United States GP driver ratings

1y ago

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LEWIS HAMILTON...

Fastest in every session, race winner, championship lead extended. This was the perfect weekend for Lewis Hamilton and leaves him all-but certain to be crowned world champion for a fourth time.

The celebrations may be on ice but Hamilton was near flawless around the Circuit of the Americas, his only slip being losing the lead to Vettel off the line which he quickly made amends for. "I was surprised Sebastian didn't defend more," Hamilton said post-race of his lap six pass in a little dig at his rival. "I would have."

Even after a later pit stop from Mercedes allowed Vettel to wipe out his four second deficit to Hamilton, the Briton wasted little time in re-establishing his lead and take victory by 10 seconds. And he finished 34 seconds ahead of team-mate Valtteri Bottas, highlighting how much more he could extract from the W08.

Hamilton now just needs to finish fifth in Mexico to secure the championship with two races to spare. After five wins in six races, another history-making weekend surely awaits.

Rating out of ten: 9.5

SEBASTIAN VETTEL...

Were Ferrari desperately off the pace set by Hamilton or was it Sebastian Vettel? Maybe it was a combination of the two, but this certainly wasn't the German's finest Sunday of 2017 after an impressive qualifying.

After his storming start to take the lead into Turn One, even Hamilton said he was "surprised" Vettel didn't fight him harder for the lead on Lap Six. For a four-time world champion who had nothing to lose in his quest for a fifth crown, it was alarming to first see Vettel let his title rival through so easily, and then drop off by around a second a lap as he struggled with his tyres. Was he paying the price for his limited running - and data-gathering - in Friday practice?

The only time Vettel really impressed in a car that so often lights up come race day - and he did set the fastest lap of the race - was when he was on a completely different tyre strategy to Hamilton. But it could be argued that in terms of race pace, Vettel wasn't even the quickest Ferrari in Austin.

"Not quick enough, that sums it up," said Vettel, who must now hope for the miracles of all miracles to wrestle the championship momentum back.

Rating out of ten: 7.5

KIMI RAIKKONEN...

Another strange weekend for Kimi Raikkonen in which he was well off the pace in qualifying but improved on race day. The Finn was nearly half a second off Hamilton's pole time and two tenths down on team-mate Vettel as he could only manage to fifth on Saturday.

But on Sunday he recovered from a poor start to quickly re-take his position from Esteban Ocon before finally emerging triumphant from a tough battle with compatriot Valtteri Bottas.

He was perhaps fortunate to hold onto his podium spot given the late drama with Max Verstappen, but it was ultimately Raikkonen's clever positioning of his car in defence which forced the Dutchman to go off track to complete the illegal overtake.

Rating out of ten: 7.5

MAX VERSTAPPEN...

Debate continues to rage over whether Max Verstappen should have retained his podium spot, but he certainly would have deserved it after a fantastic drive from 16th on the grid.

The 20-year-old once again showed he is a world champion in the making as he made light work of his grid penalty for another engine change to quickly be back amongst the front runners.

His move past Raikkonen down the inside of Turn 16 on the final lap looked like it would be another audacious overtake to add to the Dutchman's growing list. But the stewards deemed he had gained an advantage by having all four wheels off the track and hit him with a five-second time penalty, leaving him to be cruelly ejected from the cool-down room.

The question now is whether he will face further punishment for branding one of the stewards "an idiot" as he bemoaned the inconsistency in decisions.

Rating out of ten: 9.5

VALTERRI BOTTAS...

Valtteri Bottas' steady flow of points has helped Mercedes secure a fourth straight constructors' title - he hasn't finished outside the top six all season - but drives like this won't help him come contract time next year.

The Finn has suffered an alarming slump since the summer break, out-qualified and out-raced by Hamilton in all six Grands Prix. That's not a complete disaster in itself given the form Hamilton in, but it's the margin of those defeats that will worry Mercedes. Bottas can't seem to get anywhere near Hamilton in qualifying, beaten by 0.4seconds in Austin, and would have been 20 seconds adrift in the race even before his late pitstop.

He needs a strong end to the season.

