The Circuit of the Americas tends to deliver some exciting races and has been a particularly strong track for Lewis Hamilton. It makes it an ideal location for the Mercedes driver to claim his 6th driver’s world championship title but that doesn’t mean he won’t have to fight for it.
It was a bumpy start to the weekend at Austin as the Circuit of the Americas was in dire need of resurfacing. Even from the tele, it was clear to see just how much the cars were shaking and bouncing around, especially through the corners with changes in elevation. Ferrari seemed to lack pace as compared to their qualifying in Mexico.
Valtteri Bottas claimed pole in the US GP with Sebastian Vettel just over a hundredth of a second slower to start alongside on the front row. Max Verstappen managed to qualify third fastest ahead of Charles Leclerc while Lewis’ best time placed him fifth on the starting grid alongside rookie Alex Albon.
Another strong qualifying for McLaren as Carlos Sainz and Lando Norris qualified 7th and 8th fastest respectively. Renault’s Daniel Ricciardo set the 9th fastest time and Pierre Gasly lined up 10th on the starting grid.
It was an action-packed start with both Ferrari drivers struggling to get off the line while Bottas and Verstappen get off the line quite well. Max goes around the outside of Seb into Turn 1 while Lewis gets around Charles who goes in deep down the inside. At the same time, Carlos is trying to go around Alex, but both make contact and are off the track, losing a couple of places as they head down into the second corner. Vettel really struggles with getting some grip out of his medium compound tyres but gets passed by Hamilton out of Turn 9 and then by Leclerc into Turn 11. Norris and Ricciardo have also caught up to the German driver after Turn 12. Going into the next series of corners, Seb locks up his front left which allows Lando to pass him down the inside. Daniel would have passed Vettel at Turn15 too but he too made a slight error and had to get past at a later stage. By the end of the first lap, Bottas was leading the race, chased by Verstappen who was a bit ahead of Hamilton. Meanwhile, Leclerc was in P4 followed by Norris and Ricciardo who were ahead of Vettel in P7.
It was looking bleak for Ferrari while a Mercedes was powering away in the lead when things got even worse. On Lap 8, Vettel went a bit wide out of Turn 9 and onto one of the bumpiest sections on the track and snapped his suspension. It looked like something out fo Pixar’s movie “Cars” and since the SF90 is red, it was like Lightning McQueen doing the Kachow move. Meanwhile, Charles was still struggling to keep up with the front runners.
Max was the first to pit, changing to the hard tyre after 13 laps and Mercedes responded by pitting Valtteri the next lap. This kept Bottas ahead of the Red Bull and both drivers were clearly on a two-stop strategy. The team decided to put Lewis on a single stop strategy and left him out on the same medium tyres for another 10 laps. Halfway through the race, Leclerc was no longer within reach of a podium finish even though he was on a similar two-stop strategy.
Red Bull triggered the second stop by pitting Verstappen at the start of Lap 35 for the medium tyres and Mercedes responded by doing the same for Bottas the very next lap. This brought Lewis into the lead again and Valtteri stayed ahead of Max. Ferrari pitted Charles after 42 laps for a set of soft tyres to help him claim the extra point for the fastest lap.
With 5 laps to go, Bottas caught up to Hamilton and was within DRS range. The Finn tried to pass him on his fresher tyres by going around the outside of Turn 12 but the Brit shut the door on him. Lewis was definitely struggling to make his tyres last till the end which allowed Valtteri to keep up with ease. On the next lap, down the main straight after Turn 11, Bottas was closer with DRS and even into the dusty and bumpy line to get past Hamilton and retake the lead. Max was also catching up to Lewis but there just weren’t enough laps left.
Bottas took the chequered flag to claim his first US GP victory while Hamilton finished second. Less than a second behind, Verstappen crossed the finish line in third to claim his seventh podium of 2019. This was Valtteri’s fourth win of the season.
