It’s 6.30am here in Austin and even though I’ve been over here for nearly a week, I’m wide awake, oh what I’d give for a lie in! So I decided to watch the highlights of the United States Grand Prix once again, and once again I’ve got the biggest grin on my face. What a race it was and what a total and utter delight it was to commentate on, from start to finish.
So thrilling was it that apparently my partner and her friend back in the UK, were both screaming at the TV for 56 laps before eventually jumping for joy at the finish. How did the commentary go again? For the 1st time in 113 races. Kimi Raikkonen takes the Chequered Flag as a winner!
It’s probably felt like 113 years to the Iceman. 2044 days to be exact, from the Australian Grand Prix in 2013 to Austin in 2018. 30 times he stood on the podium in between and watched one of his rivals take the winner’s trophy, and in one of his final races at Ferrari, and lets face it, one of his final chances to get another victory, he delivered. I have to admit, I was pretty chuffed for him.
Meanwhile Max Verstappen won me a dollar, not that he knew he was racing with such pressure on his shoulders. Ted Kravitz and I were discussing his chances on Sunday morning when I said that I fancied Max for the podium and Ted, shrewd as he is, seized on the chance to relieve me of some hard earned cash. It was another terrific drive from the Dutchman and if his scrap with Lewis in the latter stages is an appetiser for future encounters, I can’t wait for the main course to arrive. I have the feeling that next year, we might be seeing more fights between this pair.
As Max headed out to the Red Bull party on Sunday night, armed with a fistful of his own dollars as finally he was allowed to buy the beers in the US for his team, Lewis flew to Atlanta for work and a bit of NFL pleasure. The championship winners t-shirts were packed back into their boxes ready for Mexico in a few days time. Lewis might not have clinched it this weekend but I can’t see him not completing the job on Sunday. Ferrari have re-discovered their pace by going back to their pre Singapore package, but it’s come too late and too many points have been squandered in the process.
Talking of which, Sunday saw Seb spin after colliding once again with a Red Bull. Quite how he manages in that situation to rotate the car 180 degrees I’m not sure, maybe it’s more pertinent though to ask why it happened in the first place? But on a quite chaotic opening lap, the incident was probably less of a surprise than his collision with Max in Suzuka. To fight back to eventually finish 4th was a good recovery, but not good enough. Seb shouldn’t have been starting in 5th in the first place. He could have started exactly where his team mate won from had he not been so careless on Friday. You can debate the current regulations regarding Red Flags as much as you like, but the drivers know what they have to do and he didn’t do it. Yes, he slowed down initially, but then accelerated to 170km at one stage, why? The lap was over, the session stopped, no need for such acceleration, game over in Austin in one unnecessary moment.
At least he got the chance for a recovery drive though. Daniel Ricciardo, who faired better in the collision, stopped 7 laps later when his power shut down. Battery related, as it was in Bahrain, one of 7 DNF’s this season. Is it any wonder that when returning to the Paddock his room in the Red Bull hospitality unit took the brunt of his frustrations. One of two driver rooms to take the hit and Fernando Alonso was another who needed to take a few moments to calm down after completing just 600 metres in the race before colliding with Lance Stroll.
Imagine though how he’d felt if he was Kevin Magnusson or Esteban Ocon? After 56 laps and a good finish in the points they were kicked out of the race. In Magnussen’s case, because he used 0.1kg more than the 105kg allowed for the race. Which does seem particularly harsh but as everybody else managed it, why didn’t Haas?
Ocon’s car meanwhile experienced an unexpected surge in fuel flow doing the course of the 1st lap, according to his Team Principal. Which meant that it breached the permitted 100kg/hr flow allowed in the regulations. According to the team there wasn’t any benefit gained as a result, but it’s a technical regulation and not open to interpretation as to whether you benefitted from it or not.
Sporting Regulations however, are open to interpretation and the 5 second penalty given to Carlos Sainz for running wide at Turn 1, could go down in F1 history as the first penalty handed out that upset both Sainz and Renault’s rival teams! They believed the penalty wasn’t harsh enough, Sainz was a bit stunned as to why he got it in the first place, although it’s worth asking why Carlos was out that far when he didn’t seem to have been nudged that way by a car on the inside.
But that’s another question for another day and that day will come quickly as we race onto Mexico City and the F1 Fiesta that has been promised. It’s where the title was decided last year and where it should be decided this season too.
One more thing before we go though. The race in Austin was run after a Friday practice that was totally irrelevant, because it was run in the wet. Saturday was cold, so the practice session was run in conditions that were totally different from the race itself. After qualifying Pirelli increased the rear tyre pressures by enough to make a rather large difference to the way the teams expected them to behave.
All of which meant that the teams really had no accurate data on which to base their strategy decisions. If practice makes perfect, they went into the race with a far from perfect understanding of what may happen.
And we had the race of the season! Makes you wonder doesn’t it?
See you in Mexico!