In a win that brought on the passion from Formula 1's biggest rivals, 24-year-old Max Verstappen won his first U.S. Grand Prix as he bested seven-time champ Lewis Hamilton by less than a second at Austin's Circuit of the Americas on Sunday.
Hamilton, who has won the USGP for Mercedes seven times before, snuck up on Verstappen's lead for the final 15 laps but was unable to beat the Dutchman as Verstappen took a more decisive lead in the 2021 standings. Verstappen is now 12 points ahead of his veteran foe with just five races to go.
Max extends his lead on Lewis by 1⃣2⃣ points..
Five rounds remain 👀#USGP 🇺🇸 #F1 pic.twitter.com/EZHlQDra0M
— Formula 1 (@F1) October 24, 2021
After a weekend of big-name performances, celebrity appearances and wacky entertainment, all eyes were on Austin as the fest came to a dramatic end for the final 2 p.m. race.
The 56-lap Texas showdown saw plenty of lead changes between the two stars.
It was Red Bull Racing's Verstappen who nabbed the pole position in a stormy qualifying race on Saturday, but Hamilton quickly closed the 260-yard-gap to take the first lead of the final race. With a well-timed pit stop from Verstappen, however, the young driver edged out Hamilton by six seconds early in the race.
Hamilton's younger tires won him over for the next several laps as he closed the lead, while a slowing Verstappen opted for a new set of hard tires as he took another pit stop in the 29th lap. Hamilton's brief lead lasted until a pit stop of his own that once again had him trail 7.8 seconds behind his competitor in the 37th lap.
With 15 laps to go, Hamilton had halved his lead and took the fastest lap of the race to earn an extra point in the season's standings. It was anyone's battle as the final five laps saw a bumper-to-bumper showdown between the two as Hamilton cut down to less than within one second behind Verstappen. But with Verstappen's cool head and a gust of dirty air, Hamilton was unable to make a last-ditch effort for another U.S. title as he lost the race by 1.33 seconds.
Win number EIGHT of 2021 for @Max33Verstappen 🤘#USGP 🇺🇸 #F1 pic.twitter.com/hxKAJAPc0i
— Formula 1 (@F1) October 24, 2021
Despite losing the race, Hamilton fist-bumped Verstappen at the end and said the competition's far from over between the two racing greats.
"What a great race down to Turn 1," Hamilton told reporters. "I thought for a second that we might be out to win the race, but we'll have to win the next one."
What a race from our title contenders 👏👊
Take a bow @Max33Verstappen and @LewisHamilton! #USGP 🇺🇸 #F1 pic.twitter.com/2jQkylJ8C3
— Formula 1 (@F1) October 24, 2021
Verstappen's teammate Sergio Perez, a Mexico native, saw thousands of supporters from his home country as he landed the third-place title in the race. Meanwhile, Hamilton's teammate Valtteri Bottas edged past Carlos Sainz to win a bumper-to-bumper battle for sixth place in the last lap of the race. Ferrari's Charles Leclerc and Mercedes McLaren's Daniel Ricciardo rounded out the top five in fourth and fifth, respectively.
While the lead has widened between the sports' biggest rivals, there is still plenty of time for either to take the throne as they head into the final five races.
Despite losing a race that they normally win, Mercedes' Toto Wolff said they are very much in the running as they head to Mexico City for another showdown at the Mexican Grand Prix on Sunday, Nov. 7.
"We are right there," Wolff said. "It's just good fun for everybody and there's pressure, but it's positive pressure."
Hamilton and Verstappen will once again face off in North America for the Mexican Grand Prix on Sunday, Nov. 7 in Mexico City.