Rating out of ten: 6

ESTEBAN OCON...

Just how well is Esteban Ocon driving at the moment? 'Best of the rest' once again, the Frenchman also set a new F1 record after another fantastic display.

Matched alongside a dependable and quick driver at Force India, Ocon continued his recent advantage over his team-mate in Austin. The youngster has now finished ahead of Sergio Perez in four of the six races since the summer break, while he out-qualified the Mexican for the third successive Saturday. And that was done while feeling under the weather with a potential migraine.

After holding off Perez while saving fuel in the race, Ocon then expertly kept Carlos Sainz's Renault at bay in what will surely be a fight higher up the grid in the future.

Ocon has now eclipsed Max Chilton's record for most consecutive finishes after his F1 debut with 26 - most of which have been while battling for points. Consistent. Mature. Just superb.

Rating out of ten: 9

CARLOS SAINZ...

A brilliant Renault debut for Carlos Sainz as the Spaniard quickly showed why the French team were so keen to sign him and why Red Bull were unwilling to let him leave permanently.

Despite his pre-race fears, Sainz was immediately on the pace in his new car, finishing ahead of new team-mate Nico Hulkenberg in every session bar Practice Three, when he was only four hundredths of a second off the German.

"Remarkable" was Renault boss Cyril Abiteboul's verdict on Sainz's performance, while the six points he claimed moved Renault to within five points of his former team Toro Rosso in the Constructors' standings.

Rating out of ten: 9

SERGIO PEREZ...

A frustrating weekend for Sergio Perez in which he was once again out-qualified by team-mate Ocon and then denied the opportunity to pass him due to team orders.

The Mexican's qualifying was compromised by being blocked by Kevin Magnussen in Q1 but he quickly moved up to seventh with an aggressive strategy. But once coming up behind Ocon, his progress was stalled and he could do nothing to stop the impressive Sainz passing him and Perez then had to fend off Daniil Kvyat and Felipe Massa to retain eighth.

He will hope for a better weekend at his home race.

Rating out of ten: 7

FELIPE MASSA...

Another drive that does no harm to Felipe Massa's hopes of securing a 2018 drive with Williams, even though he is by no means the favourite for that seat.

Massa started from 11th on the supersoft tyres and took those long into the race - he was sixth before his first stop - while his ultrasoft stint was even more impressive as he lasted 26 laps on the compound.

The Brazilian was told to "have some fun" as he rejoined the track outside of the points, and that he did, overtaking Daniil Kvyat to secure a worthy ninth place. Lance Stroll may have Williams' only podium of the season, but Massa has finished above his team-mate 12 times this season.

Rating out of ten: 7

DANIIL KVYAT...

Perhaps F1 drivers should take breaks more often. After his two-race enforced rest, the Daniil Kvyat who returned in America was largely unlike anything we had seen previously this year.

"I came here with a fresh mindset," reported the Russian and the result was, in his own words, "my best race of the season". Ninth place may have been lost late on to Massa but with a point proved, almost literally but definitely metaphorically, Kvyat won't care a jot about that as he bids to put his career, never mind his season, back on track.

Rating out of ten: 7.5

LANCE STROLL...

Lance Stroll attributed his early exit from qualifying to a deployment issue on his Williams and it was a long way back from there on race day for the youngster. 11th from 15th on the grid amounted to a reasonable effort, although Daniel Ricciardo and Fernando Alonso's retirements accounted for two of the promotions.

With three races remaining, Stroll's Baku podium keeps him just four points behind team-mate Massa in the standings but it's in qualifying, where the score stands at 14-2 in the veteran's favour, where any end-of-season improvement needs to be found.

Rating out of ten: 6

STOFFEL VANDOORNE...

12th place may not sound particularly impressive for Stoffel Vandoorne, especially when considering his McLaren team-mate ran in the points before his DNF, but the Belgian admitted he maximised his afternoon after starting at the back.

Plagued with another engine penalty and grid drop, Vandoorne made up three places on the first lap alone and then claimed he had an "exciting race" as he passed both Haas drivers and Stroll before losing 11th in the closing stages.

