By Thomas Dodd
- Lewis Hamilton on the brink of fourth world title after winning United States Grand Prix on Sunday.
- Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel second as Brit extends lead to 66 points with 75 to play for – fifth place will be enough for Hamilton in Mexico in a fortnight.
- Max Verstappen loses podium after last-lap pass on Kimi Raikkonen deemed to have taken place outside track limits.
TEXAS, USA – Lewis Hamilton stormed to a fourth straight United States and Formula 1 win on Sunday, but all the action took place behind him in Austin. Here are five things we learned….
The FIA must use more common sense
The debate was all about track limits, but it seems as though some drivers have now reached their limit with the stewards themselves. Max Verstappen’s last-lap move on Kimi Raikkonen, in which the Dutchman was deemed to have placed all four tyres outside of the white line running along the side of the track has got people and talking – and so it should. In an era where the lack of overtaking and wheel-to-wheel racing has been used as a reason for people switching of their TVs, it seems almost laughable that the authorities now look to punish any marginal offence.
Formula 1 is about racing, and drivers should not be being penalised for attempting to do so. Waiting until Verstappen was about to walk onto the podium to inform him of his penalty when the whole world had known for several minutes was also a shambles, and put a black mark on what had been a very watchable and entertaining Grand Prix.
Sainz/Kvyat prove impressive points
One was racing his first race for his new team, while the other was likely bowing out of the sport, but both Carlos Sainz and Daniil Kvyat were out to prove a point on Sunday afternoon. The Spaniard, competing in his first race for Renault, was immediately on the pace in his new surroundings, qualifying fractionally behind teammate Nico Hulkenberg before having a terrific race, which almost culminated in him jumping Esteban Ocon to be best of the rest behind the big three teams.
Kvyat meanwhile, filling in for Pierre Gasly for one weekend, qualified an impressive 11th on his return, and backed that up with a quiet, clean and effective drive to 10th on Sunday. If he is to be dropped for Mexico in two weeks’ then he may just have done enough to be considered for a drive in the future. He may have saved his F1 career.
Alonso cannot wait for season to end
Only Honda could have two engine failures in the same country with the same driver across two different Formulas. Months after retiring from the Indy 500 with a blown engine, Fernando Alonso suffered the same fate, with the same manufacturer in the United States.
Wearing the same helmet he had competed in the 500 with in May, the double world champion was competitive all weekend in Austin, but cut a frustrated figure during the race despite fighting for the middle points places. Audibly dejected when forced to retire the car, no one must be looking forward to 2018 than the Spaniard, who has clearly not given up on his dream of a third world championship with McLaren.
Mercedes constructors’ champions
Confirming what everyone had known for the majority of 2017, Mercedes are indeed the best team on the grid. The Silver Arrow claimed their fourth straight constructors title on Sunday with three races remaining after claiming their 11th victory of the season. Lewis Hamilton’s lead in the drivers’ standings is huge, but credit must also go to Valtteri Bottas, who has chipped in with two wins and a handful of second places to emphasise the dominance the Brackley outfit has had at times this season. They have seen the new rule changes and simply raised the bar again. They will be tough to stop in 2018.
US GP still searching for a market
…Or is it? On the one hand it’s easy to argue the use of Michael Buffer to introduce the drivers like boxers pre-race, or the deployment of Usain Bolt to do the post-race interviews was a shout of desperation, a further attempt to reach out to the public in North America who are still unconvinced by watching cars that turn right as well as left. But on the flip side, why shouldn’t a Grand Prix want to try and put its own stamp on its race weekend, when it comes under the microscope of racing fans worldwide.
What better way was there to do that then, than the use of one of the nation’s most iconic sporting compare and one of the world’s most recognisable and likeable sporting entertainers. The jury is out on how effective it was, but at a unique venue, which has the ability to produce some close racing, it would appear the United States has finally found its Formula 1 home.
The Mexican Grand Prix takes place in two weeks’ time at the Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez.
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