Round 18 – United States Grand Prix
I worked in Formula One for 28 seasons spanning four decades of which I spent a significant period attending Grand Prix. All the others were spent in front of the television quite literally on the edge of my seat knowing that the performance of the team would in one way or another alter my week at work.
Living in England generally meant getting up early on a Sunday morning for those long haul or ‘fly-away’ races but being able to eat roast beef and Yorkshire puddings during all of the Europeans. Now living in Sydney, it’s all changed, and for this Grand Prix in Austin, Texas I found myself for the first time watching a ‘live’ race on a Monday morning!
The weekend started with Mercedes crowned 2016 World Constructors’ Champion and Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg split by 33 points in Nico’s favour. With 100 points still available in the next four races, it was still all to play for.
Last year’s race will be remembered for the changeable conditions and Lewis taking his 3rd victory at The Circuit of the Americas. The weather for the weekend was set to be fair but would the drivers be?
Friday’s FP1 and FP2 didn’t throw up any great surprises with the Mercs looking strong with the Red Bulls and Ferraris following behind. The other Nico, Nico Hulkenberg looked strong in the Force India after confirming that he would be driving for the ‘works’ Renault team in 2017.
Off track, the spotlight was on McLaren team boss Ron Dennis with rumour and speculation that he wouldn’t be in charge next year. His decision? Or that of others? It would appear to be the latter with Ross Brawn, Justin King (ex Sainsbury’s supermarket boss) and Martin Whitmarsh who was ousted from McLaren by Dennis back in 2013 all being in the running.
FP3 on Saturday morning suggested Mercedes wouldn’t have it all their own way with both Red Bulls topping the time sheets, however when it came to qualifying the Mercs turned it up with Lewis claiming pole just ahead of Nico. On the second row were the Red Bulls with a split tyre strategy followed by the Ferraris and Nico Hulkenberg, who continued his impressive weekend form taking the 7th spot.
Lewis Hamilton won the race without being challenged ahead of his teammate Nico Rosberg and with Daniel Ricciardo on the podium once again. Sebastian Vettel was fourth and Fernando Alonso’s McLaren 5th after some committed overtaking in the final laps. Who said that Alonso had lost the will to win?
Kimi Raikkonen was having a strong race up until the Finn’s second pit-stop when a wheel wasn’t fitted correctly and he had to retire as a result. Ferrari picked up a $5000 fine for an unsafe release. Max Verstappen also had pit-stop issues when he came in unannounced to the surprise of his pit crew. Two laps later his car stopped on track with a suspected gearbox problem.
Although the Silver Arrows both finished 1st and 2nd, they didn’t show much greater pace than that of the Red Bulls or Ferraris. They have after all been guilty in previous races of winning as slowly as possible to conserve engines and gearboxes but not this weekend, which gives us some hope for the next three races.
Let’s hope that Ricciardo can finish on the podium again, so we can see who the next victim will be to drink from his sweaty race boot. The teetotaller Gerard Butler agreed to do the ‘shoey’ with Red Bull rather than champagne.
So on to Mexico this weekend. The gap is down to 26 points but with now only three races to go.
Lewis really needs Nico to have a DNF (Did Not Finish) if he is to stand any chance of winning his 4th title. Nico just needs podiums, reliability and to stay out of trouble to win his first championship. Rosberg can’t win the title in Mexico, but he can certainly start to make people believe that he’s in the box seat.