F1 – US GP – Race
Hello, MiniFans! We’re racing in Austin, Texas, and the American way of doing things is back in a paddock that’s been swallowed by celebrities. Focusing on what interests us, though, the front row of the grid is locked out by the championship contenders, who haven’t seen themselves so close to each other since Italy, which ended in a DNF for both of them. Will that be the outcome this time or will we be witnesses to a different one? Let’s find out.
The start was extremely clean. What was predicted as a messy first corner ended up as Hamilton taking the inside and Verstappen being slightly pushed to the outside, but overall, no contact. The yellow banana-style kerbs had been removed from the outside of turn one, helping drivers if they needed to leave the track in order to avoid a collision. Behind them, however, it got a bit wilder. Battles were spread out, the main one being between McLaren and Ferrari, and a few collisions came to be at the back, granting a couple stops for new front wings and hard tyres in an attempt to make it to the end of the race.
Verstappen, managing to keep up with Hamilton, soon decided that he wanted to try for an undercut as he was seeing Hamilton having a bit of a hard time. It worked wonderfully for him, as Mercedes needed a few laps to call their driver in, conceding around seven seconds to the Red Bull. Other cars also stopped for hards, while Verstappen discussed team strategy over radio and got his team to pit Pérez for mediums, insisting on the pressure that could be put on Hamilton.
The first properly investigated incident came from Alonso and Raikkonen, which ended up in no further action and a very angry Spaniard. He would go on to fight Giovinazzi and overtake him on the outside of the track, which would prompt a fight between Alpine and the FIA that ended in him needing to give back the position or risking receiving a five second penalty. He obeyed, needing to drop a bit in order to make it happen and went back to fighting right after letting Giovinazzi pass. It wouldn’t end there, though, as Giovinazzi would also use the exterior of the track to pull and overtake Alonso, getting the same treatment as the Spanish driver and their positions eventually settling.
A brief virtual safety car came out for a marshal to be able to remove a piece of debris from the track and it was soon over. Halfway through the race, Verstappen was leading from Hamilton, three seconds separating them, and Pérez was in third, but far away from Hamilton. With twenty-six laps to go, Verstappen did what seemed to be his final stop for a brand new set of hard tyres, while Hamilton’s target lap for his second stop was pushed back by six, which predicted a very exciting end of the race. In order to keep up with tradition, Ferrari gave Sainz a slow stop, messing up any chance at an undercut to Ricciardo. Still taking care of his tyres so that they would last to the end of the race, Verstappen started slowly chipping away at the gap to Hamilton, who still hadn’t pitted, aided slightly by the presence of lapped drivers.
The three last laps were key to the fight and so it was relayed on radio to Hamilton, who, after making sure he had gotten the tyres to temperature without risking overheating by taking his time to do so, started docking seconds in the gap to Verstappen. With ten laps to go, it had gone down to three seconds, making Verstappen nervous, as Hamilton was still pulling out laps half a second faster than he was. With five and barely a bit over a second and a half gap, the fight got very interesting, as Hamilton’s sudden loss of pace could be attributed to many things. Two laps later, the Brit regained his speed and got within DRS range in the last lap. However, it was not enough to overtake Verstappen, who took the win in American soil in front of his main rival, cementing his lead of the championship.
Racing in the US is always different for a sport so used to doing things in a more European way. The weekend becomes not only a race, but a whole event supported by every kind of person imaginable, from cheerleaders to Ricciardo blending himself in with the crowd, Texan accent included in the costume. We were warned of a possible tight fight in the first corner, but both title contenders behaved themselves and it only resulted in an overtake that would be reversed with an undercut a handful of laps later. What we were not expecting was the fight for the win to come down to the last few laps, when the two finally came within one second. The Red Bull driver came on top, fighting tooth and nail to keep enough rubber on his tyres to get to the end and still be able to push harder in the laps he had been told would be key in his pursuit of the win.