are starting in front of us, but we’re six-tenths off pole position,” Wolff said. “Could have been a little bit less than that and that is a good indication.

“With two cars, strategy-wise, maybe we have a few more options. Definitely we need to have the mindset of saying we will race for the victory. Even though, if I was a bookie, Verstappen and Sainz will probably have better odds.”

Verstappen could claim a record-equalling 13th win
While the teams have so far favoured the soft tyres across the weekend, Pirelli expect that they will be avoiding the red-walled compound entirely during the race. The tyre supplier predict a two-stop strategy to be best for the 56-lap event, starting on the mediums before running two stints on the hards. As an alternative, teams could try to stretch the middle stint on hard tyres to run softs for the first and final stint, but will require a large degree of tyre saving.

As has been seen many times before at COTA, two long DRS zones across the pit straight and the back straight means there will be plenty of opportunities for passes to be made on track as opposed to through the pit stop cycle. Verstappen knows if he fails to beat the Ferrari off the line, all he needs to do is keep in touch of his former Toro Rosso team mate.

“We just have to be there. I know we have a quick race car, so if we have a clean first lap I know that we can have a very good race.”

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Qualifying times in full

PositionNumberDriverTeamQ1 timeQ2 time (vs Q1)Q3 time (vs Q2)
155Carlos Sainz JnrFerrari1’35.2971’35.590 (+0.293s)1’34.356 (-1.234s)
216Charles LeclercFerrari1’35.7951’35.246 (-0.549s)1’34.421 (-0.825s)
31Max VerstappenRed Bull1’35.8641’35.294 (-0.570s)1’34.448 (-0.846s)
411Sergio PerezRed Bull1’36.1631’35.864 (-0.299s)1’34.645 (-1.219s)
544Lewis HamiltonMercedes1’36.1481’35.732 (-0.416s)1’34.947 (-0.785s)
663George RussellMercedes1’36.1951’35.692 (-0.503s)1’34.988 (-0.704s)
718Lance StrollAston Martin-Mercedes1’36.8601’36.032 (-0.828s)1’35.598 (-0.434s)
84Lando NorrisMcLaren-Mercedes1’36.4651’36.341 (-0.124s)1’35.690 (-0.651s)
914Fernando AlonsoAlpine-Renault1’36.4461’35.988 (-0.458s)1’35.876 (-0.112s)
1077Valtteri BottasAlfa Romeo-Ferrari1’36.7461’36.321 (-0.425s)1’36.319 (-0.002s)
1123Alexander AlbonWilliams-Mercedes1’36.9321’36.368 (-0.564s)Missed by 0.027s
125Sebastian VettelAston Martin-Mercedes1’36.6951’36.398 (-0.297s)Missed by 0.057s
1310Pierre GaslyAlphaTauri-Red Bull1’36.5771’36.740 (+0.163s)Missed by 0.399s
1424Zhou GuanyuAlfa Romeo-Ferrari1’36.6561’36.970 (+0.314s)Missed by 0.629s
1522Yuki TsunodaAlphaTauri-Red Bull1’36.8081’37.147 (+0.339s)Missed by 0.806s
1620Kevin MagnussenHaas-Ferrari1’36.949Missed by 0.017s
173Daniel RicciardoMcLaren-Mercedes1’37.046Missed by 0.114s
1831Esteban OconAlpine-Renault1’37.068Missed by 0.136s
1947Mick SchumacherHaas-Ferrari1’37.111Missed by 0.179s
206Nicholas LatifiWilliams-Mercedes1’37.244Missed by 0.312s

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Sector times

PositionNumberDriverSector oneSector twoSector threeUltimate lapDeficit to ultimate lap
11Max Verstappen25.599 (3)37.846 (1)30.796 (3)1’34.2410.207
255Carlos Sainz Jnr25.525 (2)38.097 (4)30.734 (1)1’34.356
316Charles Leclerc25.505 (1)38.11 (5)30.786 (2)1’34.4010.020
411Sergio Perez25.664 (4)38.094 (3)30.887 (4)1’34.645
544Lewis Hamilton25.722 (5)38.09 (2)31.135 (7)1’34.947
663George Russell25.772 (6)38.174 (6)31.042 (5)1’34.988
718Lance Stroll25.847 (7)38.481 (7)31.27 (8)1’35.598
814Fernando Alonso26.026 (10)38.558 (10)31.075 (6)1’35.6590.217
94Lando Norris25.856 (8)38.526 (8)31.308 (9)1’35.690
1024Zhou Guanyu26.073 (13)38.556 (9)31.497 (13)1’36.1260.530
1177Valtteri Bottas26.07 (12)38.783 (13)31.441 (10)1’36.2940.025
1223Alexander Albon25.936 (9)38.879 (15)31.553 (15)1’36.368
135Sebastian Vettel26.222 (19)38.712 (11)31.464 (11)1’36.398
1422Yuki Tsunoda26.039 (11)38.869 (14)31.531 (14)1’36.4390.369
1510Pierre Gasly26.083 (14)39.014 (17)31.475 (12)1’36.5720.005
1620Kevin Magnussen26.221 (18)38.758 (12)31.753 (18)1’36.7320.217
1731Esteban Ocon26.144 (16)39.246 (20)31.585 (16)1’36.9750.093
183Daniel Ricciardo26.202 (17)39.208 (19)31.636 (17)1’37.046
1947Mick Schumacher26.295 (20)39.012 (16)31.804 (19)1’37.111
206Nicholas Latifi26.088 (15)39.106 (18)32.007 (20)1’37.2010.043

