This weekend saw Formula One touch down in Texas for a dramatic 2018 USA Grand Prix.
Here, Lewis Hamilton had a first shot at wrapping up the drivers’ title depending on results but there plenty of talking points which came out of a dramatic weekend in both championships.
Title Fight Goes On
The biggest headline to come out of this weekend is the fact that the title fight between Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel rolls on to Mexico.
After a strong performance throughout weekend and taking pole, Hamilton looked destined to wrap it up here with Vettel down in fifth but a number of mistakes extended the title fight.
Hamilton made the first mistake during Q2 in having to do two qualifying laps on Supersofts, which cost him at start when Kimi Raikkonen made the superior grip on his Ultrasofts count on run into Turn 1.
Mercedes then were responsible for the fatal mistakes which cost Hamilton here despite having knowledge of past situations.
Firstly, they underestimated how good a defence Raikkonen would put up against Hamilton who was on fresher tyres before pitting himself.
We already saw evidence of what the Finn could do back in Italy when he produced a stark defence for much of race against the Brit with both teams evenly matched machinery wise, so ought of done the undercut much later than lap 11 but on a one stop strategy rather than their eventual two.
The ultimate mistake was making the second stop much later than expected, which left Hamilton with it all to do against Red Bull’s Max Verstappen, who had great race pace on par with Ferrari and Mercedes as he tends to do at most circuits.
If the second stop had come a few laps earlier, Hamilton could of easily been second or even wrapped up the title with victory if managed to get pass a struggling Raikkonen.
This therefore was a championship point blown through strategic blunders but for neutrals, Mexico will have something riding on it.
Raikkonen Still Has It
With a impending move to Sauber for 2019 and having not won a race since Australia 2013, Kimi Raikkonen finally proved that he still has it with a stunning drive to victory for first time in 113 races.
Having endured a difficult Friday, its hard to see how Kimi would of pulled off this performance if the rain hadn’t abated but in dry, something just clicked for him because he was on it all weekend, despite missing out on pole.
Ultimately, the Flying Finn’s defensive skills was what won him the race with a brilliant drive against an early pitted Hamilton just before his own stop then a charging Verstappen who couldn’t get close enough to have a realistic chance.
It is performances like these which is why Raikkonen is still amongst F1’s top talents, when given a proper chance to showcase his skills rather than prop up Vettel’s title bids.
Verstappen Fights Back
After losing a podium here last year following a controversial off track pass on Kimi Raikkonen, Max Verstappen arrived here with a point to prove.
Friday brought tough yet irrelevant conditions but Qualifying saw that point become harder to achieve after a kerb caused suspension damage and a five place penalty for gearbox change, relegating Verstappen to 18th on grid, which is just two positions below where he started last year’s race.
Tactical brilliance was what won Max his second placed finish after undercutting Valtteri Bottas before a defensive yet brilliant drive to fend off the two stopping Hamilton, which Team Principal, Christian Horner described as a “stunning drive”.
The result was Verstappen’s fourth podium in the six races since F1 returned from its summer break, so can he maintain this form in Mexico?
Renault Strive for Fourth
At Haas’ home race, nobody would of expected Renault to strive even closer towards fourth place in the constructors.
Having been firmly in midfield mix all weekend, Renault benefitted from a strong start before maintaining position throughout race as best of rest once Verstappen and Vettel had come through field.
Both Renault drivers however aren’t getting complacent despite having a 22 point lead over Haas, with Nico Hulkenberg describing the result to Renault Sport as “very satisfying” despite the possibility that their rival could overhaul them in the final three races.
That feeling is reflected by Team Principal, Cyril Abiteboul who said that the result “… gives a lot of confidence to the team and our drivers.”
With three races to go, the battle is fourth isn’t yet over though and Haas can get right back into the fight with a freak double podium but Renault are now well placed to make it three factory teams within the top four constructors.
Haas arrived at their home race harbouring hopes of a strong weekend but left disappointed after a retirement and disqualification wrecked their fight for fourth with Renault.
Qualifying was super tight but the race was one to forget after Romain Grosjean ran into Sauber’s Charles Leclerc to collect a three place grid penalty, before Kevin Magnussen was disqualified for exceeding fuel allowance of 105kg.
Team boss, Guenther Steiner wasn’t pleased with Magnussen’s disqualification but hopes “having 110 kilograms” next year will see their fortunes change. He does has a point here because a increased fuel allowance will hopefully allow more racing and less disqualifications of this nature.
Either way, this is a disappointing home performance as Haas’ hunt for a first double points finish on home soil continues for another year.
Missed any of the first ten race weekends and want to get up to date? Click on any of the hyperlinks below to go and check out my round up of the weekend/s.
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