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Featured US GP Debrief: A champion is crowned in Austin

Discussion in 'Formula 1' started by Ben Stevens, Oct 26, 2015.

  1. Ben Stevens

    Ben Stevens

    hamiltonchampion.jpg In a race that was the definition of wet and wild, Lewis Hamilton made the most of the changeable conditions to take his third driver’s championship

    There’s a common saying that patience is a virtue, but as Lewis Hamilton showed on Sunday, sometimes the opposite is true.

    Not content to wait one more race than he had to for his coronation as 2015 driver’s champion, Hamilton got the best of Nico Rosberg in another turn-one battle before going on to take his tenth win of the season in a race that was as much a fight for survival as it was for victory.

    Starting under the final wave of rainclouds that had battered the Circuit of the Americas all weekend, the race was anything but the usual story with two safety cars and six lead changes over the course of the afternoon. Much of Mercedes’ pace advantage was nullified in the early going, as both Red Bull drivers duelled with the Silver Arrows in the wet conditions, while Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel posed his own threat with a contrarian tyre strategy that was negated by the final safety car. It wasn’t until the final eight laps that Hamilton took the lead for good, with teammate Nico Rosberg gifting him the lead with an unforced error at turn 13. As a result Hamilton now enters rarefied air with his third world championship, matching the feat of his boyhood idol Ayrton Senna.

    Finishing with a “traditional” Hamilton-Rosberg-Vettel podium, the 2015 US Grand Prix made up for that predictability with a scintillating race from start to finish. Read on for a look at some of the key stories to come out of Austin.

    hamiltonusa.jpg Hamilton seals championship as Rosberg is foiled once again

    If Lewis Hamilton’s decision to leave McLaren for Mercedes at the end of 2012 seemed like a massive risk at the time, it’s safe to say now he couldn’t have chosen better.

    Hamilton’s choice to walk away from the championship-pedigree of the Woking outfit for a team that hadn’t competed in F1 since 1955 has turned into arguably the most prescient decision in the history of the sport. Delivering Hamilton the car he had always dreamed of, the Brit is now firmly seated atop the F1 throne with his second straight driver’s championship. His title-winning display on Sunday was just further proof of why that happens to be the case.

    Finding himself in the unusual position of not being the fastest driver in his rivalry with Nico Rosberg, Hamilton overcame the German’s wet-weather superiority thanks to bookending displays of the ruthlessness and composure his rival has often sorely lacked to steal the victory.

    The former was of course their first-corner stoush that saw Hamilton cover the cavernous expanse of the opening left-hander to run Rosberg completely off the track. Having conceded pole to the German, Hamilton was clearly in no mood to remain behind his teammate for any longer than he had to, in the process blurring the line between firm-but-fair aggression and Maldonado-esque malicious intent. Finding himself in fourth on re-joining the track, Rosberg was understandably aggrieved, but as we would see, that was not where he lost the race.

    That moment would come much later, with the aforementioned mistake on lap 48 sending Rosberg skidding out of the lead. Just two laps after a strong safety-car restart, the German had thrown it all away with the most untimely of errors to hand Hamilton his ultimate triumph.

    The obvious point to make here is that in the case of a Rosberg win, he would simply be delaying the inevitable – a result that looking back has been on the cards essentially since Melbourne. But Sunday’s latest episode in the Hamilton-Rosberg saga is important for indicating why that has actually been the case. Races like Sunday’s show us that sometimes, it is composure that makes the difference, but perhaps more importantly, that for as much as small but consistent margins in ability can be the deciding factor, so too can the way drivers elect to let each other race in the first place. If Hamilton was within his rights to maintain track position to the complete detriment of Rosberg at the start, it was because Rosberg had passed up a similar opportunity to shut the door mere moments earlier. In effect, it’s a contrast in mindsets between “trying to win it” and “trying not to lose it”. And, as Lewis Hamilton has shown for two years now, clearly one of those is superior to the other.

    ricciardousa.jpg Renault engine token spend does little to aid Red Bull

    From leading the race to almost out of it entirely, Red Bull endured an afternoon that was nigh-Winkelhockian, but in the end, the team’s hopes at a surprise victory (or even podium) evaporated as quickly as the water did.

    Electing to gamble wholeheartedly on a max-downforce setup, Red Bull clearly had little confidence in Renault’s gains in the wake of their 11-token spend prior to arriving in Austin. For a while it looked like it might pay off, with the conditions allowing both Daniel Ricciardo and Daniil Kvyat to mix it up with the Silver Arrows like it was 2013. Then the switch to slicks happened, and it was apparent the RB11 was as outgunned as ever.

    Quickly bested by the Mercs and then Vettel’s Ferrari, the team was left fighting just to pick up points with Kvyat crashing out and Ricciardo sustaining damage, eventually settling for a solitary point in tenth.

