COTA, home of the American Grand Prix since 2012. Hamilton has won here every year apart from 2013, when the race was won by title rival Sebastian Vettel.
Toro Rosso announced that Pierre Gasly, who replaced Kvyat, is unavailable for this race and he will be replaced by Brendon Hartley, with Danil Kvyat coming back to replace Carlos Sainz. There have been so many changes made to the Toro Rosso driver line up recently, they should rename the car the P45.
Hamilton could’ve won the title in Texas, all he had to do was score 16 more points than Vettel, and ensure Bottas didn’t win the race.
Taking pole position would surely help, which he does, from Vettel. There were three place grid penalties for Lance Stroll and Kevin Magnussen for impeding other drivers in qualifying. Verstappen got 15 places, Hulkenberg 20, 30 for Vandoorne and 25 for new boy Hartley, all for changing various engine parts.
It is ridiculous that you can block someone in qualifying, and ruin their chances of a decent grid slot and be penalised less than something completely beyond your control! So many penalties were imposed Stroll gained 2 spots on the grid!
Also ridiculous was the decision to delay qualifying by 2 hours for a Justin Timberlake concert!
Anyway onto Sunday, and the drivers all had to go round to the grid 15 minutes early so they can be introduced to the crowd like they’re at the Oscars…there was a red carpet and everything. Perez and Ocon walked the length of the carpet, and miraculously do not fall over each other! Hamilton comes out last as the championship leader, and was clearly loving the attention.
Finally, they were released back to the grid and could get on with the racing, which given all the other events this weekend appears to have been relegated to a side show.
Vettel took the lead from Hamilton, but it was obvious from the start, judging by the pace the Mercedes had throughout practice and qualifying that this lead would be short lived. Bottas got shoved wide by Ricky Rocket, sorry Daniel Ricciardo, but kept the place.
Then nothing happened for 3 laps, until Raikkonen passed Ocon and Hulkenberg and Wehrlein both pitted, with Hulkenberg forced to retire.
Hamilton got Vettel on lap 6 and and Wehrlein retired. Verstappen was already up to 8th place, and the stewards announced they were investigating an incident between Bottas and Ricky Rocket – probably because they were as bored as the rest of the viewers – where is a Justin Timberlake concert when you need one?
Lap 11 and Lance Stroll pitted, Bottas was starting to catch Vettel and the stewards announce no further action between Ricky Rocket and Bottas.
Ricky Rocket pitted, set a new fastest lap, then promptly retired with a broken engine, all in the space of 3 laps.
By lap 17 Hamilton was still leading, and had not once complained about his tyres going off. Is he feeling okay? Maybe his radio is broken! Vettel pitted.
Did you know that if Ocon finished the race he breaks Max Chilton’s record for number of consecutive finishes for a rookie starting his career? Chiltons streak ended, ironically, by crashing into his team mate Bianchi in Canada, something Ocon does on a regular basis!
Alonso asked his engineer what strategy they were on. This was news for me, I thought the McHonda team just sat in the garage and played “What lap will the car break down on!”
Hamilton pitted and kept the lead, but it was close going into turn one between himself and Vettel. Raikkonen and Verstappen were now first and second, as they have not pitted. Hamilton was furious with the team and demanded to know “Why did you let it get so close?!” Well you’re the one driving the car, maybe you could try driving it a little bit faster?
Lap 23 and Hamilton retook the lead from Verstappen who then pitted, coming back out in 5th place.
Lap 25 and ALONSO WAS SLOWING DOWN! Who had lap 25 in the McLaren sweepstake?
Lap 28, marked the half way stage of the race and Hamilton was winning, from Vettel, Bottas, Raikkonen, Verstappen, Massa (who still has not pitted), Ocon, Perez *gulp*, Sainz and Kvyat.
Perez demanded Ocon pick up the pace, only to be told that swapping places wouldn’t solve anything, and that Ocon was managing something and Perez needs to manage it too. Unsure if it is fuel or tyres though. Perez listened to the team – he is getting rather good at that, and backed off to give Ocon some breathing space, only to be caught and passed by Sainz a few laps later.
Vettel asked Ferrari to think about switching to plan B, which would mean stopping a second time. Verstappen pitted for a second time with Vettel following him in a lap later, and coming out just in front of him. They then worked on clawing back the gap to Bottas who was in 3rd, having just been passed by Raikkonen.
Just 12 laps left and everyone was struggling to stay awake, including the drivers! Vettel now thought pitting was not a good idea and wants to know why they did it – he seems to have conveniently forgotten it was him who suggested it!
Magnussen was hit by Ericsson while they were both trying to stay out of Vettel’s way while he was lapping them. It was clumsy, and the move got Ericsson a 5 second penalty for causing a collision.
Lap 50 and Vettel was in DRS range of Bottas. He passed him for third, which quickly became 2nd when Ferrari told Raikkonen that it was his team mate behind him.
Verstappen got Bottas for 4th and there was just enough time for him to get Raikkonen for 3rd, which he does, but he cut the inside of turn 17 and gains an advantage.
Hamilton won from Vettel, Verstappen (under investigation), Raikkonen, Bottas, Ocon, Sainz, Perez, Massa and Kvyat rounded out the top ten to take the final point.
Mercedes were announced as the constructors champion for the 4th year in a row, but the drivers championship will go on to Mexico!
5 SECOND PENALTY FOR MAX VERSTAPPEN! Demoting him to 4th, and off the podium, he was devastated as he was forced to leave the pre-podium room, when Raikkonen turns up for the free champagne and interview with Usain Bolt.
Drive of the Day fan vote: Max Verstappen
Drive of the Day Fiona’s vote: I am really torn on this one, is it Ocon for breaking Chiltons record? Is it Verstappen for his drive through the field, even though most of the places he gained were off the start line? Is it Usain Bolt for waving the flag at the beginning of the parade lap? Is It Justin Timberlake for that concert that delayed qualifying by 2 hours? After much deliberation I have decided to give this one to Danil Kvyat. He has had a terrible season and been replaced midway through. But he kept his head held high, and came back and scored a point, in a race that could not have been easy for him.
Conclusions from Texas:
- Verstappen losing the podium was cruel, funny but cruel!
- Congratulations Mercedes on securing the constructors title for the 4th season in a row
- If anyone else wants to play “What lap will Alonso break down on” let me know!
- Chilton can finally stop bragging now his record has gone.
Think that is everything, see you next week for Mexico (And I choose lap 44 for Alonso to retire on!)