Americans have waited five years to see Formula 1 cars race in the USA again and this afternoon, the sport obliged them with a truly classic motor race, that had it all, from myriad passing moves to a championship decided in favour of Red Bull Racing, who clinched the Constructors’ title with one race to go. Even if Scuderia Toro Rosso did not feature in the list of points scorers at this maiden outing for the Circuit of the Americas, Jean-Eric, who DNF’d and Daniel, who came home twelfth, did add to the spectacle.
Jev had a demon start before getting bogged down at the first corner, after which he had some fun passing slower cars, but his race ended with a suspension problem on lap 17 of 56. After qualifying was spoilt by yellow flags, Daniel was always going to be facing an uphill struggle from eighteenth on the grid. It was literally an uphill struggle for him in the run up the huge climb to Turn 1, where he tangled with a swarm of Marussias and was worried he’d damaged his nose, as he dropped to 20th place. Fortunately, the data showed all was fine with his STR7 and he was able to press on. And press on he did, for the full 56 laps, chasing other cars down and on one occasion passing two at once! He fought his way all the way up the field, breaking into the Top Ten which prompted his appearance on that very American vertical score board, eventually getting halfway up it as he rose as high as fifth before switching from the Option tyre to the Prime on lap 30. It’s fair to say that fifth place was a bit artificial, as he was the last of the front runners to stop and after that, he rejoined in thirteenth place. The gamble to run for so long was based on the earlier assumption that the Hard tyre would not work so well, but today, with more rubber on the track, it was not too bad and this wiped out the advantage of running late with Daniel’s car. But all the same, to start eighteenth and finish twelfth was a very good effort.
There were duels and dog fights from the top to the bottom of the field and the best one came right at the top of the order as Lewis Hamilton, second on the grid, hounded pole man Sebastian Vettel for lap after lap until he overwhelmed the Red Bull man on lap 41 to take the win. Strange but true, this drew a huge cheer from the Ferrari fans in the stands, as it meant that the championship was now very much alive, with Fernando Alonso coming home third, so that the gap from the Red Bull man to the Ferrari driver has only grown by 3 points to 13, going into Sunday’s grand finale in Brazil.
Ferrari’s strategy plan started even before the cars lined up on the grid. The Red team had a poor qualifying with Felipe Massa sixth and Alonso eighth. The team opted to break a seal on the Brazilian’s gearbox, which incurred a five-place penalty. Why, when there was nothing wrong with it? Because it promoted Alonso to seventh on the clean side of the track, a huge advantage here. It worked, because not only did the Spaniard charge up to third but even the Brazilian went from eleventh to fourth.
Jenson Button and Kimi Raikkonen thrilled the crowd with wheel-to-wheel action on their way to fifth and sixth respectively, while the rest of the points went to seventh-placed Grosjean, followed by Hulkenberg, Maldonaldo and Senna.
Looking at the forecast for Sao Paolo, it looks like nice weather on Friday but then showers and storms for the rest of the weekend: when you run in the midfield like we do, the more uncertainties, the more variables, the better your chances of getting a better than expected result. Bring on the rain!