Race Review - US Grand Prix
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There were high expectations put on the Circuit of the Americas, but overall I think it was a huge success.
The race itself was brilliant, a mix of drama, strategy, overtaking and pure talent. However I thought before I start nattering on about the race, I should talk about the circuit. Colloquially known as “COTA”, it was finished in record time and now boasts some of the best facilities in the world. The media centre is huge, the garages are spacious and unlike recent new circuits everything worked.
The layout itself is also impressive. The climb to turn 1 is incredible, the run is like a wall of tarmac. The blind entry to the hairpin and wide track mean different lines can be taken. This was the reason why we saw so much overtaking. The next complex of corners going from turn 2 to turn 8 is very fast, much like Silvertsone’s legendary Becketts/Maggots. I think it is a real test of driver skill and also helped to close the gap to drivers before they were let on to the backs straight. Turn 11 is another strong and wide corner which helped to give some overtaking, but turn 12 was the main focus. The DRS worked well on the slightly curved back straight to give drivers enough advantage, but not to make it so easy. We saw some close encounters here including the overtake for the lead. The final part of the lap starts with a tight and twisty section that helped to close the gap, or extend it in Red Bull’s case. Turn 19 is a fantastic left hand turn with an off camber exit, creating a real challenge. The final corner is a nice 90 degree left that helped to close the gap for the start finish straight.
I was really impressed with the look of the circuit and the challenge it provided. At the start of the weekend it was really slippery and drivers likened it to “driving in the wet”. This was an added aid during the race to create some exciting and close racing. Unlike recent F1 circuits designed by Tilke, COTA was completed with time to spare so all the facilities were top notch according to those there. The grandstands also provided some brillaint viewpoints, particularly at turn 1, and there were packed grandstands throughout which was good to see. I also like the patterned run off that gave it some life and colour, as well as the elevation changes which worked really well and made some dramatic backdrops.
On to the race then, before it even started there was drama. Ferrari chose to “break the seal” on Massa’s gearbox, giving him the compulsory 5 place grid penalty. This was a rare tactic used to give Alonso the advantage, the Spaniard moving up a place and on to the dirty side of the grid. In my opinion I see why Ferrari did it and understand the championship situation but it makes me feel sorry for Massa. He was treated unfairly yet again despite out qualifying Alonso fair and square.
We saw from the start that Ferrari had made the right decision. Hamilton, Raikkonen and Button most notabley lost positions due to their starting position on the dirty side of the grid, meanwhile Ferrari’s strategic gamble paid off as Alonso moved up to fourth. I was completely surprised that there was very little contact at turn 1, I think the drivers chose to be abit tentative. However at the next complex of corners cars scattered on to the run off, however none experienced too much damage.
Hamilton was obviously faster than Webber and easily overtook him. Meanwhile further back Button had a lot of work to do after dropping to 16th. I was really impressed throughout with the lack of contact or terminal contact between the drivers. Many drove very mature races and it was nice to see after some rather erratic driving in previous races.
Another talking point of the race was Webber’s retirement. It always seems to happen to him, doesn’t it? He slowed on lap 15 with an alternator failure. It was disappointing for him and Red Bull as it meant Alonso moved up a position and the Aussie lost a certain 15 points haul. The leading battle had heated up, and then cooled down but it then heated up again. Hamilton closed in on Vettel and after building up the momentum made his move on the back straight, with a little help from DRS. The Brit also experienced help from Narain Karthikeyan after the HRT driver blocked Vettel for a number of corners.
So it was Hamilton, Vettel and Alonso who shared the podium. I think (if I am right in saying this) it was the first time they have ever been on the podium together. If not then definitely this season. Quite strange really. Want another fun fact? Lewis Hamilton scored back to back United States Grand Prix victories, 5 years apart!
It was a brilliant Grand Prix overall on Americas return to the Formula 1 calendar. There was always something to watch and keep your eye on. The circuit produced the goods and matched the high expectations, the drivers even said it was a fun race to drive.
So the championship battle continues on to the final race of the season in Brazil (sad face). I think it will be Vettel who wins and as much as I like him, I would rather see Alonso win because he has had to fight for so long to clinch his third world title.
Author: Rick McCabe
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