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Speed trap

PositionNumberDriverCarEngineModelMax kph (mph)
11Max VerstappenRed BullRed BullRB18326.7 (203.0)
223Alexander AlbonWilliamsMercedesFW44325.7 (202.4)
36Nicholas LatifiWilliamsMercedesFW44325.4 (202.2)
411Sergio PerezRed BullRed BullRB18323.8 (201.2)
524Zhou GuanyuAlfa RomeoFerrariC42323.2 (200.8)
655Carlos Sainz JnrFerrariFerrariF1-75322.1 (200.1)
714Fernando AlonsoAlpineRenaultA522321.4 (199.7)
816Charles LeclercFerrariFerrariF1-75320.5 (199.1)
920Kevin MagnussenHaasFerrariVF-22320.2 (199.0)
104Lando NorrisMcLarenMercedesMCL36320.2 (199.0)
1122Yuki TsunodaAlphaTauriRed BullAT03320.1 (198.9)
1231Esteban OconAlpineRenaultA522319.6 (198.6)
1310Pierre GaslyAlphaTauriRed BullAT03319.4 (198.5)
1447Mick SchumacherHaasFerrariVF-22318.8 (198.1)
1544Lewis HamiltonMercedesMercedesW13318.8 (198.1)
1677Valtteri BottasAlfa RomeoFerrariC42318.1 (197.7)
1763George RussellMercedesMercedesW13318.1 (197.7)
1818Lance StrollAston MartinMercedesAMR22315.9 (196.3)
195Sebastian VettelAston MartinMercedesAMR22315.2 (195.9)
203Daniel RicciardoMcLarenMercedesMCL36313.4 (194.7)

Over to you

Are we about to see Verstappen take a record-equalling 13th grand prix in a season? What do you expected Leclerc and Perez to achieve from their compromised starting positions?

Share your views on the United States Grand Prix in the comments.

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2022 United States Grand Prix

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Author information

Will Wood
Will has been a RaceFans contributor since 2012 during which time he has covered F1 test sessions, launch events and interviewed drivers. He mainly...

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7 comments on “Ex-Red Bull juniors prepare to do battle as Mercedes eye chance for Austin win”

  1. I’d be surprised if Max hasn’t passed Carlos by the end of lap 8.

    1. Andy (@andyfromsandy)
      23rd October 2022, 15:04

      I expect as soon as DRS is enabled if not turn one off the line.

  2. When Verstappen wins he’ll merely equal Vettel’s 2013 run who also won 13 races out of 19. He won’t really match Schumacher’s earlier 13 wins in a season, for which he only needed 18 races (or actually 17, as he didn’t win the last race).

    Verstappen’s percentage of races won is still impressive, but not close to the best ever. Still, it’s higher than anything Hamilton managed with his dominant Mercedes cars, which just goes to show what a terrible job all the other teams have done this year, and how Red Bull is failing to provide some entertainment for F1 by keeping Pérez in that second car.

    1. What are your thoughts if Max wins 16 out of 22?

      Also, while the RB18 has been the outright best car since at least Hungary, Max did have more competition until that point from other drivers. Oh, plus two DNFs.

  3. Are we about to see Verstappen take a record-equalling 13th grand prix in a season? – Yes.
    What do you expected Leclerc and Perez to achieve from their compromised starting positions? – P4 & 2 respectively.

  4. Max Will most likely try and get his 13th win, if he holds on on the 1st lap, i Recon Max and Carlos will até some point Paint scratch at curve 6 to 9. Perez Will get 4th Charles will be 3rd.

  5. We’ve seen Sainz has decent quali pace throughout the season but generally, his race pace has been awful. Unless Max has issues, I don’t see any way that Sainz can keep him behind.

Comments are closed.