Post-Austin thoughts

 

Before the weekend I'd written about five things to watch out for at Austin. You can see my pre-race thoughts by clicking here. Well, now that the weekend has been and gone, how did those five things work out? Let's have a look, beginning with the battle at the top between Sebastian Vettel and Fernando Alonso!

It's down to just two - Still!

After a dominating performance in all three practice sessions and qualifying, it almost seemed a cert that Sebastian Vettel would once again stand on the top step of the podium come the end of the race. One man though was set on not seeing that happen; and that man was Lewis Hamilton. His father, Anthony, said that it was the best victory of Lewis' career, with others ranking it as highly as wins at Silverstone in '08 and Canada 2010. One thing was for certain; it was a truly brilliant drive from Lewis. A race long battle between arguably the fasted two drivers on the grid ended with Lewis finally passing Seb with just over 10 laps to go, partially thanks to a slow HRT earlier in the lap, but mainly because he was able to get close enough to maximise the effect of the DRS down the back 'straight'. Lewis wins, Seb is 2nd, but what about Fernando?

Even before the race had started, the whole paddock was talking about Ferrari taking the decision to break the seal on Felipe Massa's gearbox, forcing the Brazilian to take a 5 place grid drop, thus allowing Fernando Alonso to be promoted to 7th, but more importantly the clean side of the grid. An odd decision? Nope, the right decision. Fernando is the number 1 driver and is fighting for the championship. Felipe is the number 2 driver and not fighting for the championship. So as unsporting as it may have been, it was the right thing to do. The honesty on display from Ferrari about the situation was good to see and they should at least be commended for that.

Now onto the race. Alonso started 7th, had a great start to move into 4th before crossing the finish line in 3rd after Mark Webber's alternator failure. Just 3 points dropped to Vettel when the two started 6 places apart was about as good as Fernando could have wished for. More worryingly for Alonso though was his pace relative to Massa, who'd outperformed him all weekend. If they need to in Brazil, you'd have to think Ferrari will use the improved Massa to once again maximise Alonso's chances of securing that third title. Formula 1 is a team sport and the best decision for the team was taken. Some may not like it, but no rules were broken.

Could Kimi win again? - No

The Finn started 4th, but could only manage a 6th place finish come the end of the US Grand Prix. He appeared to struggle more than team mate Grosjean on the harder tyre, and in the end only finished 6 seconds ahead of the Frenchman. In fact, had Grosjean not spun in the early part of the race, forcing him to switch on to the hard tyre before planned, he would have probably finished a good 15-20 seconds ahead of Kimi. Raikkonen remains the only driver this season to complete every racing lap, but a 6th place is hardly going to make him smile. I guess at least he didn't have to bother with the podium interview. He was though involved in arguably the overtake of the race, when superbly driving around the outside of Nico Hulkenberg at turn 2. Kimi has shown no signs of race craft rustiness this season and has been involved in some brilliant, clean battles throughout the year. I can't wait to see what he and Lotus can deliver in 2013.

Have Sauber missed the chance to overhaul Mercedes? - Probably

The rot at Mercedes appears to be showing no signs of going away any time soon. Nico Rosberg is now without a point in 5 races, but Michael Schumacher is even worse off, having not scored in 6. Sergio Perez hasn't scored since signing for McLaren, with Kamui Kobayashi the only one to score anything in the previous 5 GP's. The only highlight of the weekend for Mercedes was the brilliant qualifying lap from Schumacher that saw the soon to be retired 7-time World Champion start the race from 5th. Rosberg could only manage 17th (in both Q1 and Q2), highlighting what a great job Michael had done. The pace come race day was nowhere though, largely down to what has become a frustrating recurring problem; rear tyre wear. Michael started dropping back as soon as he'd left turn 1 on lap 1, eventually finishing 1 lap down and in 16th place. The gap is still 12 points, so can Sauber make that up in Brazil? On recent form you'd say there's far more chance of Sauber scoring than Mercedes, but a lot will hinge on whether the Swiss team can get it right in qualifying. A poor day all round for both teams.

Should Force India be looking over their shoulder? - I'd advise against it when racing...

Nico Hulkenberg once again outperformed team mate Paul Di Resta, with the Scot's recent troubles seeming to continue. Nico scored for the 4th time in the past 5 races, compared to just once for Di Resta. The team now have 101 points, 25 more than Williams behind them. So should they be worried, or have they done enough to secure 7th? There was a great battle between the two Williams drivers, with Pastor Maldonado eventually coming out on top after a brave but clean move up the inside of Bruno Senna into turn 1, not long after asking if it was ok to attempt an overtake on the Brazilian. I think that move highlighted the difference between the two drivers. Pastor is more forceful, more aggressive. Yes, he's been involved in a few too many incidents this year, but he gives it a go and makes things happen. In a recent interview with GP International, Pastor said:

"Some drivers are conservative, and sometimes they take more points than the aggressive drivers. But they never win a race. If there's an opportunity to something, I will go for it. Always."

And therein is the dilemma that Williams face. Do you go for a driver that is aggressive but will possibly win or finish on the podium; or for the steadier, 'slower' driver? Personally I love drivers with the attitude of Maldonado. If you're not in Formula 1 to win, then what are you there for? Anyway, back on topic. The gap is 25 points with one race left, so you'd think that Force India pretty much have 7th wrapped up. Well… remember Barcelona? 25 points for a win, something the Venezuelan has already done once, so why not twice? Ok, it's highly unlikely. But this is Formula 1.

Can Marussia keep hold of 10th? - It looks increasingly likely, yes

Austin marked a historic day for Marussia, as for the first time since the now Russian owned outfit entered Formula 1 in 2010, both cars out qualified both Caterham's and both HRT's. The team appear to ending the season on an upwards curve and will head into 2013 full of confidence, but will need to ensure that 10th place is still theirs after Brazil. Despite finishing behind the Caterham's at the end of the race, Marussia to head to Brazil with that valuable 10th place still intact. It may not get much media coverage or air time, but the battle for 10th is arguably more important than the battle between Ferrari and McLaren for 2nd. Watch this space.

Image Source: Austin Podium

Top Drivers

 
Driver Points
Hamilton 252
Rosberg 211
Vettel 203
Raikkonen 107
Bottas 101
Massa 97
 

Connect

 

 #MsportXtra Sharing the latest news, views and a little extra from the world of motorsport."

 "To see more pictures like the one above, visit my online F1 art collection by clicking here!"