This weekend saw F1 head to Austin, Texas for the 2017 US Grand Prix.
This also represented Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes’ first opportunity to wrap up the driver and constructor championships.
Amidst all the drama surrounding the title battles, just what lessons did come out of this weekend?
Hamilton’s perfect weekend
From a wet to dry FP1 to qualifying, Lewis Hamilton dominated the whole weekend.
With the drivers’ title and chance to become Great Britain’s first four time world champion within his grasp, Hamilton didn’t seem fazed at all as he topped every session.
His only negative was the race start when Sebastian Vettel took the lead but he kept his cool to quickly reclaim the lead by lap five, using DRS on the back straight.
Alas, despite winning the race and handing Mercedes the constructors crown for fourth consecutive season, he has to wait till at least next week before taking the drivers’ title.
This is the sort of weekend that a world champion wants but to do it in such dominant fashion is impressive, despite one title fight going at least to Mexico.
Renault inter team fight
Carlos Sainz made his Renault debut this weekend and instantly hit the ground running by beating Nico Hulkenberg in both of Friday’s sessions.
Things however could be very tight if the representative FP2 & 3 are anything to go by.
FP2 saw him finish +0.005 quicker than Hulkenberg on their ultra soft runs. Things then flipped on Saturday in FP3 when Hulkenberg lapped 0.042 seconds quicker.
Qualifying however saw Sainz impress with eighth (seventh after Max Verstappen penalty), whilst Hulkenberg only participated in Q1 before sitting out the rest of quali in knowledge that he would be at back due to an engine change penalty.
Those hoping for a competitive head to head between these drivers in the race got a swift disappointment.
Hulkenberg retired early on but Sainz produced a great debut race performance for the Enstone team. The Spaniard initially had a fight with his compatriot, Fernando Alonso but he showed plenty of grit to sandwich both Force India cars by race end.
This teammate battle will definitely be one to watch if the time gaps are anything to go by from this weekend.
Brendon Hartley finally made his F1 bow and had a decent weekend.
A tricky FP1 saw him finish 14th, which is five positions lower than Pierre Gasly managed on his FP1 debut in Malaysia.
Second practice saw Hartley encounter some issues, particularly with his helmet but he handled them brilliantly when others would be ranting on radio.
Saturday saw some steps forward despite an early exit from qualifying. Speaking afterwards for Toro Rosso’s post qualifying quotes, the New Zealander said; ‘I didn’t quite nail the session, but I can’t forget that I’ve been thrown in the deep end here, so I’m pretty satisfied with how the weekend has gone so far.’
In that quote, he has pretty much summed up how difficult it is making your F1 debut at this stage of the season just for one weekend.
Race day only backed up that theory as he finished second last of those who reached the chequered flag.
Personally, I would be tempted to run Hartley again next weekend to see how he fares now that he has experienced a proper F1 weekend.
With fifth in constructors in potential sight, it really has to be a case of who is the best man to partner Daniil Kvyat though.
Battle for fifth
There are two separate battles in the constructor championship between those 5-8th and things are heating up as we approach Abu Dhabi.
The current main battle for fifth concerns Williams and Toro Rosso with 14 points between them. The former have 68 to Toro Rosso’s 53 points so expect these team to contest the fight for fifth to Abu Dhabi.
Haas and Renault however aren’t far behind on 43 and 48 points respectively but with 159 podium points up for grabs, anything can happen.
Admittedly these teams probably won’t get on the podium (barring crazy wet Brazilian GP). Should one team get a driver onto the podium and the others fare poorly, the fight for fifth could swing away from Williams.
There are two smaller points to note from this weekend that don’t merit a full section to themselves.
- Driver Introduction – NEVER AGAIN!!! It was just awful from start to finish with McLaren’s Stoffel Vandoorne not even seen walking onto grid. To make things worse, the top three teams had their drivers introduced individually which is unfair on lower ranked teams (especially from promotional PoV) who had drivers introduced in pairs.
- Esteban Ocon overtook Max Chilton’s record for most consecutive race finishes as a rookie by taking his 26th consecutive chequered flag.
- Max Verstappen had a super drive from 16th to 4rd and is deservedly driver of the day this time out. Would of been third if FIA and Charlie Whiting hadn’t penalised him swiftly because I am certain that if it hadn’t involved a Ferrari then it would of been a post race investigation rather than cruel demotion in podium waiting room
Missed any of the previous race round ups or the half term report? Click on the relevant link below and you can get up to speed.