LEWIS HAMILTON looks set for his first winless season in F1 after being pipped to the chequered flag by Max Verstappen in Texas.
Verstappen – who equals F1’s record for the most wins in a season with 13 – also helped his Red Bull team wrap up an emotional constructors’ championship at the US GP.
Hamilton pushed him to the wire and crossed the line five second behind the Dutchman meaning his barren run, which stretches back to last November, goes on.
The seven-time world champion also came close to winning in Holland, while he was second in France and Hungary, but feels a win is beyond him given Red Bull’s pace.
He said: “It feels amazing to be within shooting distance of Max for some points of the race.
“It felt for a second that I might be able to hold on to it, but the medium tyre was too strong.”
When asked if he could win this season, he added: “We need to be realistic. The Red Bull car has been the fastest car all year and it is still the fastest car.
“We were in the position we were in due to >Sergio Perez were there, they would have been ahead of us.
“It was great starting third and being in a position to fight, but in true pace they were ahead of us and will be in the next three races.
“Unless something drastic happens to any more of them, It is highly unlikely we will have the true pace to compete with them.
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“Max had an 11 second stop and [came out behind] Charles, so get past him and then pass me and get ahead, shows some real speed.”
Hamilton and Verstappen played out a thrilling final six laps, as both struggled to remain inside the while lines as they battled for position.
But it was Verstappen who crossed the line first, helping Red Bull to an emotional victory following the death of the energy drink’s co-founder Dietrich Mateschitz.
There were no black armbands. Instead, Red Bull’s staff wore blue jeans, as was the billionaire’s preference.
There was a one-minute applause as teams paid their respects before the race and a message “Danke Didi” was displayed on the screen.
Verstappen added: “It’s a very difficult weekend for us and this one is definitely dedicated to Dietrich himself for what he has done for everyone.
“We had a big chance to win the constructors here and of course you want to do that in style and I think we did that.
“It definitely means a lot to me, to the team, because he was so instrumental to the whole team, it will all continue but we of course wanted to have a good result today.”
A record crowd of 440,000 over the weekend reaffirmed F1’s popularity boom in the United States.
And they were treated to a first-lap smash as Verstappen was catapulted into the lead when pole-sitter Carlos Sainz was spun off by George Russell.
And there were more fireworks when Fernando Alonso clipped Lance Stroll and was launched into the air at 200mph, causing his Alpine to do a wheelie.
Pierre Gasly and Lando Norris both had narrow escapes as they missed the wreckage, while Alonso somehow finished the race in seventh.
But after the race the Spaniard was hit with a 30-second time penalty after his damaged car was deemed unsafe by stewards. He is now classified as finishing 15th.
Once the mess from the crash was cleared up and the race restarted on lap 26, Verstappen kept ahead of Hamilton but for the first time in ages, the Mercedes man was able to keep up.
On lap 35, the Brit pitted for fresh tyres in what was a seamless synchronised stop for his Mercedes team.
Red Bull responded by calling in Verstappen a lap later but a problem with the front left wheel resulted in a slow 11.1 second pitstop.
The delay left Verstappen furious – “beautiful, f****** beautiful!” he shouted over the radio as he was leapfrogged in the pecking order by Hamilton and Leclerc.
Verstappen returned to the track in sixth but slowly chipped away at Hamilton’s lead, catching him with six laps to go.
He made his move at Turn 12, the two came incredibly close to banging wheels but he got the move done.
But there was still drama as both were warned about exceeding the track limits, triggering potential penalties. Yet Hamilton did not have to pace to mount a fightback.
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