Here are the biggest highlights and final results for the first U.S. Grand Prix since 2019:
- Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing
- Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes
- Sergio Perez, Red Bull Racing
- Charles Leclerc, Ferrari
- Daniel Ricciardo, McLaren Mercedes
- Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes
- Carlos Sainz, Ferrari
- Lando Norris, McLaren
- Yuki Tsunoda, AlphaTauri
- Sebastian Vettel, Aston Martin
- Antonio Giovinazzi, Alfa Romeo
- Lance Stroll, Aston Martin
- Kimi Räikkönen, Alfa Romeo
- George Russel, Williams
- Nicholas Latifi, Williams
- Mick Schumacher, Haas
- Nikita Mazepin, Haas
Lap 50—1.5 seconds separates the leaders
Hamilton has improved a six-point deficit for first as his younger tires take him within 1.5 seconds of Verstappen by the 50th lap. With six laps to go, Hamilton continues to beat out Verstappen in lap times, but some think Verstappen is holding out on speed.
Hamilton will need to bully his way past Verstappen very shortly if he's to take his seventh U.S. Grand Prix title, while Verstappen will need to keep his wits if he's to take his first.
Lap 43—Bumper car battle for fifth
With just over half of a second between the two, Sainz and Riccardo briefly get a bit too close as both cars make contact in the 43rd lap.
Dirty talk abounds—Sainz says Riccardo drove "a bit dirty" with a wide turn in Lap 10—and a bit of damage to Sainz's left-wing may not bode well for him in the remainder of the race. Meanwhile, Bottas encroaches both drivers with less than a second behind himself and Sainz in seventh place.
Lap 41— Hamilton encroaches Verstappen
Hamilton charged Verstappen for the final half of the race. (Austonia)
While Verstappen works to weave past the back of the pack as he laps them, Hamilton briskly follows. By Lap 41, he logs the fastest lap of the match, beating Sergio Perez, with a time of 1:39.781. He's now just 3.8 seconds behind a leading Verstappen with less than 15 laps to go.
Lap 37—Hamilton pits, Verstappen takes lead
Despite a decently quick pit stop—over two seconds shorter than Verstappen's—Hamilton falls 7.8 seconds behind Verstappen as the lead once again switches hands.
Lap 29—Verstappen returns to pit, Hamilton closes lead
After falling by as many as six seconds near the beginning of the race, Hamilton slowly began encroaching on Verstappen's lead. The Mercedes driver came within three seconds of Verstappen before the leading Dutchman took a pit stop in the 30th lap to opt for a fresh set of hard tires.
Meanwhile, a battle for fifth place has seen both Carlos Sainz, who was less than a second behind Daniel Ricciardo, to take a pit stop. Ricciardo soon followed. Hamilton's teammate Valtteri Bottas earns a temporary fifth place slot, and Ricciardo keeps a lead over Sainz in sixth.
2:25- Verstappen wins over strategy
Hamilton may have grabbed an early lead, but Verstappen's well-timed pit stop in lap 11 put him six seconds ahead of his British foe by lap 14. Verstappen is now comfortable as Red Bull Racing wins the strategy side of the race.
Meanwhile, Red Bull's Perez has reached the No. 3 spot with Hamilton sandwiched in between. The middle race is beginning to expand as Charles Leclerc advances his fourth-place lead over a fifth-place Ricciardo.
2:08 p.m.—Hamilton takes lead, sets fastest lap
Hamilton is edging out Verstappen in the U.S. Grand Prix race. (Austonia)
Even with a 260-yard deficit, it's Hamilton who edges out Verstappen to take the lead at the start of the race despite being squeezed by Verstappen at the top of the hill. A few minutes later, Hamilton sets a lap-best time at 1:41.071.
Sunday, 1:30—drivers, cars heat up for the big race
Hamilton, Verstappen and the other 20 drivers are warming up their cars and minds as the clock ticks down for the final race.
The starting grid is buzzing with excitement as Verstappen arrives at around 1:15, with Hamilton hitting the grid around 10 minutes later.
The rivals' cars are wheeled just 260 yards apart, a small margin that Hamilton will attempt to close by the end of the first lap on the 20-turn track.
Sunday—Celebrities take COTA as the race heats up
As one of the United States' premier racing competitions, it's no surprise that a star-studded cast—and audience—have contributed to the excitement of the race.
Performances from Twenty One Pilots, Billy Joel and Travis Scott have riled up the crowd, while NBA star-turned-DJ Shaquille O'Neal will be performing as DJ Diesel for the race after party.