    If there was supposed to be a saving grace for Renault in 2015, it was their token-advantage heading into the season, and yet it’s clear they still have a long ways to go if they hope to catch Ferrari, let alone Mercedes anytime soon. If it wasn’t for the incredibly poor way Red Bull have handled their engine situation, with days like Sunday you’d almost mistake Red Bull for a sympathetic figure. As it stands, the team remains rudderless for the immediate future, and with both titles wrapped up for 2015, expect all eyes to now be on this most dysfunctional of marriages.

    verstappenusa.jpg Toro Rosso’s young-guns make some serious noise

    If the engine is considered the weak-point of the Red Bull setup, Sunday showed why their driver depth is its strongest.

    18-year-old Max Verstappen equalled his highest finish in Formula 1 with a fourth place, while his teammate Carlos Sainz came from 20th on the grid to finish seventh, giving the team its highest point total in a race in the current era of scoring.

    If there’s a compliment that can best sum up the oft-lauded Verstappen, it’s that his 2015 performances have made the FIA’s changes to superlicense eligibility look utterly foolish. Once again proving why he was ready for the sport at such a precocious age, the Dutchman was mixing it up with many of the sport’s big boys on his way up the field, in the process completing the ritual of being complained about on team radio by Kimi Raikkonen.

    Not to be outdone by his more heralded teammate, Carlos Sainz put together his own fantastic drive in Austin to show why he too is very much a part of Red Bull’s future. Starting 20th after his accident in qualifying, the Spaniard finished sixth before a five-second penalty for speeding in the pit-lane kicked in, his move to pass McLaren’s Jenson Button with two laps remaining capping an afternoon of passing drivers he’d probably grown-up watching.

    With races like Sunday’s, the Verstappen v Sainz debate is already shaping up to be one of the most intriguing storylines of the 2016 season. It seems only a matter of time until one of these drivers find themselves graduating to the senior team (if it still exists, that is), and it’s a battle F1 fans should absolutely relish. As we see one of the sport’s former great young talents reach the apex of his career, the cycle looks set to begin again with these young drivers, and that can only bode well for F1’s future.

    Where do you rank Lewis Hamilton among the all-time greats? Are Renault and Red Bull still headed for divorce? Are you excited about the prospect of Verstappen/Sainz in a Red Bull? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.
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  2. Torcano


    Grumpy Nico is grumpy. :D

    • Haha Haha x 9
  3. it's all worth it seeing Nikki Lauda look as happy in life as he can be
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  4. overrated driver
    • Agree Agree x 3
  5. Rob

    XBO: OctoberDusk06 Premium

    Yes, Nico certainly is. :)
    • Agree Agree x 5
    • Haha Haha x 3
    • Like Like x 1
  6. Tim.E


    Wow Lewis, just wow. Congratulations mate, completely deserved world title. He had the edge over Nico for most of the season and thus is imo a worthy triple world champion!
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  7. Yes, he beat a pretty mediocre driver and had very little competition from other teams, truly a worthy champion!
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    • Beer Beer x 1
  8. For me, Verstappen is more interesting. He is not much faster than Sainz or some other good drivers, but i think he's harder in overtaking / fights. He is a good opponent to catch him. I wish him a good car to do this.

    Seb has a good chance, time will show.
    Last edited: Oct 27, 2015
  9. Here's what someone says who knows what they are talking about (Nigel Mansell): -
    Mansell added: "In the present day, no one can touch Lewis. He deserves every accolade. There will be jealousy that he is in the best team." http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/0/formula1/34638209
    Although, he has said it is not possible to compare him to greats from other eras of motorsport.

    Speculation you see a lot on lesser websites (tabloids), and, disappointingly here too where individuals should know better: -
    "LH would be beaten by any other driver in the same car!!1"
    FACT - LH has finished above every other team mate in the drivers championship, apart from 1 year (JB) out of his 9 seasons in f1.
    I'm not a LH fan in particular, but i have to acknowledge a great driver - which he certainly is.
    • Agree Agree x 1
  10. fortyfivekev


    Lewis is a great driver but to be seen next to Senna he needs a rival like Prost who is at his level to battle against which sadly Nico is not. Hopefully Ferrari/Vettel can match him next year although I am not holding my breath on that.
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  11. Nice drive by Hamilton, but then, the GP was also more action packed than we have seen for a long time.
    As for how good he is, I think there is only one driver who would beat him in the same car.......Vettel, without a doubt!
    All the others are almost as good, but Vettel is head and shoulders above the rest. Let's hope Ferrari are on it in 2016.
  12. fortyfivekev


    Agree it's been a very good year for Vettel. It's now obvious that he is a much better driver than many people (including me) thought when he was at RB but whether he is better than Lewis I am not so sure. They are both very quick drivers but I think Lewis is better wheel-to-wheel and also in the wet.