Leclerc finished P4 with the fastest lap while Albon recovered to finish P5. The Red Bull rookie had to pit after the first corner clash with Sainz, did two 20 lap stints on the medium compound and a final stint on the soft tyres.
Daniel Ricciardo got Renault a best of the rest result by finishing P6. The Aussie driver did a stupidly long stint on his hard tyres of 35 laps and just about managed to hold off Lando Norris to the finish line. The McLaren rookie was less than half-a-second behind the Renault towards the end. Norris was pitted a second time at the start of Lap 43 and he had to pass his teammate Sainz who was on a single-stop strategy. Carlos finished P8 after pulling off a 37 lap stint on the hard compound tyre and managed to hold off the other Renault. Nico Hulkenberg’s switch to a two-stop strategy to change from his fresh medium tyres to the soft tyres with 16 laps to go is probably what triggered Norris’ second stop. However, the German got held up and finished P9.
The final point scoring position went to Sergio Perez who put in an incredible performance after having to start from the pit lane exit. The Mexican racer was on a single-stop strategy. He didn’t cross the line in 10th though as Daniil Kvyat torpedoed into him at Turn 15 on the final lap. The Racing Point car took damage to the front wing but made it to the chequered flag and the Russian Toro Rosso driver was handed a five-second time penalty for his antics. Kvyat classified P12 while Perez’s teammate Lance Stroll finished P13 and Pierre Gasly who was in P8 actually retired in the closing laps.
Last year’s race winner, Kimi Raikkonen, couldn’t do better than a P11 finish in the Alfa Romeo Sauber. The team still struggling to get the car right in the second half of the season and Antonio Giovinazzi finished P14. It was another rough race weekend for home team Haas as Romain Grosjean finished P15 and Kevin Magnussen DNFed on Lap 53. Grosjean did have a good opening lap and made up a few spots but dropped off again. George Russell finished last in P17 while his teammate Robert Kubica retired after 31 laps.
Lewis wrapped up the 2019 Driver’s World Championship at the US GP in Austin, his third-in-a-row and sixth in total. He is just one away from equalling Michael Schumacher’s record of 7 world titles and is undeniably one of the best F1 drivers of all time. Sure, he had the advantage of being at the helm of the superior car, the Mercedes Silver Arrow, but he was game for a close battle with either Ferrari or Red Bull. He may not be to everyone’s taste as a person, but his skill behind the wheel is irrefutable.
There are still two more races to go in the season and the next one is probably one of the most exciting on the F1 calendar – the Brazilian GP in Sao Paulo. I’m looking forward to another masterclass from Verstappen and maybe a proper challenge from the Reds. Stay tuned for more updates and don’t forget to subscribe to The Auto Loons blog and follow us on Twitter too (@autoloons).
Final race standings
- V. Bottas Mercedes — 1:33:55.653
- L. Hamilton Mercedes +4.148
- M. Verstappen Aston Martin Red Bull Racing Honda +5.002
- C. Leclerc Ferrari +52.239
- A. Albon Aston Martin Red Bull Racing Honda +78.038
- D. Ricciardo Renault +90.366
- L. Norris McLaren Renault +90.764
- C. Sainz McLaren Renault +1 Lap
- N. Hulkenberg Renault +1 Lap
- S. Perez Racing Point BWT Mercedes +73.819
- K. Raikkonen Alfa Romeo Racing Ferrari +1 Lap
- D. Kvyat Scuderia Toro Rosso Honda +1 Lap
- L. Stroll Racing Point BWT Mercedes +1 Lap
- A. Giovinazzi Alfa Romeo Sauber Ferrari +1 Lap
- R. Grosjean Haas Ferrari +1 Lap
- P. Gasly Scuderia Toro Rosso Honda DNF
- G. Russell Williams Racing Mercedes +2 Laps
- K. Magnussen Haas Ferrari DNF
- R. Kubica Williams Racing Mercedes DNF
- S. Vettel Ferrari DNF