IndyCar racing great Danica Patrick is commentating nationwide for the race after a decorated career as one of the most prominent female drivers ever in the sport.
The U.S. Grand Prix has seen anyone from former President Bill Clinton to star chef Gordon Ramsey in past crowds, and this year is no different. Shaq's fellow NBA star Chris Bosh has been spotted this weekend as well as tennis star Serena Williams, Texas rapper Megan Thee Stallion and actor William Fichtner.
There's sure to be many more celebs embedded in that thousands-strong crowd, so keep your eyes peeled!
Sunday—Chadwick takes W Series Championship title
Formula 1 may be taking the limelight this weekend, but a high-stakes competition took place just before the big race on Sunday morning as the Women's Series' Jamie Chadwick took her second consecutive championship title in Austin.
The 2021 W Series champ took her crown after winning both races this weekend. After taking the Saturday race, Chadwick cruised to victory with a five-second lead over a second-place Abbi Pulling to win the championship over rival Alice Powell.
Chadwick defeated Powell for her second U.S. Grand Prix win since the last race in 2019, earning $500,000 in the process. The W Series, which is free-to-enter unlike Formula 1 and hopes to level out the financial playing field for men and women, is a developmental league that also provides 15 FIA super licence points to season winners. With enough super licence points, W Series drivers can level up to Formula 3 competitions and eventually beyond as they begin to compete against male drivers.
Saturday, 4 p.m.—Verstappen wins first, Hamilton takes second in qualifiers
In a three-round battle on Saturday, Verstappen flipped the switch from the day's practice rounds as he took a last-second lead over Hamilton to win the pole position, or first slot, in Sunday's starting grid on Saturday's qualifiers.
But it wasn't an easy battle. Verstappen's teammate Perez, a Mexico native, earned cheers from plenty of fans from his neighboring home country as he held the lead through the 10-minute round. Hamilton, who had been flanked behind both Red Bull foes, pulled a last-second lead to finish the finals and looked to take the pole position.
As rain began to fall, however, Verstappen pumped the gas for one final lap and won the pole position from his Team Mercedes foe.
It's Verstappen's first pole position on U.S. soil as he looks to take his first U.S. Grand Prix.
Click here for more information on the qualifiers.
Saturday morning—Ricciardo drives Earnhardt's 1984 car
Just as early fans began to trickle in, McLaren Mercedes' Daniel Ricciardo broke the crisp morning air with a roar as he drove some donuts in Dale Earnhardt's 1984 Wrangler car.
Ricciardo fulfilled his childhood dream—unlike many of his competitors his racing heroes growing up were his dad and Earnhardt, a seven-time NASCAR champion. Ricciardo collected many of Earnhardt's model cars growing up, but he never got his hands on this one until now, according to a report from ESPN.
After the exhibition laps, a breathless Ricciardo told reporters about the exhilarating experience.
"I can't speak," Ricciardo said. "That was fun, I think I'm still a little bit high right now."
Ricciardo's joyride caught the attention of Dale Earnhardt's son, NASCAR driver Dale Earnhardt, Jr, who responded with a tweet that gave Ricciardo "goosebumps."
"I'm happy for Daniel," Earnhardt Jr. said. "I'm also appreciative for how he celebrates my father. That makes a lot of dads family members and fans smile."
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Just as the world takes a breath from the Delta variant-induced third COVID surge that pushed hospitals past capacity this summer, a new variant—the omicron—is forcing countries around the world to once again consider shutting their doors.
It's too early to tell whether the variant will have the devastating effects of the Delta variant, the Mu variant—which accounted for 3% of U.S. cases before dropping off almost entirely by October—or somewhere in between. But as omicron continues to rise sharply in all provinces of South Africa, the Biden administration is reintroducing some travel restrictions that went into effect Monday.
As the variant spreads to countries around the world, including Canada, the Netherlands and Hong Kong, the World Health Organization declared omicron a "variant of concern"—though some are calling the move premature.
What is omicron?
The omicron variant, B.1.1.529, is now under strict watch from the WHO after quickly spreading throughout Southern Africa.
