What we learned from the United States Grand Prix
Written by Chris Winterburn
Lewis Hamilton took his sixth drivers’ championship in Austin, Texas on Sunday with Mercedes AMG Petronas Motorsport enjoying a near flawless race weekend in the United States.
Valtteri Bottas took the chequered flag after a close fight with his teammate, Hamilton, but on balance it was a deserved result for the Finnish racer.
As we draw to a close with regards to the 2019 season, Texas provided us with a multitude of talking points, especially as teams in the middle of the pack looked to bolster their points tally.
1, Max Verstappen bounced back after dismal fortnight
It has been a difficult end to the campaign for the Dutch driver, yet Max Verstappen finally had an incident-free race weekend in America as he performed excellently to a third-place finish. He was even very close to Lewis Hamilton in second place as he got the absolute best out of the Aston Martin Red Bull Racing car setup.
Most believe that 2020 will see a three-way battle for the title between Hamilton, Leclerc and Verstappen, but of late the Dutchman has appeared out of sorts, even lacking his usual confidence.
However, Sunday’s performance showed the talent he has at his disposal, especially when you consider how well he started the race in difficult conditions, narrowly avoiding a collision with Sebastian Vettel heading into the first corner.
Christian Horner had been especially frustrated with the recent few weeks, but he will be delighted with how his number one driver bounced back in Texas.
2, McLaren are ready for 2020
After the return of technical problems ruined the team’s weekend in Mexico, McLaren showed huge character in avoiding a repeat in Austin. Fernando Alonso found real consistency issues during his latter years with the British team, as there were problems from week to week.
This is exactly why it was so important for the team not to fall into the same trap this time around, and that’s exactly what they did. Norris’ seventh-placed finish and Carlos Sainz Jr’s eight-placed finish cemented what was a very impressive race weekend for the team.
There were no technical issues for the second successive week, as the talent of the drivers and the quality of the mechanical setup shone through.
An incredibly strong start on lap one even had the McLaren drivers in the top four for a short period of time, and there is a lot to be positive about in 2020 for a team that appears to have left their worst days behind.
3, Lewis Hamilton is a racing icon
Sky Sport’s commentary of the latter stages of the race summed up Hamilton’s racing spirit perfectly. “How fighty does Lewis want to be?” the commentator wondered just prior to Hamilton making a daring overtaking move on teammate, Bottas.
He ended up surrendering the place in the end as his teammate had strong tyres, but the fact that Hamilton still wanted to race, even though the championship was already won. His natural instincts came out, and this is exactly why he has won six drivers’ championships in what has been an iconic career to this point.
At just 34 years old, he still has plenty of time to add to that tally, but he has already earned the respect of everyone within the sport.
Having raced in an era that hasn’t always been known for overtaking and exciting racing, Hamilton has been a beacon of excitement throughout his tenure in the sport, even if his personality hasn’t always endeared everyone.
His driving is, though, without reproach, and it’s difficult to make the argument that any other driver could have enjoyed the level of success he has in the golden age of Mercedes F1.
4, Scuderia Ferrari Mission Winnow were impacted by a rule clarification
Whether it was fair for Max Verstappen to imply a level of improper behaviour on the part of the Italian team is a matter of personal opinion, but we did see in the United States GP that the team was seriously impacted by the FIA’s rule clarification.
Prior to the race in Texas, the FIA had ruled that ways of intervening in the process of mandatory fuel-flow were against the rules.
This clarification came on Saturday morning, just before qualifying, and it certainly satisfied Red Bull, who had questioned the processes undergone by Ferrari in recent races.
The Italian team has enjoyed a far superior straight-line speed for much of the season, although they did appear to lose this in America.
Team chief, Mattia Binotto, was quick to make clear that Ferrari weren’t impacted by the rule clarification, and they didn’t make any changes to their engine setup as a result. Verstappen and Red Bull weren’t convinced.
“That’s what happens when you stop cheating,” Verstappen quipped in the immediate aftermath of the race.
This could prove to be a nice subplot to 2020’s title fight, with Verstappen and Leclerc set to be heavily involved.
5, Alexander Albon is a real asset to Aston Martin Red Bull Racing
Whilst not the most eye-catching of aspects of Sunday’s GP, Alexander Albon’s recovery from a turn one collision was really impressive.
The mid-season switch to Red Bull was met with a degree of surprise, yet the driver has proven himself to be a real asset to the team moving forward.
One of the hardest tasks an F1 team faces is finding the balance between a number one and number two driver. Whilst Verstappen is clearly the priority driver in the team, Albon is ably supporting him and consistently getting the best out of his technical setup.
Albon had to continue to race with floor damage and front-wing damage as a result of the aforementioned collision, but still managed to finish in fifth place, a respectable return when you consider the circumstances.
6, SportPesa Racing Point battling to the very end
With only two races remaining, the competition between the midfield teams is shaping up nicely and SportPesa Racing Point are doing everything they can to stay within reach of Renault following an excellent season.
Expectations have been surpassed at SportPesa Racing Point and with their two drivers, Sergio Perez and Lance Stroll, demonstrating brilliant qualities throughout the campaign, confidence is high within the team as they look to finish in style before aiming to improve next year.