Practice Session, FP1/FP2/FP3:
It was the first time in a long time that the F1 grid had only 18 cars running in a particular Grand Prix. It was disappointing to see only 18 cars racing, but as the saying goes, “the show must go on.” Mercedes once again led the way in the practice session and in particular Hamilton was unbeatable. Rosberg got closest to him while the other teams as usual played the chasing game. McLaren looked good in FP1 while Ferrari and Red Bull were good in FP2 and finally it was Williams behind Mercedes in FP3. It has become a norm for different teams to line-up behind Mercedes by and by.
After losing the P5 position to McLaren, the aim for Sahara Force India was to score strong points and out-score the McLaren duo. The double point scenario opens up the fight. The advantage SFI have is that, they are unlikely to get any grid penalties for using a sixth component on their car. It was a usual run for both the drivers as Hulkenberg managed to finish in the top 10 in every single session; his pace on the long run looked good. While, Perez didn’t manage to get into the top 10, but his pace was on par with his team-mate on the longer runs. Once again both the drivers had a trouble free run in the practice sessions.
There was a change in the qualifying format for the Grand Prix to accommodate the loss of Caterham and Marussia. It was announced that in Q1, four cars will be eliminated and further four cars will be eliminated in Q2. Hamilton was on course for a clean sweep, but Rosberg stopped his run managing to find few tenths to take the pole position. Bottas lined up third ahead of his team-mate Massa. The best performance, however, was that of Sutil, who for the time this season made it to Q3 to start P9 (after Button’s penalty) and behind him Maldonado had a strong outing too. Vettel only did one lap to qualify under the 107% rule; he was due to start from the pit-lane after taking sixth component this season.
It was a bit of a scare for Perez in Q1; he just managed to stay alive for Q2 but in doing so he used up two sets of soft tyres. Hulkenberg made it through to Q2 without any issues; he encountered a strange problem in Q2 which stopped his progress into Q3. On his fast lap, a visor got stuck on his tyre which costed him few tenths and ultimately a place in Q3. Perez having got only one set of tyre couldn’t put in a fast lap and only managed P12 (to start P11) but he was ahead of Hulkenberg who started P13.
As for everyone, it wasn’t great to see only 18 cars lining at the start of the grid (one in the pit-lane). More so, the boycott threats before the race were not that good to read. Nobody wants to see only 12 cars racing against each other; hopefully the heads come to a solution which is accepted by all. Moving on to the race, Rosberg started off on a good note, keeping Hamilton at bay. Behind them, Massa moved ahead of Bottas while Ricciardo and Alonso were in a tussle for grid positions. Hulkenberg made it to the top 10 while Perez was at P12. But not for long, while trying to move ahead of Sutil, Perez hit the back of Raikkonen and in turn, he hit Sutil, which ended both their races. The safety car was out to clear the debris.
Rosberg led the first stint, creating a good enough gap over Hamilton but in the second stint, Hamilton started to catch up on Rosberg and eventually took the lead after a fine overtaking move. A slow pit stop from Williams for Massa, allowed Ricciardo to jump to P3, who had earlier in the race under-cut Bottas. Although there was a real fight for grid positions in the lower half of the top 10. It was a big fight with as many as seven drivers eyeing for five places in the top 10. Alonso led the pack fighting with Vettel, Magnussen, Vergne, Maldonado, Grosjean and Button.
It was a bad start for SFI as Perez was out early, ending his run of five-point finishes. It was his fault for which he received a penalty post-race for Brazil. Things were not looking great for Hulkenberg from then on in the race; he pitted under the safety car and went to the back of the grid ahead of Vettel. He was running ahead of Vettel at ease, but suddenly stopped at the side of the track. It was later confirmed by Ted on Sky Sports that he had a mechanical failure and thus he was advised to switch off the car and retire.
Hamilton stretched his championship lead after winning the US GP; his fifth win a row equaling Alonso’s thirty-two wins overall. Ricciardo finished third and is now out of contention for the championship. The last few laps gave a delight to the fans, as the fight in the lower half of the grid was changing every moment. Alonso finished P6 being closely chased by Vettel at P7, who struggled in his first stint but came back strongly in his second stint. The fight between Vergne, Maldonado, Grosjean and Button went on till the last lap; ultimately Maldonado finished ahead of Vergne (both had penalties to their name post-race). This was Maldonado’s first-point finish of the season.
The battle for the world title heats up even more, Hamilton now has a firm hand on the title after notching up his tenth win of the season. Rosberg has a tough battle ahead even though there is the double point advantage in Abu Dhabi. The driver championship has another battle going between Bottas, Alonso and Vettel for P4; it is a close fight between them. As for the constructor’s championship, everything is settled at the front but the fight for P5 is still on between McLaren and Sahara Force India. A double DNF makes it tough for the Silverstone based team, but there is every possibility of outscoring McLaren considering that they only managed four points in Austin.
It’s a double header as the F1 circus moves to Brazil for the penultimate race of the season. Brazil is always an unpredictable circuit, any result is possible. There is always the threat of rain as well. See you after Brazil
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