From The Grid: Lewis Wins In The US, But Seb Keeps The Championship Alive
Graham Read, Formula 1 Correspondent
A fortnight after the Japanese Grand Prix the Formula 1 travelling circus reconvened last weekend at the highly impressive Circuit of the Americas, just outside Austin in Texas, for this year's United States Grand Prix.
With Ferrari dropping the ball in so many ways over the last few races, British three time champion and Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton arrived in the Lone Star State with a massive 59 point advantage over his main rival, Sebastian Vettel, the lead driver for the Italian team.
What an event it proved to be. After an entertaining and multi-faceted weekend, including world class racing and two pop concerts by A list stars, Hamilton added another victory to his lengthy CV but Vettel made sure the fight for the Drivers' title will continue until at least the next Grand Prix in Mexico.
I have been fortunate to have visited many motor racing tracks around the world over the last 25 years and have to say that the 3.4 mile Circuit of the Americas is one of the best and in so many ways. Perhaps suitably summed up as a great challenge for the drivers, with superb facilities for all and lovely welcoming locals. The sprint from the grid uphill to the wide lefthander at Turn 1 is particularly memorable.
2}American company Liberty Media agreed late last year to purchase the Formula One Group for a staggering US$4.4 billion and became the new owners of F1. They have sought to be innovative as they succeeded the Bernie Ecclestone led era, aiming to bring top level sport and entertainment together, and this year's United States Grand Prix was in effect their first "home" race.
In addition to all the ontrack action, every ticketholder last weekend was allowed free access to end of day concerts by multiple Grammy Award winner Justin Timberlake on Saturday and then the iconic Stevie Wonder after Sunday's Grand Prix. An amazing combination.
Back to the racing. Hamilton went into the free practice sessions before qualifying and then the Grand Prix itself knowing that if he won again and Vettel finished sixth or lower he would be flying out of Texas with this year's Drivers' title already wrapped up with three races still remaining. However, whilst still in with a mathematical chance of clawing back lost ground Vettel was in no mood to just roll over and hand the title to the 32 year old Brit.
Elsewhere on the grid, never say never in the world of F1. Likeable New Zealander Brendon Hartley made a surprise debut for the Toro Rosso team, seven seasons after being dropped from the Red Bull junior driver programme and heading to a successful sportscar career with Porsche in world endurance racing..
A sort of needs must for Toro Rosso as their newly established regular driver Pierre Gasly had been despatched to Suzuka in Japan in an attempt to win the Formula Nippon championship for Honda, only to find the racing there was cancelled due to the threat of a typhoon.
Another innovative and very worthwhile feature of the weekend was the appearance of the colour pink in so many places, including on the normally purple striped ultra soft tyres, as F1 did its bit to help increase breast cancer research awareness.
Hamilton, looking relaxed and driving better than ever, led the way in all three practice sessions before claiming a 72nd pole position. Meanwhile, Vettel put in a stellar lap of his own in the final part of the qualifying process to put him on the front row of the grid for the following day's race and crucially just ahead of Mercedes driver Valtteri Bottas and Red Bull's Daniel Ricciardo.
The latter's team-mate, 20 year old racing hot property Max Verstappen, was buoyed by the announcement of an extension to his current Red Bull contract and qualified sixth, just behind Ferrari's Kimi Räikkönen, but penalties for power unit component changes dropped him to 16th on the grid with much to do come race time.
Charlie Whiting, the Formula 1 Race Director, has long been the official starter of all Grand Prix, but in Texas he was ably assisted by recently retired eight-time Olympic champion Usain Bolt, who also conducted the post race podium interviews. Again, all part of the show, as were the pre-Grand Prix showbiz style driver introductions.
Hamilton made a worse start than Vettel and tried to close him down into the first corner, but the German held him off and established an early lead. It was not to last though as Lewis edged past Seb on lap six, whilst Max was charging through the field and up to sixth by the tenth tour.
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As the race progressed and some drivers made further pit stops Kimi got the better of Valtteri for second place and then Seb passed the Finn too for third with a brave manoeuvre at Turn 1. Ferrari then moved Vettel past Räikkönen for second as their drivers were on different strategies and in any case needed to maximise the points haul for Seb.
Max was still on a charge though and after passing Valtteri for fourth he then swept past Kimi towards the end of the last lap to claim the final podium position. However, there was post race drama as Verstappen was adjudged to have illegally had all four wheels off the circuit in making the manoeuvre and the young Dutchman received a five second penalty from the stewards, which dropped him back to fourth behind Kimi. Bottas and star of the future Esteban Ocon, driving for Force India, completed the top six finishers, as Carlos Sainz claimed a highly impressive seventh place on his debut for Renault.
So, Lewis extended his championship lead over Seb to 66 points with just 75 on the table for winning the three remaining races and Mercedes again sealed the Constructors Championship title.
The action will continue in Mexico in just one week's time when Hamilton has another chance to claim this year's Drivers' Championship title and I hope you will join me there.
2017 Formula 1 United States Grand Prix Results
1 Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) 1hr33m50.993s
2 Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari) +10.143s
3 Kimi Räikkönen (Ferrari) +15.779s
4 Max Verstappen (Red Bull) +16.768s
5 Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes) +34.967s
6 Esteban Ocon (Force India) +1m30.980s
7 Carlos Sainz (Renault) +1m32.944s
8 Sergio Perez (Force India) Lapped
9 Felipe Massa (Williams) Lapped
10 Daniil Kvyat (Toro Rosso) Lapped
11 Lance Stroll (Williams) Lapped
12 Stoffel Vandoorne (McLaren) Lapped
13 Brendon Hartley (Toro Rosso) Lapped
14 Romain Grosjean (Haas) Lapped
15 Marcus Ericsson (Sauber) Lapped
16 Kevin Magnussen (Haas) Lapped
17 Fernando Alonso (McLaren) Retired
18 Daniel Ricciardo (Red Bull) Retired
19 Pascal Wehrlein (Sauber) Retired
20 Nico Hülkenberg (Renault) Retired
2017 Formula 1 Drivers' Championship (after 17 rounds of 20)
1 Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) 331
2 Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari) 265
3 Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes) 244
2017 Formula 1 Constructors' Championship (after 17 rounds of 20)
1 Mercedes 575
2 Ferrari 428
3 Red Bull 315
From The Grid: Lewis Wins In The US, But Seb Keeps The Championship Alive, 23rd October 2017, 8:55 AM