Max Verstappen holds off Lewis Hamilton for nail-biting end to US Grand Prix

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• Max Verstappen wins the 2021 United States Grand Prix in dramatic fashion.

• The Red Bull driver held off title rival Lewis Hamilton in the race's closing laps.

• Verstappen extends his championship lead to 12 points.

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Lewis Hamilton's dreams of a record-breaking eighth world championship were dealt a significant blow after he lost further ground in the title race to a triumphant Max Verstappen at the United States Grand Prix.

On fresher rubber than Verstappen, Hamilton hustled his rival to the line in a thrilling climax, but the Dutch driver held firm to claim his eighth win of the 2021 campaign. Hamilton's points difference to Verstappen has increased from six to 12, with only five rounds and 130 points available in this year's ferocious title fight.

Verstappen's Red Bull teammate Sergio Perez finished third ahead of Ferrari's Charles Leclerc and the McLaren of Daniel Ricciardo.

2021's biggest crowd

Under scorching blue skies, Formula 1's biggest crowd of the season created one of the best pre-race atmospheres of the season at the Circuit of the Americas, 24km south of downtown Austin.

And the 140 000 sets of eyes were firmly fixed on the charge to the first corner with Verstappen lining up on pole and Hamilton second.

When the lights flicked to green, it was Hamilton who reacted fastest. The Briton was three-thousandths of a second quicker than Verstappen, and his lightning reactions forced the Red Bull man to take action.

Verstappen instantly moved to his left in an attempt to put the squeeze on Hamilton, who held the inside line for the left-hander.

READ: F1 WRAP | 2021 United States Grand Prix - Verstappen wins to extend championship lead

Hamilton placed his Mercedes on the apex of the bend before moving ahead of Verstappen, and leaving his title rival with little-to-no room. The Dutchman ran across the kerbs, and Hamilton raced off into the lead. It was the perfect start for the defending champion.

By the end of the first lap, Hamilton was a second clear, but that proved as good as it would get for the British driver.

"He is quicker than me right now," a concerned Hamilton reported to his team in the very early stages.

Moments later, Verstappen was on the radio, too, but displaying a more victorious tone.

"He's sliding a lot, and I have a lot more pace," said the Red Bull racer. "I just wanted to tell you."

Battle of the tyres

Then, on lap 10, Red Bull called Verstappen in. The championship leader bolted on a new set of rubber and emerged in fifth, which promptly became fourth as he fought his way past Ricciardo, crucially without losing any time.

Hamilton reported that his tyres felt okay, and Mercedes left their man out. But Verstappen was flying, lighting up the timesheets with a series of fastest laps, with Hamilton now in no man's land.

When Hamilton elected to stop Hamilton - three laps later than Verstappen - he was only 14 seconds up the road. And when he left the pitlane, he was 6.5sec back.

Hamilton slowly niggled away at Verstappen's lead, and by lap 26, he had halved the deficit to three seconds. On lap 29, Verstappen stopped for a second occasion, and Hamilton set the fastest lap of the race. Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff came on the radio with a rallying call.

"Lewis, you are racing for the win," he said. "Leave me to it, bro, thanks," came his superstar driver's response.

With 19 laps left, Hamilton was 11.4 sec ahead of Verstappen when he stopped for a second time. Hamilton, with eight-lap fresher rubber, returned to the track 8.5sec adrift of his rival.

In half-a-dozen laps, Hamilton took four seconds out of Verstappen's lead and with ten laps remaining, he was just three adrift of his rival.

With seven to go, the gap stood at two seconds, and by the start of the final lap, Hamilton could smell the exhaust fumes from the back of Verstappen's Honda engine.

But Verstappen displayed impressive composure under the most intense circumstances to close out the win - crossing the line 1.333sec ahead of Hamilton.

Editor's note: A previous version of this article had a typo in the headline which has since been corrected.
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