F1 – United States GP – Race
Hello MiniFans! Austin hosts the 19th round of the 2019 FIA Formula One World Championship, the race in which Lewis Hamilton was destined to win his sixth world title. Only one rival was still in the run, his own teammate Valtteri Bottas, but the odds were in the British driver’s favour, even despite not having scored a great starting position.
Last year’s race saw Kimi Raikkonen as a winner and it was very clear that the Circuit of the Americas would not see a repeat of this feat. The tale of previous years showed that Bottas’ pole position was in danger, but the Mercedes driver managed to keep his cool and performed a great start, unlike Sebastian Vettel, who dropped from second to seventh in the span of just one lap. In the battle between the worst top car and the best midfielder, Albon and Sainz touched right after the first corner, an occurrence that was deemed a race incident and required no further action, but that made the Red Bull pit for mediums.
Aside from Bottas keeping the top spot, the start and first couple laps in the race had a few more tricks up their sleeve. Hamilton was fiercer than anyone expected, earning his spot over Leclerc in a manoeuvre worthy of a five-time world champion, very soon followed by one of Ricciardo’s divebombs into Vettel in turn 1. As the race settled, Vettel did as well in his seventh position, until his rear suspension failed over the new persuasive banana on the outside of turn 8 in lap 8. The midfield was up into 5th, as Ricciardo braked later than Norris and managed to overtake him just as if he still had a superior car. Meanwhile, Raikkonen kept proving that he still has it, having jumped from his starting place of 17th on the grid up to 9th.
The strategy battle started with Verstappen, who pitted for hards in lap 13, both trying to get the upper hand on Bottas and defending from a possible undercut from Hamilton. Bottas stopped just a lap after that, giving the hard tyres a try as well on a track that favours them, due to its high grip but also very abrasive surface. Both cars were seemingly following a two-stop strategy, Verstappen of his own volition and Bottas grudgingly, having been pulled in by Red Bull’s choice. At this same time, Ferrari was being put to shame by Ricciardo, who kept pulling faster lap times than Leclerc on soft tyres that were 17 laps old. The extremely slow stop that the crew performed for Leclerc didn’t help his chances in the race. During all this, Hamilton was cruising along in first place, waiting to be called into boxes for his one-stop strategy in lap 25, but not before refusing the first call, knowing his teammate, on a two-stopper, was about to overtake him.
The most movement was once again seen in the midfield battles, with Albon crawling back up the ladder of slower and an open spot for 5th until the Red Bull driver made it back to it, in which Ricciardo settled but not comfortably, as Norris was a constant presence in his rear-view mirrors, and regained after Albon’s eventual stop for softs. The second wave of stops started on lap 35 with Verstappen, who was soon followed by Bottas, leaving both of them to rely on tyre degradation and their own faster pace with mediums in order to get to Hamilton, who, as usual, kept complaining about not having any tyres left. Leclerc, in no man’s land, opted for softs to at least give the fastest lap a go.
The last laps saw a Mercedes battle that made Bottas come out on top thanks to his fresher tyres, which was a mere warm up to the arrival of Verstappen to the rear end of Hamilton’s car, but a yellow flag caused by Magnussen prevented him from using the best overtaking spot on the circuit in the last handful of laps.
Austin was the witness of Lewis Hamilton’s sixth world title, which places him just shy of one to equal Michael Schumacher’s record of seven. Mercedes saw both of their drivers standing on the top steps of the podium and Verstappen completed a picture devoid of any red, due to Ferrari’s lack of pace with Leclerc and Vettel’s retirement. The two last races of 2019 are to follow the tradition of the last couple of years, having become a simple procedure for teams to go through.