US Grand Prix driver ratings – plus my pick for driver of the day
As you will know by now, this season I’ve been looking back on the Grands Prix from a slightly different angle. I’ve said all I’m going to say about the cars and the future of F1 with my top 11 suggestions for how to fix the sport, so I’ll say no more and wait for the Ross Brawn revolution.
Meanwhile in my pre-season column back in March I made my predictions as to how I reckon the intra-team qualifying rivalry is going to shape up – so now it’s time to see how those rivalries develop.
There might only be one winner of the Grand Prix but for the drivers your biggest opposition is your team-mate so there are actually ten winners and ten losers!
Mind you in the US Grand Prix there were still three different winners possible with just a handful of laps to go in a thrilling race. When they did cross the line it was the current champion in third, the future champion second and the much-loved past champion the winner! But there can only be one driver of the day...
MY DRIVER OF THE DAY: KIMI RAIKKONEN 10/10
Still not quite as quick as Vettel in outright speed, Raikkonen got himself promoted to the front row by his teammate’s penalty and made a brave move inside Hamilton at turn one to take the lead.
Once out front he made the most of being on the quicker Ultrasoft tyre and made them last long enough to hold off a charging Hamilton. For a change the Ferrari strategy of not pitting when the VSC came out worked and Kimi drove a faultless race to take the win under intense pressure from behind.
By contrast Seb’s race was compromised as soon as he got his delta pluses and minuses mixed up and the stewards felt obliged to give him a grid penalty despite him slowing down.
As with Ocon in Japan, surely points on his licence or a big fine would be better than these race spoiling grid penalties. Things only got worse when he once again spun while battling for position but a strong recovery and a late grab for fourth was some consolation.
If it hadn’t been for Kimi, Max Verstappen surely would have got my driver of the day award as he stormed from 18th to second attacking a faster Ferrari and defending from a faster Mercedes.
Ninth at the end of the first lap, helped by cars spearing off in all directions, the undercut of Bottas was crucial and he only gave Hamilton one chance to overtake having outbraked himself at the end of the straight, but instantly fought back, held his ground and sent Lewis on a wild ride!
Meanwhile poor Daniel Ricciardo had a miserable time. Braving it round the outside of Vettel, causing the Ferrari to pirouette in a cloud of smoke was Daniel at his fighting best but his fun was over too soon when his battery went flat.
After a poor weekend in Japan, Nico Hulkenberg bounced back to the top of the Renault fight and took the Class B win with an excellent sixth place.
Having scraped into Q3 by being just 0.002secs faster than his teammate, he made that P7 with an excellent final lap with Sainz stuck back in 11th. A good start saw him end the first lap in 5th and it was pretty plain sailing from then on finishing well clear of his teammate.
Carlos had been right behind him at the end of the first lap but that was partly due to opting to fly off the road at Turn One, despite there being room on the track in front of him, which gave him the momentum to pass Ocon. Unfortunately for him the stewards spotted the move and rightly docked him five seconds!
Not quite the American party Lewis Hamilton had hoped for after Kimi bounced him at the start and then team strategy seemed to work against him. Even his final charge seemed rather subdued as the Mercedes just didn’t have the expected pace.
While Lewis might have been a bit down after the race, teammate Bottas had another uninspiring weekend. Nearly 0.4secs slower in qualifying and 24secs behind in the race, losing fourth to Vettel in the closing stages was not what the team wanted. Team boss Toto Wolff says he ‘can guarantee’ Ocon a good seat in 2020 and I think I know whose seat that is...
Fastest Class B car in qualifying, Ocon lost out to one Renault off the line and then to the other somewhere in the middle of Turns Two to Five before getting clattered by a charging Leclerc at Turn Eight. Somehow surviving all this he made it to the end busily fending off Magnussen’s Haas but unable to challenge the Renaults ahead of him.
Whether that clash with Leclerc was enough to cause a spike in his fuel flow on that opening lap no-one knows but it was still enough to get him disqualified. Rules are rules, as they love to say.
So it was teammate Perez who picked up his eighth place after a qualifying session compromised by ‘inexplicable’ damage to his car. Kerbs Sergio??
Once again it was Romain Grosjean who led the way in qualifying, a large 0.313secs up on Magnussen in Q2 and starting four places ahead of him, but it was the young Dane who had the better race until someone told him he’d used too much fuel. Again, 'rules are rules', they cry. Change the rules, I say!
Anyway, on track he had great scrap with the Force Indias, running between the two of them till the finish but unable to attack as he was (wait for it) saving fuel!
Grosjean meanwhile made an average start, got forced to straight-line Turn Five when he found Leclerc inside on the way into Turn Four and then blamed the good old ‘loss of downforce’ for clattering into Leclerc at the end of the back straight. Game over.
While it was Pierre Gasly who led the way demonstrating the pace of the new Honda powerplant with seventh fastest time in Q1, it was the use of the new engines that condemned both to the back of the grid.
In the race though it was Brendon Hartley who had by far the better day. Up to 12th at the end of the first lap, with Gasly back in 15th and beginning a long struggle with a car damaged by debris from the opening lap shenanigans.
Brendon made it to the line in 11th which would end up being a points scoring 9th after the disqualifications. Not sure it will be enough for him to keep his drive though, much as I’d love to see him given another year.
Another pretty dismal weekend for McLaren who doubtless would love the season to end right now. Not even Alonso could get out of Q1 and Vandoorne was stone last.
But, while Stoffel managed to escape the Turn Two to Turn Five chaos and have a reasonable run to end the day ahead of both Williams and Gasly’s slow Toro Rosso, Fernando didn’t. Lanced by Lance’s Williams right in the middle of Turn Four the maestro was not impressed with the driving standards down at the back of the grid.
At least Williams were buoyed by the announcement that George Russell is joining them for next year – and maybe Esteban Ocon as well – but that made little difference to their current situation.
Mired in the bottom five with Sirotkin once again outqualifying Stroll, Lance got a drive-through for torpedoing Alonso and Sergey also picked up damage. Despite finishing the first lap a feisty 11th, the Russian only had his teammate behind him at the finish.
It wasn’t a particularly good weekend for Sauber either despite the promise of Charles Leclerc qualifying 9th.
Marcus Ericsson didn’t even make Q2 with a lap almost half a second slower but at least he made it to the finish even picking up a fortuitous point. Charles seemed to be on something of a mission on the opening lap as he forced his way inside Grosjean at Turn Four and then tried to do the same to Ocon four corners later damaging his floor.
Come Turn Twelve and things got worse as Grosjean returned the compliment with interest and he ended the first lap last of those not heading straight for the Pits. He struggled on for a while before parking it.
So, the FINAL TABLE looks like this...
10/10 – Raikkonen
9/10 – Verstappen, Hulkenberg
8/10 – Hamilton, Ocon, Sainz, Magnussen, Hartley
7/10 – Vettel, Perez, Vandoorne
6/10 – Ricciardo, Sirotkin, Ericsson
5/10 – Bottas, Grosjean, Gasly, Alonso, Leclerc
3/10 – Stroll