Ambient 17° Track 19° Humidity 90% Wind 11.9 m/s
Well well well. Given the lack of dry running and the fact that not a single car had run Inters all weekend long, the start of the USGP promised a great deal of entertainment, which it delivered, more than making up for the insanity of yesterday. Changeable conditions delivered yet again making RAIN the driver of the race
I would sooner try and track the Byzantine politics of the Elizabethan court than try and deliver a blow by blow account of today’s race. So instead I invite you to consume 2 shots of high quality whiskey, close your eyes gently and tap yourself softly in the head with a large, golden hammer. The effect will be about the same.
Still, should we start with Verstappen P4? 8 retirements? Button P7? Or maybe Hamilton winning his 3rd WDC? No matter much like Abu Dhabi something less than a year ago it was the battle for T1 that started it all, a battle that Lewis won with a brutally effective and arguably borderline move. Not that it did him much good as he proved unable to stay on top of the Inters and was forced to come in 1 lap (Lap 18) early for the slicks, effectively giving up 2 positions by time all was said and done. This despite the first of a mind numbing amount of SC’s and VSC’s (VSC in this case) that littered the race in this case giving the marshals a chance to clear debris from the carnage of T1. And a chance for Rosberg and Vettel to edge ahead of him, taking advantage of the controlled pace.
No matter as Raikkonen took a trip into the gravel and having wedged himself up against the fence, ground his way out before terminal damage to the brake duct forced his retirement, making 5 in the first 28 laps. He had Massa, Grosjean, Stevens and Bottas to keep him company. and yes that would be both Williams again suffering from some weird suspension defect. Oh yes and a big chunk indeed of the early laps featured a certain Red Bull, piloted by Daniel Ricciardo, leading the wetter part of the race.
Whew, that brings out the first Safety Car, to retrieve a stranded Sauber from the track. Whilst that occurred it became obvious that Hamilton was having a harder time keeping temperatures in the slick tyres as at the restart he struggled for the first lap to keep pace with Vettel and Rosberg.
It was the 2nd Virtual Safety Car on Lap 38 for a thoroughly destroyed Force India driven by Hulkenberg that seemed to put the nail in for Lewis. Rosberg and Vettel pitted and Mercedes kept Lewis out. By time he reached pit lane the next lap the Virtual Safety Car was in and Hamilton was out of luck as he was looking at the wrong side of Verstappen in his pit window. Not only was Hamilton on the outside looking in, but meanwhile Button and Alonso were traipsing about in P5 and P6. Dry weather had ruined the Red Bull’s race, but it was about to get a lot worse.
On lap 43, trying to defend Kvyat went wide on the exit of T19 and demonstrated to all watching exactly why one should never drive on wet AstroTurf. Snap oversteer sent him directly into the Armco and Hamilton, sensing his moment pressed to get to pit entry for a new set of boots.
Vettel followed suit as his bid to run long was failing and when all was said and done the race restarted with 10 laps to go, Rosberg in the lead, and the WDC on the line. Further back, Button elected to come in and Alonso to stay out. It was a wise choice for Button as he had the grip to bring it home P6. Sadly for Fernando, his car lost power and he gradually drove backwards to end up 11th overall.
The Safety Car was in Lap 47 and up front the race appeared to be Rosbergs to lose, and that’s what he promptly did, driving off the track on Lap 49 and literally allowing Lewis past him without a fuss. The racing continued further back with Button climbing up and Alonso plummeting down. Ricciardo had another pit after his Hulkenberg clash and managed to catch up Alexander Rossi, who by taking advantage of the principles of attrition managed to match Manor’s best finish of the year P12.
Truly, there was no moment of the race that did not have some drama, including the moment I had to kill that wasp. Fierce racing form P4-P8 never quit and special mention goes to Ricciardo, Vettel, Sainz and Verstappen for adopting the NASCAR premise that rubbing IS racing.
Congrats to Lewis and Mercedes for his 3rd WDC along with whatever passel of records he has just surpassed.
Have fun arguing T1 in the comments (nicely) along with everything else and stay tuned for the update!