Detailed review here below:
Practice Sessions, FP1:
It wasn’t the ideal start to the weekend, first the cold weather & severe fog delayed the start of the session by 30mins and then there was further delay of 20mins as the session was red flagged as the medical helicopter wasn’t present at the track. With all the stoppages, teams 7 drivers surely had to change their plans though still manage to run fair amount of laps for the first session. Alonso topped the session, a long while since he last topped a session. Following him were Button & Bottas at P2 & P3, not a familiar scene at top for a change. SFI got a decent start to their weekend as Sutil ended P14 and closely following him at P15 was di Resta. More work was expected in FP2 session after some loss of time in the first session.
The second session started on time with everything in place, it was quite bright & sunny but the conditions was cool still. We were back to being normal as Vettel took the lead of the whole pack and Webber following him behind with Rosberg ending P3. Sutil came to his terms as he ended at P11 with a good amount of running behind, di Resta ended P15 having had a decent run himself though the one lap pace was the thing to be looked into. It was good to see both SFI cars coming good in the speed traps.
We didn’t have any issues with fog on Saturday morning as the session started well on time. And no surprises who ended at the top, lead by the well known duo of Vettel & Webber at the top. Hamilton closed the gap between the RBR & himself pretty well but still wasn’t enough to push them down. Sutil was riding well again, his first time on the track as he ended a good P10. Meanwhile di Resta was having some troubles as he finished P16, bit below then where he would have wanted to finish.
Nothing new coming out from the practice sessions there, the usual RBR 1-2, this time only in FP2 & FP3 but it was good enough to predict a RBR pole again. Mercedes, Lotus & Ferrari followed in that order with Sauber the surprise package. As for SFI, it looked good with Sutil and he was the genuine contender for a Q3 place, di Resta was troubling a bit there as he couldn’t clock a good time over the one lap time, top 10 for him was looking a bit distant after the practice sessions.
It seemed like a repeat of FP1 in Q1 which saw all different drivers topping the session. Yeah, it was Bottas leading the pack who had looked good all weekend with Hamilton at P2 & Esteban at P3. The main reason for the juggle was drivers using the medium tyres as RBR opted not to use it again in the first part. With the two Marussia’s & Caterham’s, it was our man Sutil & Maldonado to bow out in Q1. It was bitter qualifying for Sutil who was looking rather good in the practice session, it was a disappointment there. But the other SFI of di Resta made it well for Q2 as he clocked some good times in the session.
The second session set things up nicely as Vettel took P1 with Webber behind and Alonso at P3. The major loss in the session was that of Rosberg who only managed P14. Along with him Button & Massa too were out. Our man, di Resta clocked a good time at the start but couldn’t better it on his second run as he had traffic and he came back to the pits. He still finished a good P12, running well in top 10 for a long period of time.
The result was pretty much known to most of us, it was going to be a RBR on pole unless something dramatic happen which didn’t by the way. Webber was all set to start from P1 again but Vettel from out of nowhere pulled off a spectacular third sector to snatch pole from his teammate. Grosjean got upto speed and took P3 in the end. Hulkenberg was another star to end at P4 while the returning man Heikki managed a good P8.
Expected qualifying for most of us there, for the race it is only one man to beat that is Vettel of course. Webber again was the only one who could do but lot of people had their money on Grosjean who has looked rather good off late. Alonso & Hamilton were fighting for Ferrari & Mercedes CC positions. It was a surprise for Sutil to bow out in Q1 only while di Resta did well and could have entered the top 10 too. With penalties, both moved up as di Resta got to P11 & Sutil to P16. One stopper was on cards and points for both cars, after India & Abu Dhabi, it was possible for the team.
There was a bit of talk about raining during the race and we did get some news about it being a cloudy day in Austin before the race. But in the end it was only clouds and nothing else as it pretty much cleared away before the start. Any ways, the weather was hardly a distraction for drivers and teams as they got their eyes on racing. What was to be seen, who would finish at P2 to P10 and score the valuable championship points for themselves and their teams. Yes, I have counted out P1 because we already know it, I think.
Moving on to the race, Vettel got a clean start as Webber lost the battle with both Grosjean & Hamilton going into T1. Behind the pack, it was a juggle between Hulkenberg, Alonso & Perez while Bottas held on to his points run. For SFI it was a mix start to the race, di Resta made two places to be P9 in the opening lap and at the back Sutil suffered a DNF as he collided with Maldonado and lost control to hit the barriers. That was the sad end to Sutil’s race, a racing incident really. At the back, Bianchi took control of the new teams battle.
Vettel took a comfortable lead up ahead as the focus shifted to the drivers behind him. Grosjean was driving with ease for most part at P2 but Webber always looked to get him anytime after he got Hamilton mid race to be at P3. Alonso was on a good charge behind the top battle as he overtook both Perez & Hulkenberg to move to P5. Bottas ran at P8 for most of the race and he looked pretty comfortable to score his first points. The main fight was on for the last spot and that one point as di Resta, Ricciardo & Button all looked to get that last point for most part of the race.
After Sutil’s retirement at the start of the race, everything to do was left on the shoulders on di Resta. Certainly they were going for the one stop race as they carried it well in India & Abu Dhabi. And di Resta was doing good for most part of the race as he was running in points even though it was P10. He was in fight with the likes of Rosberg, Button, Ricciardo for P9-P10. Looking at his lap timings, he wasn’t lapping bad with those around him but it was dropping a bit towards the end.
A record breaking win for Vettel in the end with 8 race win a row. Grosjean & Webber had a superb battle but the Frenchmen held on his nerves to take P2 from Webber. It was a gritty fight from the Lotus driver who has improved quite a lot since 2012. Alonso meanwhile was having good little scrap with Hulkenberg as they went on to finish P5 & P6. Bottas scored his first ever championship points as Button rounded off the top 10. For SFI, a change in strategy for di Resta meant he was pushed down the list to P16. His tyres were in a bad shape to fight if he had stayed out. With Vergne’s penalty, he was moved to P15 in the final standings.
With both DC & CC decided, the main focus was on the P2 battle in both the championship. Alonso secured his P2 in the DC. As for the CC battle, Mercedes took a fresh lead from Ferrari going into the final round. SFI held on to their P6 position, 25 points below McLaren & 24 points ahead of Sauber. A good set of permutations & combinations to find out how can teams can beat each other. Any ways, it has come down to the last race of the season in Brazil. Another fantastic season coming to an end, it is the last race for the V8 engine as well. See you all post Brazil, enjoy as much as you can.