It's genetically different from the Alpha and Delta variants and has up to 30 mutations in its genetic code, leading some to worry that the risk of retransmission from those who have already had COVID could be high. The strain's mutations could also aid omicron in beating out other strains and spreading more quickly to hosts.
Omicron is the latest version of the coronavirus to cause concern. Here’s what we know about where it’s spread so far and what makes it different than other variants that came before. https://t.co/ncciXnIuw9
— The New York Times (@nytimes) November 29, 2021
It appears to be doing the trick. While an Associated Press report found that case numbers in South Africa are still well below other pandemic peaks—3,220 new cases were reported in South Africa on Saturday— up to 90% of new cases in the South African province of Gauteng are omicron.
The strain's effects seem to be mild so far, and hospitals haven't been overburdened yet, though hospitalizations are rising.
And doctors worry that the full extent of the variant hasn't been realized. Vaccine hesitancy is strong among South Africa's youngest population—22% of those aged 18 to 34 are vaccinated—and most of those infected with COVID have been in those younger age groups. Doctors worry that older age groups will be more adversely affected.
And while experts in the country expected a fourth surge and possible variant, the omicron still came as a "shock" as it quickly spread to all nine South African provinces and other continents. It's now the first strain labeled as a "variant of concern" since the Delta variant.
It's unclear if the variant is more immune to vaccines, although some signs indicate that it's a possibility.
Where has it been detected?
Cases of the Covid omicron variant have appeared in more than a dozen countries as of Monday. https://t.co/2bPapBIYK2 pic.twitter.com/idnQ6LjIfH
— NBC News Graphics (@NBCNewsGraphics) November 29, 2021
The omicron strain still hasn't been detected in dozens of countries, and it's far from the first strain to make a mark since Delta. But it's coincided with a quick uptick in cases in South Africa, where it was originally found, and became the dominant strain in Pretoria, a city of around 750,000, in just a few weeks.
Omicron is now present in nearby Botswana and has jumped on board flights to Europe, Asia, Australia and North America. Hong Kong has detected three cases, while 10 European nations including the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, Portugal and Germany have found a total of 45 cases. Canada has detected three cases, and none have yet been found in the United States.
What has been done?
Against the wishes of both South Africa and the WHO, several countries have decided to once again shut their doors.
After detecting an omicron case, Israel decided to bar entry to foreigners, while Morocco suspended incoming international air travel for two weeks. Dozens of countries are restricting travel from Southern Africa to South Africa's chagrin—the government said travel restrictions are “akin to punishing South Africa for its advanced genomic sequencing and the ability to detect new variants quicker.”
The WHO also called for borders to remain open as closing borders appears to have a limited effect on the spread of variants, and many countries are hesitant to clamp down on restrictions that have limited its citizens for so long.
The United States said in a statement Friday that it would restrict travel from eight southern African countries except for citizens and permanent U.S. residents who test negative for the virus.
White House Chief Medical Adviser Dr. Anthony Fauci said Sunday that it's "too early to say" whether tightened COVID restrictions will be needed to combat omicron but that citizens must be ready to do “anything and everything” to prevent its spread.
When will we know more?
The WHO said it will take around two weeks to gauge the full effects of omicron, from its ability to evade vaccines to its contagiousness.
For now, countries have once again urged their citizens to get vaccinated. Some vaccine companies have already spoken about the strain, including Moderna, which said Sunday that a new vaccine that protects against the variant could be released in early 2022 if needed.
For now, Fauci said that the country must "prepare for the worst" just in case omicron becomes the culprit of yet another surge.
“Inevitably, it will be here. The question is will we be prepared for it? If and when, and it’s going to be when, it comes here hopefully we will be ready for it,” Fauci said.
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Austin may end up staying above freezing through mid-December, a departure from typical temperatures this time of year.
The average first freeze in Austin and San Antonio usually happens around now, as the National Weather Service pointed out Monday.
The average first freeze in Austin and San Antonio is typically right about now. No freezes for the foreseeable future. There have been some years where the first freeze didn't happen until January!— NWS Austin/San Antonio (@NWS Austin/San Antonio) 1638210545
Still, Austin’s Mediterranean-style climate has a wider range of first freezes than many other places and we’re subject to cyclical influence, says Monte Oaks, a meteorologist with the NWS.
