A remarkably complex weekend for us, running three drivers – one of them who had never driven the car before, one returning after a two race layoff and the third a “Friday FP1” driver – ended on a positive note as Daniil Kvyat finished the USA GP in tenth place to bring home another precious point.
Having evaluated Pierre Gasly in the Malaysian and Japanese Grands Prix, we naturally took an interest in the action in the Japanese Super Formula at Suzuka, where the Frenchman, who won the 2016 GP2 title, had a chance of clinching its Japanese equivalent this weekend. Unfortunately, that particular story came to a rapid conclusion, as the race was cancelled because of extreme bad weather.
Meanwhile, here on the other side of the world, Austin was giving Formula 1 its usual warm American welcome. Actually, it was even more of a show than usual, as Formula 1’s new owners were keen to inject some real US of A razzamatazz into the weekend. The pre-race presentation was definitely something we’d never seen before and to get a former USA President (Bill Clinton) and the fastest man on 2 legs (Usain Bolt) onto the one podium was definitely a rare sight.
Scuderia Toro Rosso did manage one podium finish this weekend, in an unusual contest held in the paddock of the Circuit of the Americas. The organisers had set up a mechanical bull, the aim being to see how long you can stay in the saddle as it spins around. We approached this task with typical F1-style thoroughness, analysing video footage of one of these machines being ridden by experts and we provided our team members with a glove to make holding the rope easier. We finished second to a team from our engine supplier Renault.
Pink was the dominant colour this weekend in Austin and, even if we say it ourselves, it went quite well with our STR12 livery, as we added the pink ribbon on the nose of the cars to show our support for “Pink Austin” an initiative aimed at raising money for and awareness of breast cancer research.
One of the main points of interest in Austin was our driver line-up, with Daniil Kvyat back in the car, while alongside him was a motor racing champion in the shape of Brendon Hartley. The New Zealander was on the Red Bull Young Driver programme, heading for F1 many moons ago, but the fates decided his racing future would take another course. Brendon has made quite a name for himself in the FIA World Endurance Championship, taking the Drivers’ title a couple of years back and winning the famous Le Mans 24 Hours this year. More significantly for our American weekend, he is also a COTA winner and before this race, had probably completed more laps of the Texan track than any other driver on the grid. Given that he’d not driven a single-seater since 2012, he did all that we could have asked of him, eventually bringing the car home in 13th spot on Sunday. Don’t forget he’d had to start from the back row, because of a Power Unit grid penalty he inherited.
Daniil drove as though he’d never been away and had a strong qualifying to secure a place on the 6th row of the grid. The Russian had a busy race, fighting a Williams, a Renault and the two Force Indias and for a while it looked as though ninth place would be on offer at the chequered flag. Unfortunately, Felipe Massa, on fresher rubber, got within less than a second of the STR12 and was able to exploit the DRS to relegate Daniil to tenth place.
A few hours after the race, the Austin paddock was surrounded by those typically huge American trucks, as the teams rushed to load them up with all the cars and equipment. At least this tiring task had a great musical accompaniment as the sounds of Stevie Wonder playing live for the fans could be heard a couple of hours after the Grand Prix. From COTA to Austin’s airport is just a short trip and from there everything and everyone flies to Mexico City for Round 18 which gets underway on Friday, as we go from Tex to Mex.