You could argue that Nico Rosberg has decidedly won the 2016 Formula 1 World Championship after Japan, when Lewis Hamilton failed to make it past Max Verstappen for 18 points. It all hinged on the start, another trend that seems to be taking over all the weekend talk along with tyres.
This weekend in Austin it was very much same as it ever was. Having done their simulations on Friday, teams like Red Bull and Ferrari knew where their strengths were and how to pressure Mercedes in order to challenge for the podium spots.
Daniel Ricciardo capitalised on Rosberg’s pretty shocking start (in which he made the same mistake as he did during qualifying coming out of Turn 1) and maintained a healthy gap to Hamilton in the opening stint. It appears traffic and just a savvy pit crew on the Mercedes end allowed Hamilton to emerge ahead in the second stint, with Red Bull perhaps missing a trick by not fitting him to the Medium tyre which we later found out was matching the Soft tyre lap times up front.
If Red Bull had fitted Ricciardo with the Medium tyre he could’ve maintained second, when the Virtual Safety Car eventually came out for team mate Max Verstappen.
It was an odd retirement for the Dutchman. After pushing his tyres perhaps a bit too much in the latter stages of the first stint and coming into the pits at the wrong time, the gearbox problem perhaps masks what would’ve been a dreadful race for Verstappen who seemingly decided to take matters into his own hands.
How he won driver of the day I’ll never know, perhaps there are more Dutch fans watching Formula 1 than we think!
For me there was only one man that award could go to and that’s Carlos Sainz. We’ve known he’s always looked up to Fernando Alonso, so to see him race against the maestro in the closing stages was for me one of the best moments of the race. What Sainz has done in that car (which is clearly inferior to everyone else’s) this year is pretty impressive. Reminds me a bit of how Alonso used to get the Minardi up in the midfield and on the edge of points.
It was therefore no surprise to see Toro Rosso retain him for next year along with Daniil Kvyat. Part of me was expecting to see Sainz paired with Pierre Gasly, who has put together a solid campaign in GP2 this year. But when you consider Kvyat is just 22 years old, the bloke still has potential when you look at how he came into F1 in a relatively short space of time.
Red Bull still believe there is a future for him in Formula 1 too, although when quizzed on the possibility of a return to the senior team they didn’t seem too keen on the idea for the foreseeable future. I suppose that ship has sailed, unless another top team buys out Daniel Ricciardo, but then what about young Sainz? It’s a good position to be in, but equally annoying as McLaren found out with Kevin Magnussen and Stoffel Vandoorne.
If Manor take a punt at Jordan King, who impressed on Friday during his Practice run, it looks like we may only see one driver reach F1 from GP2 next year – which is pretty amazing when you consider that at least a quarter of this years grid should be in F1. But as ever there is always not enough space at the top.
Am I the only one who thinks these new rules stopping drivers from moving under braking zones breaks the fourth wall?
For me the FIA have gone too far with this, to the point where we will end up having set rules for how to overtake a car, which is pretty absurd when you consider these are supposed to be the best drivers in the world.
How does this look from the outside? I already have trouble explaining how you need to be incredibly fit to drive one of these cars to my Uni roommates, imagine what it will be like when they hear there has to be a certain way to overtake someone otherwise you get a penalty.
Let them get on with it. If there is a crash then the drivers will learn from it. Taking the element of risk out of the sport only makes it look *easier* to those who don’t give up all their Sunday’s to watch 22 lucky men drive the fastest race cars in the world.
Final thoughts of the weekend go out to Martin Brundle. I’m one of his biggest supporters, so to see him snubbed by Venus Williams on the grid before the race was not on for me. I get that some celebrities don’t like talking to the TV – which is fine – but when you outright make someone feel invisible thats just extremely bad manners.
A quick look at her Twitter feed and I’m seeing virtually no documentation of the weekend whatsoever. A look at Gerard Butler, Lindsey Vonn, and Gordon Ramsay’s however, and I’m seeing lots of activity, support, and just general photo’s of them having a good time.
There are people who would give an arm for a paddock pass. I get that she was a guest of Lewis’ but some appreciation for the experience would’ve been nice to see, if not a few words to one of the sports best broadcasters amongst the pre-race madness. I’m a fan of both her and Serena, so as you can imagine I was a bit miffed to see her exercise such demeanour.
Then again I’ve been snubbed by people who I’m a fan of, that I’ve never met before. I guess that’s the price of fame sometimes, it goes to your head and you lose grasp of the people who look to you for inspiration. I only hope Lewis doesn’t end up the same, although having witnessed his fan engagement first hand on a number occasions, I think he’ll always appreciate the support he gets.
Photo Credit: XPB Images