“Yee-haw” – 2016 US Grand Prix

In a season characterised by uncharacteristically boring races, we had yet another uncharacteristically dull Round in the US. This time there was a bit of action in the middle and the back-lot and a few unexpected retirements…

The Top-10:

  1. Lewis Hamilton drove to an unchallenged victory today. Right now he needs Rosberg to foul up big time if he hopes to reclaim the championship lead.
  2. Nico Rosberg also drove a flawless race and even by finishing second in the remaining races, he can claim the championship easily. So, despite my doubts, Rosberg is on steady footing.
  3. Daniel Ricciardo; with the Ferraris having an off-day (and Red Bull having an uneven race too), Danny’s return to the podium is no doubt a pleasant surprise.

Sebastian Vettel had some difficulty at the start but was forced to defend Ferrari’s honour all by himself when his team-mate bowed out late in the race. A solid drive, shame that by the time Vettel was 4th the lead was already too far away.

Fernando Alonso (the provider of this report’s title) started a massive rise at the end, overtaking Sainz on the final laps and repeating the team’s and his own best result from this season as 5th. With Jenson Button battling his way from 19th at the start to 9th on the finish, McLaren can wash away the bitter taste from the disappointing Japanese round.

Carlos Sainz Jr. can also pat himself on the back for an excellent drive from 10th to 6th, giving Toro Rosso something to cheer about for the first time in a long while. With this finish, Sainz repeated his best ever result from this season’s Spanish round. Losing out to Alonso slightly smudges this result (as it looked like Carlos was going to be fifth initially) but an excellent drive never-the-less.

Williams had a terrible time at Austin. Just as it looked like Felipe Massa would redeem the team, a last-minute pit-stop (due to a slow puncture) dropped him to 7th. Not terrible but not the sort of result the soon-to-retire Brazilian would have wanted, I’ll hazard to guess.

Force India also had an off-day with Sergio Perez managing a rather lowly (by his standards) 8th place.

Despite being rear-ended by Kvyat at the start, Romain Grosjean brought Haas its first points in nine races. Sure, Romain needed the help of a lot of drop-outs – but it was sort of nice that the American constructor finally showed a bit of fight at their home race.

Golden Pineapple Award: Daniil Kvyat, Toro Rosso

No doubt, the Racing Russki would have settled for his first points since the Singapore round – but I’m more than happy to grant him the Pineapple accolade (as the 11th driver to be bestowed the honour). Kvyat was aggressively overtaken by Kevin Magnussen near the race’s end. So aggressively that he was given a 5-second penalty after the race. Kvyat’s showing wasn’t anything spectacular today (as mentioned above, he rear-ended Grosjean at the race’s start), but with the Russian driver having a contract with TR for next season – hopefully he can end the season with some classy driving. Удачи, Дани!

Drop-out count: 4

Technical problems, collision damage and pit foul-ups were the words of the day in regards to the retired drivers.

Nico the Hülk collided with Valtteri Bottas early on and the damage apparently ended up taking him out of the race (this wasn’t shown on the broadcast, so I don’t know on what lap Nico retired).

Esteban Gutierrez’s car froze on the pitlane, making this another so-and-so result from Haas’s number-2 driver.

Max Verstappen and Kimi Räikkönen, neither of whom is each other’s fan at the moment, both had fouled up pit-stops followed by sudden and unexpected retirements. Max pulled into the pit-lane seemingly too early as the pit-crew were not ready and Max had to stop in front of the pit-grid in order for the mechanics to clear away their gear. On the following lap, Max had a mechanical failure in his engine and retired, leading to the Virtual Safety Car being deployed. Räikkönen on the other had to sit in wait as his mechanics struggled with the bolt-gun for his rear-wheel and was accidentally sent off when his rear-wheel was still not attached. Räikkönen stopped on the pit-exit and had to back-up in order to get off the circuit, bring his race to an abrupt end.

Back of the Lot News:

As mentioned before, Kevin Magnussen was dropped to 12th with a time penalty which was all the same as he didn’t score points anyway. His (soon-to-probably-be-test-driver) team-mate Jolyon Palmer was 13th for all his belly aching that Magnussen was slowing him down during the early parts of the race.

Sauber drove another familiarly vanilla race. Marcus Ericsson was 13th while Felipe Nasr was actually able to overtake the unlucky Valtteri Bottas to rise to 15th. Bottas was of course rear-ended by Hülkenberg early in the race, forcing him to pit and as a result spent the rest of the race at the back.

Pascal Wehrlein, who is negotiating for the vacant Force India position for next season, drove an uncharacteristically weak race being only second-to-last.

Dead Last: Esteban OconOcon claims his fourth last place of the season. His only solace at this point is that Manor is apparently planning to retain their drivers (if Wehrlein doesn’t get his Force India drive). On the other hand, there wasn’t a whole lot Ocon could do.