The United States Grand Prix has been a staple of the Formula One World Championship for generations, delivering high-speed thrills, tight turns, and exciting finishes for spectators. Enthusiasts from all over have gathered in the grandstand to watch rosters of notable drivers dominate the track and celebrate at the podium.
While so many Formula 1 drivers have given their all at the United States Grand Prix, some have gone above and beyond to score their victory. These performances have been engrained in Formula 1 history, becoming some of the most memorable to embed themselves in the annals of the United States Grand Prix.
1965 – Hill’s Stellar Recovery
During the October 3 United States Grand Prix in 1965, Graham Hill displayed quite the show of force. He started the race in pole position, having just beat out fellow British driver Jim Clark by .10 seconds in the qualifying round. From his starting position, the Team BRM driver took no time getting into the lead. Clark contested the front position, but Hill continued his push into the front. By lap 24, he was nearly half a lap ahead of the second-place position.
Unfortunately, Mother Nature threw a curveball, showering the track in a sudden downpour. At the start of lap 37, the track was soaked, and Hill was caught off guard. His vehicle slipped on the sleek circuit and careened into the grass, bouncing unsteadily for about 200 yards. Hill regained footing on the track, but his Dunlop tires were no match for the wet surface. He was running two seconds per lap slower than drivers with Goodyears. However, he wasn’t willing to accept defeat. The experienced driver used the corners to his advantage, eventually coming up on the current race leader, Jack Brabham, and forced him into the grass.
Hill secured himself a position that primed him for when the circuit finally dried. With his tires gaining full traction, Hill took the opportunity and set the fastest lap record for the 1965 race on lap 105, ultimately cinching his victory for the weekend with a 12-second lead.
1972 – Stewart Recovers the Crown
Going into the 1972 United States Grand Prix, Jackie Stewart of Team Tyrrell-Ford had something to prove. Coming out of his first-place finish at the Canadian Grand Prix, Stewart had resolved that he wouldn’t give up the race to Emerson Fittipaldi, who was in line to walk away with the 1972 world championship, just to prove a point. Having taken the 1971 crown, Stewart was close to taking the 1972 win, but he at least wanted to go out with a bang.
So, he wasted no time ensuring he made a big show out of the final race of the season. He came out of the qualifying laps in pole position and cruised through the circuit, ensuring to remain ahead of the pack as much as possible. By lap 20, he had distanced himself into a 20-second lead. Stewart finished lap 33 with the race’s fastest lap and eventually pushed himself to a 40-second lead.
By the race’s end, Stewart crossed the finish line with a 32.268-second lead ahead of fellow Tyrrell-Ford driver, Francois Cevert. As for his 1972 rival, Emerson Fittipaldi? He retired during lap 17 when his suspension failed.
1991 – Senna Remains in the Front
It’s certainly not easy to take first place during a Formula One Grand Prix. You’re up against the best drivers who all want a piece of the first-prize winnings. Ayrton Senna of McLaren-Honda wanted no different, and the 1991 United States Grand Prix would set the tone for the remainder of the Formula One World Championship. As the launching race of the season, the Grand Prix would highlight who to watch out for. By the end of the race, it was clear Senna was going to be the driver to beat during the championship.
The McLaren-Honda team member started the race off right, earning the pole position in a close tug-of-war with Alain Prost (Ferrari). Right from the beginning, Senna led the race, leaving the other drivers to fight for second and third place. It was a smooth race for the Brazillian driver, who was even able to pit on lap 48 without losing his lead.
Behind him, Prost and Riccardo Patrese (Williams-Renault) vied for second place, the former ultimately taking it. By that time, Senna had a 40-second lead, though Prost closed the gap to a 16-second difference by the 81st lap. Before the two could fight for the lead podium position, the race hit the two-hour mark and ended with Senna having led the entire race. Though spectators could never have guessed, he commented on his disappointment with the vehicle’s performance after the race.
2018 – Verstappen Makes Some Headway
Going into the 2018 United States Grand Prix, Max Verstappen had no chance of leading the 2018 Formula One World Championship. But as a driver, you still want to climb the roster as much as possible. The United States Grand Prix was only the fourth last race, meaning the Red Bull Racing-TAG Heuer driver had ample opportunity to rectify his lower placements in prior races.
Unfortunately, Verstappen didn’t have a great start, having received a five-place grid penalty. At the race’s opening, he was in the 18th position, putting him at the back of the pack. What nobody could have expected that day was the fight Verstappen had in him. He let little get in his way as he slowly passed by his competition, breaking into the top ten with ease.
Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) fought for second place, but the Dutch driver snuck ahead. In fact, Verstappen got within 1.2 seconds of beating Kimi Raikkonen for the top podium position. It was an impressive display for the TAG-Heuer driver, which he followed up with a first place, second place, and third-place finisher for the remainder of the championship.