One influence is La Niña, a climate pattern that happens in the Pacific Ocean every few years. This is the second La Niña winter in a row, an occasion known as a "double-dip." While its impacts are far-reaching and can impact weather around the world, the U.S., in particular, is expected to experience an impact on temperature and precipitation from La Niña. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said earlier this month that La Niña conditions have already developed, and in Austin, its effects have been on the mild side. As a result, Austin could have a delayed first freeze and an earlier last freeze than typical.
Many are on edge heading into winter after witnessing Winter Storm Uri hit Texas in February. The power outages caused by a failure to winterize the grid led to the death of hundreds, and in the imminent possibility of another hard-hitting weather event, Texans are still at risk.
Experts told The Texas Tribune that the state hasn’t done enough to prevent another winter blackout. Plus, recent analysis by the Electric Reliability Council of Texas revealed the grid is still vulnerable and many power plants could be forced offline under extreme conditions. As KXAN reported, the cold blast last winter came about through a stratospheric warming event—unrelated to La Niña—that brought the intrusion of Arctic air from the North Pole. This year, winter is expected to bring fewer freezes and less snowfall.
Locally, Austinites dealt with conditions of broken water pipes, a boil water notice after water treatment plants shut off, and an outage that left thousands without water. On top of that, many also lacked gas and heat and opted to warm up in their cars.
The city has completed prep work in case of another extreme weather event. Austin Energy increased vegetation management, further sectionalizing circuits and developing processes to reduce power in the downtown network. And Austin Water carried out repairs at most of its water treatment plants, dispatched heaters, sand, and more winter equipment, and plans to have all exposed pipes insulated by the end of 2021.
The Texas sun is an encouraging sign in the face of cold conditions. Oaks says more sunshine allows temperatures to warm up. For now, the National Weather Service has only found one recent freeze at the sites they track in Austin, which happened at the airport on Nov. 23.
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Homeowners in Windcrest, Texas don't take Christmas lightly. Decking out their home in thousands of lights, one Windcrest couple even won ABC’s Texas episode of “Great Christmas Light Fight” that aired Sunday.
Known as "Christmas sweethearts," John and Brenda Wilson were awarded $50,000 after going up against fellow Texans, including a family in Amarillo and two families in Corpus Christi, in the ninth season premiere of the lights show.
(Great Christmas Light Fight)
Their holiday display featured a hand-built sled, a train called the Peppermint Expressway with actual peppermint smoke coming out of it and Santa's reindeer "in training." Designer and judge Taniya Nayak noted the linework of the lights displayed on the roof and the positioning of the red and lime green color palette.
"Right off the bat when the lights turned on, I couldn't believe how beautiful these peppermint lights were... it's just such a fun, happy, yummy, delicious vibe to it," Nayak said when she announced the Wilsons were the winners. "It really made a smile go from one ear to the other on my face."
Judge Nayak said she also enjoyed that their display had different stories behind each section.
(Great Christmas Light Fight)
John, or "Mr. Christmas" as Brenda called him, said he has been putting on a Christmas lights display for over 20 years—and it's only got better since he met his Mrs. Clause 12 years ago. The two said they met online and were 98% compatible.
"Brenda and I grew up back in the 50s when things were very simple, so we wanted to create something from when we were growing up," John said on the show.
And their efforts paid off: along with their monetary prize, the couple earned a light-bulb-shaped trophy.
KSAT reports the home got the attention of the show's casting directors last year, who encouraged them to apply to be on the show. The show was then shot last year, but the couple didn't learn they won until this year.
While being on the show is their intro to stardom, locals are familiar with the Wilsons' yearly display in the light-centric Windcrest. Each year their home is part of the Windcrest Light Up, a decades-old tradition where residents go all-out with their holiday light displays. They've won at least three grand prizes in the Windcrest contest and several other category first-place prizes.
The Windcrest Light Up kicks off Dec. 4.
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