American Grand Prix Preview
Can Max get his first win in America?
It feels much longer than 2 years since F1 was last at COTA, but it is great to be back at a drivers track, where the bumps really add to its character. Plus, if today is anything to go by, we could be in for another great instalment of a dramatic 2021 season!
Having won here 5 times, Hamilton was going into the weekend as the likely favourite to win, especially with a newer engine behind him. That was before we saw evidence of Mercedes latest trick to gain a straight line speed advantage, which could prove useful for them again here. Every team is doing the same ride height trick down the paddock; however, it seems that Mercedes have finessed it more. In FP1, their pace was rather worrying, but in the afternoon Red Bull and the other teams were able to close the gap. Hamilton would still be my favourite for pole and the win, because of the car package and he loves this track it seems. Bottas has another set back this weekend, with a new power unit, it is only a 5 place drop this time, but it is more worrying signs for the German team.
In some ways, Red Bull have nothing to lose this weekend, as this is the last real Mercedes circuit of the year, so if they come 2nd,it isn’t a disaster, and if they win, they look like heroes. Obviously, it is more complicated than that, but seeing how strong Perez especially was today, there is real hope they could push Lewis hard this weekend. Plus, with Valtteri starting at best 6th, if Checo can keep the pace up, Red Bull could really put Mercedes under pressure. Max did get a bit flustered in FP2 due to all the traffic, however, I wouldn’t worry about that, he will come back fighting tomorrow. The incident between Lewis and Max was probably just a bit of mind games on Hamilton’s part, which Verstappen laughed off. I believe a double podium for the team is highly likely for them here, and would serve them very well, even if it is 2nd and 3rd.
The battle for 3rd in the constructors is starting to get very interesting, as this new engine for Ferrari means that the playing field has been somewhat equalled. This track has a mixture of short sharp corners, and long duration ones, so it doesn’t suit either team in particular. We saw that today, as Ferrari looked good in FP1, whereas McLaren came back to them in the afternoon. If I had to guess which way it will go, McLaren may do better on Saturday, looking at their one lap pace, yet in the race Ferrari may put them under pressure. We also have to remember that Mercedes engine issues could affect McLaren too!
Aston Martin had remarkable race pace at the end of FP2, obviously we don’t know things like engine modes and fuel loads, but I can’t see why they would waste track time on meaningless runs. It isn’t all great news though, as Vettel is another driver to take engine penalties, so it will be hard for him to make the most of the pace the team has. Alpine had a steady day, nothing remarkable nor terrible, and will hope to take advantage of whatever happens around them.
We didn’t really see anything spectacular from Gasly over one lap, which suggests that it could be a tough weekend for them. With this track being so bumpy, they may have just missed the ride height or stiffness, so I wouldn’t write them off completely yet.
Alfa Romeo, as per usual, outperformed themselves on a Friday, and will likely be in a battle with Williams for the rest of the weekend. Williams themselves struggled for pace slightly, so may find it hard to get up to the Italian sponsored team, although it could be more set up troubles, or even wind for that matter, as we know they don’t like that. Schumacher did well to beat both Williams and be fairly close to the midfield, can he keep it up for the rest of the weekend?
The North and South American swing of the championship is getting underway, and execution needs to be flawless from here on out, not only for the top two teams, but for others who are trying to secure the best spot possible in the constructors, as that can literally mean millions of dollars!
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