At the last time Formula One race in the US, McLaren driver, Lewis Hamilton, was victorious. It seems not much has change as Hamilton battled Sebastian Vettel and emerged again victorious in the first United States Grand Prix at the Circuit of the Americas on Sunday.
Hamilton started on the dirty side of the grid and came out of the first corner third behind the Red Bulls, Vettel and Mark Webber. But, after passing by Webber on the fourth lap, after a previous attempt that didn’t go as planned, he got to work catching up to Vettel.
Vettel, however, proved a far tougher nut to crack, and after getting the gap down to less than a second, Hamilton began to lose ground just prior to his pit stop on the 20th lap. After a switch to harder Pirelli tire, he managed to close in again, and finally made a move that stuck, using his DRS to pass Vettel down the back straight on the 42nd lap, the Red Bull having been delayed slightly by traffic in the esses earlier in the lap. The German tried all he could to stick with him, but just didn’t quite have the McLaren’s pace, and as Hamilton had discovered, following was a whole lot harder than leading.
Behind them, and after a bit of tactical trickery by Ferrari, another superb drive from Alonso kept the Spaniard in play for the world championship.
Before the start much was made about the state of the track on the left-hand side of the grid, particularly by Hamilton who qualified second. Ferrari were so concerned, with Alonso due to start eighth, that they deliberately broke a seal on Felipe Massa’s gearbox so that he would get a five-place grid penalty that would move Alonso to seventh, on the clean side.
The ploy worked to perfection. Alonso jumped up to fourth behind the Red Bulls and Hamilton, closing out Michael Schumacher in Turn One, and thus immediately put himself in the lowest position he needed, assuming that Vettel won, to keep the title battle open. He rose to third when Webber’s car stopped after 16 laps with alternator failure, and stayed there to the flag, secure in the knowledge that Massa had climbed back up to fourth after his enforced grid penalty and thus had his back. It was a noteworthy run by the Brazilian.
Behind them, Jenson Button hauled his McLaren to fifth after starting on the harder tire and running until the 32nd lap before changing to the mediums. He conquered the Lotuses of Kimi Raikkkonen and Romain Grosjean, both of whom looked strong at one time. The Finn seemed a possible podium contender for a while, while the Frenchman recovered from an early spin and pit stop.
Force India’s Nico Hulkenberg ran fifth for some time before the Lotuses hit their stride, and stayed in the points to take eighth despite attack from both Williams. Pastor Maldonado rubbed wheels in the first corner with team mate Bruno Senna on the 52nd lap as he squeezed through on the inside for ninth, and they were the final points’ scorers.
It was a poor day for Sauber, as a disappointed Sergio Perez didn’t have the car beneath him to deliver better than 11th place to the thousands of Mexicans who made the trek to Texas, while Toro Rosso’s Daniel Ricciardo, who ran strongly in fifth place at one stage while running out of sequence in the pit stops, was 12th. Nico Rosberg brought his Mercedes home an uncompetitive 13th ahead of Kamui Kobayashi’s Sauber, while Force India’s Paul di Resta clung on after an unhappy race to beat Schumacher home.
Vitaly Petrov led the newbies home in his Caterham, as Heikki Kovalainen very narrowly fended off Timo Glock’s Marussia for 18th and Charles Pic brought his MR01 home next. Both HRTs finished, with Pedro de la Rosa leading Narain Karthikeyan throughout.
Besides Webber, the only non-finisher was Vergne after damaging his Toro Rosso’s front suspension again during a fight with the Mercedes.
Vettel now leads Alonso with 273 to 260 points, and 25 is up for grabs in Brazil. And though Red Bull lost the race, Vettel’s second place was sufficient to clinch them the constructors’ championship for a third successive year.
So, what did the Mercedes AMG Petronas team have to say about the U.S. race?
It was a difficult weekend for us and unfortunately we weren’t able to score any points today. However we have learned some important lessons for next year and that’s what counts at the moment. I hope we can be more successful next year here in Austin as I have enjoyed our visit. The track, the people and the city are absolutely fantastic. So I look forward to coming back here in 2013 and we will work hard next weekend to finish the season on a positive note.
I can’t find any words other than ironic ones for the race today – there was a lot of action around me but unfortunately in the wrong direction. To say that the race was a real struggle would be an understatement. I couldn’t get any grip from my first set of tires, and there must have been some kind of damage for them to perform so badly. We had to change our strategy to two stops which then compromised our race even further. All in all, it was much worse than expected today, especially considering that things did not look that bad yesterday and Friday.
After a good qualifying result, Michael’s first set of tires performed very badly today and we decided to convert his strategy to a two-stop race. Once we got onto another set, the lap times came back up to what we expected but having such a poor first stint made it very difficult for him. Nico started a long way back and conserved his tires well as we knew that we wanted to make a one-stop strategy work. He actually had a pretty good race with respectable lap times, and if we had managed to qualify better, he would have been in a reasonable place. Whilst it is disappointing not to score any points, we have learnt a lot about the car and tires this weekend which will be useful for the future. Despite our result, this has been a great weekend for Formula One in the United States, and it was very pleasing to see so many fans here for the first race in Austin. Our thanks for the organisers for putting on such a good show.
Nico’s speed was not too bad but from 17th on the grid, he could not improve further. His one-stop strategy worked as planned which was not the case for Michael who, after a respectable place on the grid, did not have the speed in his car to defend his position after the start of the race. The team brought him in early and switched to a two-stop strategy. Congratulations to Lewis Hamilton and Vodafone McLaren Mercedes for winning the inaugural Grand Prix here at this great race track, after having won the last United States Grand Prix in 2007. Thank you to the organisers for making this race happen here in Austin. We will come back stronger next year. Congratulations to Red Bull Racing for securing the Constructors’ World Championship today.