He couldn't do much more in the race, but he will have been disappointed not to have got closer to Alonso in qualifying after being beaten by more than half a second.

Rating out of ten: 6

BRENDON HARTLEY...

In the circumstances of driving a car he was previously completely unfamiliar with, Brendon Hartley did a very good job on his Toro Rosso debut, making it to the chequered flag in 13th with no discernible costly errors along the way.

But in the context that F1 never is, never should be and never will be, a finishing school, the New Zealander fared less impressively, and the scale of his defeat to Kvyat will be seen in the context of how Kvyat struggled relative to Sainz before his 'rest' and what Sainz was able to do immediately upon arriving at Renault.

Will he be given a second chance to impress in Mexico?

Rating out of ten: 7

ROMAIN GROSJEAN...

Off the track, the US GP looked a lot of fun for the Haas team, who used the prolonged interval between Practice Three and Qualifying to march up 'Haas hill'. On the track, however, the US GP was a whole lot of hard work for the team and an uphill battle from start to finish.

Romain Grosjean, on the back foot all weekend after his spin into the gravel during Friday Practice, only briefly challenged for points and then fell back rapidly in the closing stages due to acute tyre degradation. "I was trying to hang in there, but the last few laps I felt it was pretty dangerous," he said. A tough day at the office.

Rating out of ten: 5.5

MARCUS ERICSSON

Marcus Ericsson described it as his "best race of the year" and his improved weekend came at the perfect time as he fights to save his Formula 1 career. With Sauber's 2016 Ferrari engine being increasingly exposed with each passing week, the Swede comfortably out-qualified team-mate Pascal Wehrlein and was just seven thousandths of a second away from securing a spot in Q2.

The Swede also enjoyed some good battles down the field, although his weekend was blighted slightly by a five-second time penalty for contact with Kevin Magnussen.

Rating out of ten: 7.5

KEVIN MAGNUSSEN...

An odd weekend for Kevin Magnussen.

Starting 17th after being penalised for blocking Perez - after which he graciously apologised - and finishing right at the back of the field hardly sounds promising, but Magnussen's third fastest lap of the race indicates Haas had more pace than they showed at their home Grand Prix.

The Dane's cause wasn't helped by contact with Pascal Wehrlein at the first corner, along with being shunted by the other Sauber as he moved out of the way of Vettel's charging Ferrari.

Rating out of ten: 5

And the drivers who Did Not Finish...

FERNANDO ALONSO...

There are hard luck stories and then there are the Fernando Alonso hard luck stories. The Spaniard's retirement from deep inside the top ten having wrestled his McLaren into the points was a terrible injustice for his efforts on a weekend when it was confirmed he would be driving for McLaren-Renault in 2018 and the second half of the McLaren-Honda partnership offered another painful demonstration of why the marriage had to end.

Rating out of ten: 8.5

DANIEL RICCIARDO

With a gap of over 50 points to the north and 30 to the south, Daniel Ricciardo currently looks nailed-on to finish fourth in the Drivers' Championship. So while his retirement from the race due to an engine failure was obviously disappointing, it was far from a disaster in the grand scheme of F1. Following Verstappen's surprise and somewhat curious contract extension, there are bigger stories around Ricciardo brewing off the track.

Rating out of ten: 8.5

MARCUS ERICSSON

A very short weekend's work for Pascal Wehrlein. An exit from the first round of qualifying, where he was beaten by Ericsson, was followed by an exit from the race on the first lap after an early collision which wrecked the floor of his Sauber.

Rating out of ten: N/A

NICO HULKENBERG

A weekend Nico Hulkenberg will want to forget. The German only managed to out-pace new team-mate Carlos Sainz in one session all weekend and was out-qualified for the first time this season as he sat out Q2 ahead of a 20-place grid penalty. He then suffered his fourth consecutive US GP retirement as an oil pressure issue forced him out on lap three.

Rating out of ten: N/A

THE MEXICAN GP IS LIVE ON SKY SPORTS F1; SUNDAY'S RACE STARTS AT 7PM

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