Has the dust settled yet? Just about?
What a race that was. We came into the weekend, calculator in hand, working out how bad the race needed to be for Hamilton in order for Vettel to keep his championship hopes alive, at least for seven more days. Nobody seen the Iceman creeping round the outside to render that maths irrelevant!
For the first time in 113 races and the first time in red, surprisingly, since returning from his WRC excursion, Kimi took the top step of the podium and was just pleased enough to show a hint of a smile. With Ferrari having made some questionable strategic calls this season, there was a collective groan of “not again” as they chose to leave him out on his ultras during the virtual safety car period. Those groans where very much retracted in the closing stages when the only squabbling taking place was behind him!
It’s difficult to remember a more popular win and, given it may be his last in the sport (unless Sauber find a Wiley Coyote style black hole next year), I doubt anyone is grudging him it.
Elsewhere, there was a young Dutchman who’s reputation very much precedes him, tearing through from the back of the field to take second place and Driver of the Day. A man of polar opposites, when Max gets it wrong he really gets it wrong, but when he gets it right, boy does it make for an entertaining race. Also, what a waste it would have been if Red Bull’s one off Texas race suit hadn’t got some screen time other than his Aussie counter part pacing about in a run off area.
Contrasting fortunes at Red Bull Racing where it was Yeehaw for Max, not so much for Daniel. [Image: Adapted from Motorsport and AAP]
Third was all there was for the apparent Champion in waiting, Hamilton. Not a bad race, by any means, but Ferrari had the better of them in the straights and, for once, in strategy. An early stop under VSC forced Lewis onto a two stopper and meant that third was as good as it got. You rather get the feeling that had it been anyone other than Max occupying second position, the celebrations in the Mercedes Benz garage may have been a bit more vigorous as, had he have taken that place, Vettel’s eventual fourth place finish would have put paid to his championship challenge. As it was, he gave Max a deserved wide berth and scooped up a small additional advantage to take across the border next week.
What is it with Sebastian Vettel and the second half of the season? Answers on a postcard please (or in the comments, if more convenient). The first half of the season was tight, back and fourth between him and Hamilton, all to play for. But just like in 2017, the latter part of the season has seen his challenge unravel. Some radical calls from the pit wall and some uncharacteristic poorly timed moves on track have left him hoping his rival takes at least one weekend off if he is to get anywhere near his fifth world title this year. Another spin and another step backwards. Massive pity, really.
If there is anyone in the world who wants Lewis to win more than the man himself, its surely Valtteri Bottas. Maybe then he will be able to run his own race and show that, beyond playing an obedient rear gunner, he is the man for the job at Mercedes next year (over and above the seemingly redundant Ocon).
Whereas normally the excitement and talking points are to be found in Formula 1.5, it was relatively sedate back there. Relative to the front runners, that is. Just seven seconds covered 7th to 10th and, with some fairly box office drop outs in the opening stages, the fight for best of the rest was really on. The Renault guys closed out 5th and 6th but it would be hours after the chequered flag fell before the other points paying positions were finalised.
It’s been a while since fuel usage has played a role in the final decision but, just to add to the drama, it put in an appearance again in Austin. Ocon was disqualified for exceeding the fuel flow limit in the first lap of the race and Magnussen used more than the mandated 105kg of fuel for the race distance. Quite why he had more than 105kg on board is another matter, again – answers on a postcard.
If none of that was to your liking, maybe the not so subtle hark back to the V10 era by what we can only assume was an opportunistic fan with a mic, made your day as much as it made ours! Whoever made this happen needs recognition! Have a listen to this: