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Rate the Race Round 18- COTA USA – Mean Reader score: 5.60
This year’s race scored lower than 2015 (8.87) and 2014 (6.75). Well, unlike 2015, this year’s race didn’t have the added attraction of Hurricane Patricia to keep us on our toes and wondering if the race was actually going to go ahead or not.
With drama pretty much from start to finish last year, (two safety cars and two virtual safety cars) and a driver’s championship claimed by Hamilton (the only British driver to have successfully defended the championship title) what did 2016 have to offer that last year’s didn’t? Sadly, not a great deal (apart from the better weather).
It is a poor reflection of the race itself that the main sources of action came from mistakes relating to the pit stops. Verstappen pitted, much to Red Bull’s surprise, as he mistakenly thought they’d called him in a lap after Ricciardo: they hadn’t and they weren’t ready for him.
Verstappen rejoined the race only to hear something clunking in his car and stopped on the most inconvenient part of the track launching not only a virtual safety car but also theories as to how he had scuppered his team mate’s chances of winning by giving close rivals a free pit stop. He retired from the race shortly afterwards. The conspiracy theories were quashed by Verstappen informing us that he retired where he did because he was waiting for the team to tell him to stop.
Raikonnen’s team were ready for him in the pits but were in such a rush to get him on his way they forgot to detach the wheel gun (allegedly, as no wheel gun attached to the wheel was actually visible.) Raikonnen made it partway up the incline to turn 1, stopped, had a conversation with his crew and then let the car roll backwards into the pit lane under gravity, having turned the engine off. He also retired. Ferrari were fined 5,000 euro for an unsafe release of Raikonnen’s car.
There was some excellent racing in the last ten or so laps, though and it all centered on our Driver of The Weekend.
Driver of the Weekend: Fernando Alonso – 56.62% of reader vote
There was a scrap for P5 between Sainz, Massa and Alonso which started to develop around lap 45. Massa had a bit of a lock up and narrowly missed the rear end of Sainz which had given Alonso a chance to close in. Massa and Alonso were both on medium tyres while Sainz was on softs. A few laps later Massa had stopped trying to overtake Sainz and concentrated on defending against Alonso.
By Lap 52 Alonso and Massa were wheel to wheel and by turn 15 Alonso had made contact. Both cars were off track (Massa more so than Alonso, who had taken the inside) and both drivers blamed each other. Massa came off worse, loosing P6 and picking up a left front puncture.
However, the stewards ruled that neither of them was wholly or predominantly to blame. One down, one to go and Alonso would have P5 in the bag. By this time, Sainz’s tyres were almost threadbare but he was heroic in defending for a couple of laps before eventually being overtaken on the last lap, by an equally heroic and determined Alonso.
So who would have thought it that a McLaren a Williams and a Toro Rosso would have provided the best racing of the day? Comments, below, please…..