Austin, Texas the scene were Lewis Hamilton took his 3rd world title back in 2015, a track where he excels at and has an affinity with the US. This year Hamilton had the chance to clinch his 5th world title and equal the great Juan Manuel Fangio and all he would need to do is out score Sebastian Vettel by 8 points.
Throughout Friday rain hit the circuit meaning no one could do little simulations for the weekend with the forecast set to be dry for qualifying and the race. Sebastian Vettel would feel the wrath of the stewards after he failed to slow down sufficiently for a red flag brought out in FP1 and would earn himself a 3-place penalty bringing Hamilton even closer to the title.
Qualifying came with much intrigue as the pecking order was still an unknown. Bot for the first time this season both Williams and McLaren’s would fail to reach Q2 accompanied by Marcus Ericsson who simply didn’t have the pace. Max Verstappen would suffer suspension failure after he ran wide at turn 15, he managed to limp back to the pits but wouldn’t be able to take any further part in Qualifying. Both Toro Rosso’s were due to start at the back due to engine penalties so they opted not to run in Q2 along with the sidelined Verstappen, Sainz and Magnussen would join them in the knockout zone but would have a free choice of tyres at the start of the race. When it came to Q3 both Mercedes and Ferrari looked close but ultimately Hamilton would pip Vettel to pole by 0.06 tenths of a second much to the Germans frustration who would start 5th after his penalty.
At the start Kimi Raikkonen would beat Lewis Hamilton into turn one, further back there would be multiple incidents, Lance Stroll would collide with Fernando Alonso eliminating the Spaniard from the race and Romain Grosjean would crash into Charles Leclerc ending both of their races.
Max Verstappen made yet another one of his famous charges and would soon find himself inside the top ten and Vettel would make another of his infamous mistakes; he would make contact with Ricciardo causing him to spin out of the points. Ricciardo’s torrid luck of late continued with another retirement crushing his podium charge, this brought out the virtual safety car which Mercedes used as an opportunity to pit, he was the only one out of the front-runners to do so and it looked like the right call as he came out less than 10 seconds behind leader Raikkonen.
Hamilton ate into Raikkonen’s lead lap after lap and was soon on the gearbox of the Finn but Raikkonen put up a sturdy defence and held him up until he made his own pit stop. Raikkonen would come out over 17 seconds behind Hamilton but soon made progress reducing the gap. Bottas and Verstappen also elected to make their stops but the Dutchman would come out ahead of Bottas by pitting one lap earlier. Hamilton struggled with major blistering on his tyres and would soon see his lead to just 7 seconds, Hamilton would stop once again but would now have to pass Verstappen and Raikkonen on track if he wanted to win. with less than 10 laps remaining Hamilton would catch the pair up but then struggled with pace thereafter, he made one attempt on Verstappen around turn 16 but had to run off track ending his charge. Kimi Raikkonen would be victorious and the first time with Ferrari since re-joining the team in 2014. Esteban Ocon and Kevin Magnussen would finish on the road in P8 and P9 but would be disqualified for a fuel flow infringements.
Here is how the top ten would finish:
- Kimi Raikkonen 1:34’18.643
- Max Verstappen +1.281
- Lewis Hamilton +2.342
- Sebastian Vettel +18.222
- Valtteri Bottas +24.744
- Nico Hulkeneberg +1’27.210
- Carlos Sainz +1’34.994
- Sergio Perez +1’41.080
- Brendon Hartley +1 Lap
- Marcus Ericsson +1 Lap
Major Talking Points:
Ricciardo’s Ridiculous Reliability:
Ricciardo will make the switch to Renault next season but his recent luck with his current Renault engine will surely be a concern for the Australian. Austin is a track that Ricciardo loves but a loss of power once again stopped him from scoring a podium finish, thankfully for him Mexico is under coming next and Red Bull were strong their last year.
Renault Score Big:
Renault have really slipped back recently and have struggled to score points where rivals Haas and Force India have scored big but this time Renault were the ones to do so. They finished 6th and 7th and ahead of home hero Haas who could only manage 2 points.
The Fight for Five Lives On:
Sebastian Vettel can consider himself lucky that the championship battle will continue in Mexico albeit with most outside of chances. Strange things have happened before in Formula One, Vettel needs to win all 3 of the reaming rounds and hope that Hamilton has a down turn in form and bad luck.
Driver of the Day:
Max Verstappen has been driver of the day 3 times in the past 4 races and it is no surprise when he consistently puts in drives like he did in Austin. He fought from 18th all the way to 2nd, fended of the charge from Hamilton and kept his Super Soft tyres tidy until the end of the race. Performances like these are the ones of a world champion and it’s only a matter of time before he becomes one.
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