    It has been a bad year though for a bunch of the other experienced drivers like Bottas, Kimi, Nico, etc. that really should be doing better. Max has done very well for his first year, I hope he doesn't burn out though being such a young guy. Would be nice to see him in at Ferrari in 2017.
  13. Rob

    XBO: OctoberDusk06 Premium

    Fact is, the so-called "experts" (I know I have Mansell in my pic lol.) disagree as much as the fans. You can find all sorts of British drivers and fans who just love the guy. Not too hard to figure out why. However, Bernie E., a driver when real men raced and injured because of it, speculated that Lewis may not fare so well if the cars were even. That may be going a bit far, but so is any belief that Hamilton and Senna are even in the same class. When I heard Lewis said in effect "I'm going to carry the baton for Ayrton now...all other records mean nothing" I vomited a little in my mouth.

    But Lewis is, in many ways, his own enemy. I don't see throwing a hat at Nico as "mature" or something he would normally do, as he knew *exactly* why Nico was mad (and I'm not a Nico fan at all) and, I'd say, rightly so. That move in turn one was irresponsible, at best. And rubbing it in is not sportsmanlike...although it is smart, since he knew damn well how Nico would react on air after the on-track shunt. Going back a ways, Lewis deserves credit for choosing a good team, but beating the strictly average Rosberg and wining two in a car that Aussie Stig could win in is not exactly *proving* he is one of the best. If you want to see real maturity and talent, look to a guy who really took a risk on an Italian team, leaned to speak Italian, plucked three wins (so far) away when maybe two was a realistic goal, is currently second in the WDC when he has no business being there, gets along great with his teammate, and rose through the ranks much the same way Lewis did, except his teammates never even came close. Only two more to go Lewis....:laugh:
    • Winner Winner x 1
  14. Qazdar Karim

    Qazdar Karim

    There is one overrated driver right now and his name is Kimi Raiknonen!
    • Agree Agree x 2
  15. Rob

    XBO: OctoberDusk06 Premium

    No driver in F1 can lay claim to be the world's "greatest driver" unless he ventures outside of F1, since racing is much broader than the tiny little engineering-based world F1 lives in (I suppose you think Fernando is also "overrated" since Jenson is kicking his ass this year, even when Nando has the upgrade :roflmao: j/k). Kimi is one of the few who have proven he can at least compete with veterans elsewhere in a series other than F1. F1 is becoming more and more "designer" every day. And therefore, irrelevant, other than being a great tech show.
  16. Qazdar Karim

    Qazdar Karim

    No, Alonso is not overrated! he is probably the best on the grid right now skill wise, he has nothing to prove anymore, i have seen him doing well in all sorts of conditions ... my comment concerning Kimi was because he couldn't drive on wet (as simple as that), he was just complaining about drivers overtaking him! Actually, Kimi has shown that he can't drive these torquey cars since they ve been introduced! He has made too many mistakes these two last years ...
  17. Well I will be happy when there is a more even playing field in F1. Don't get me wrong I don't care as much for spec series as that kills the innovation part of the sport but to have a peak range to work from is good to tighten the competition a bit :thumbsup:
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  18. fortyfivekev


    Agree with you to some extent but sadly we are not living in the times of Jim Clark anymore where a driver can race F1 on one weekend and in a Cortina the next. :(

    I've always been a massive fan of Juan Montoya just because he's won in F1, at Indy and the Rolex 24 as well and at least had a good go at Nascar. Hoping he drives at Le Mans next year as well. Whenever they ask Lewis about racing elsewhere he doesn't seem interested which is a shame I think and makes him a bit less of a great driver to me.
    • Winner Winner x 1
  19. Rob

    XBO: OctoberDusk06 Premium

    Were we watching the same race? I'm not sure you can call a hurricane "slippery" but my God, I'm not sure what driver didn't do a Nancy Kerrigan impression last weekend. He was one of the first ones to go out on slicks, and he made a mistake, no question. We will have to agree to disagree about Kimi, but Ferrari isn't exactly naive. If they are stupid for signing Kimi to another year, then they are stupid for keeping Alonso in the first place. He chose to leave them, after all. I don't think he wanted to be the object of a Vettel smack-down. lol. Ferrari has been successful this year because Kimi can be brilliant and gets along fabulously with Vettel, who is IMO the best in F1 right now. But the driver, sadly, in F1 is about 20-30% of why a car performs the way it does.
  20. Qazdar Karim

    Qazdar Karim

    Let's get some facts right :D
    Vettel joined Ferrari because Alonso left, and surely he is in the top 5 best drivers on the current grid! but keep in mind that he was beaten by Ricciardo last year!

    Ricciardo has a great potential, actually he is an excellent driver, i can't wait to see him on a decent car.
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