October 25, 2015

F1 Update: United States 2015

The sky was grey and heavy as the Thundering Herd was led to the Circuit of the Americas' grid by polesitter Nico Rosberg.  If you tilted your head and squinted, you could almost believe it wasn't raining, the first time that had happened this race weekend since early in Friday Practice 1.  The track was still wet however, and the field was on Inters and glad for it.  Would it rain some more?  Would it ever dry out?  THIS is your F1Update! for the 2015 United States Grand Prix!

*TURN 1:  The first turn of any F1 race is usually exciting as 20 cars try to file through a space made for two or three.  When something goes pear-shaped in the midpack, it accordions back through the field like a train derailing.  The one track where this should never occur is the Circuit of the Americas, where Turn 1 looks wide enough to fit the entire field through wheel to wheel.  Except when something intentional occurs.  At the start, polesitter Nico Rosberg was on the outside, nominally the racing line, with his teammate Lewis Hamilton right alongside, and it stayed that way as they ran up to the first turn.  Except Hamilton closed up next to Rosberg and kinda didn't bother to turn all that much, pushing his German teammate to the limits of the track.  At this point, Rosberg had a choice: fight back, possibly damaging both cars but more likely making Hamilton back down, or give up and surrender first place to Hamilton.  He gave up, allowing himself to be shoved into the runoff area and dropping down to fifth place.  At this point, the Legendary Announce Team had something of a disappointing moment, as they made it sound like they believed that Hamilton had lost control, when anybody with a set of eyes could see it was totally intentional.  We here at F1U! rolled our collective eyes and expected to see Hamilton gallop off into the distance, never to be seen again.  Behind the frontrunners, five cars were involved in incidents resulting in debris scattered around the outside of the first turn

*ABOUT THAT GALLOPING:  Did you know this was the first wet race we've had this season?  It was.  Which means this was the first time these cars had any real race time on the Intermediate tires, and we discovered something very interesting.  The Red Bull chassis is very good indeed on Intermediate tires, and the Mercedes... isn't.  Instead of running away and hiding, Hamilton instead found himself in an actual race, with Kid Kvyat and Daniel Ricciardo right behind him, and Rosberg not far in arrears in fourth.  A Virtual Safety Car for the Turn 1 debris locked the field for a couple of laps, but the ending of the period saw Rosberg either be incredibly opportunistic (if you're a charitable sort) or a filthy cheater (if you have eyes), jumping past both Red Bulls at the restart.  He was actually alongside Ricciardo when it ended, and he made short work of Kvyat using the momentum from that move.

*CHARGING RED BULL:  On Lap 12, Ricciardo tried twice to get past Rosberg for second.  The first attempt saw him go too deep into Turn 1.  At Turn 2, though, he caught the Merc and set his sights on the lead.  Suddenly, the F1U! crowd actually started to be interested.  A few laps later, for what we believe was the first time this season, someone made an actual and real pass for the lead in a Formula 1 race when Ricciardo got past Hamilton.  It took only a few more laps for Rosberg to dispatch his teammate, who was complaining about his "worn inters."  Then, crucially, Hamilton pitted... for slick tires.

*THAT'S A FIRST: Valterri Bottas and Lettuce Grosjean had shifted to the soft slicks back around Lap 5, and they didn't work... it was still way too wet.  But when Hamilton stopped on Lap 18, the time had come and the other teams knew it. By Lap 20, the entire top 10 had stopped and put on the running shoes, and for the first time this race weekend, we saw F1 cars that were able to stretch their legs.  And by Lap 26, it was Rosberg leading Hamilton... Mercs in front, as usual.  It stayed that way until Lap 36.

*ENDGAME:  On Lap 36, Force India's Nico Hulkenberg got a little over-excited at being in passing position on Ricciardo and stuck his nose where it didn't belong.  One broken suspension later, and we had another Virtual Safety Car period while the recovery vehicles dragged the stricken Force India away.  Rosberg, Kvyat and Ricciardo stopped for new tires, promoting Hamilton into the lead and Ferrari's Seb Vettel to second.

*INTERLUDE: If Hamilton won, Vettel had to finish in second place to keep the driver's championship contest open until Mexico.  Rosberg's only chance was to win.  After the pitting, Hamilton led Vettel, Embryo Verstappen, Rosberg.

*RESTART / RESTOP:  On Lap 40, the racing re-began... and again Rosberg quickly dispatched the driver in front of him, blowing past Verstappen and setting his sights on Vettel.  A couple of laps later, the deed was done and Vettel was in third.  And then the critical moment of the race occurred, when Kvyat lost his car and smacked hard into the steel barriers.  As the incident happened in an awkward location, Berndt Maylander was summoned and a real Safety Car period began.  Now instead of pitting under green, Hamilton and Vettel got to pit under yellow flags.  Returning to the track after their stop, Rosberg led Hamilton and Vettel.  The restart occurred on Lap 46.

*END:  We looked to have a fantastic 10 lap sprint to the finish.  Instead, Rosberg blew a turn just enough to let Hamilton by for the lead... and on his fresh tires, there was no way anyody was going to haul him back in.  Rosberg barely managed to keep Vettel behind him to keep third place... and hand Lewis Hamilton his second consecutive World Driver's Championship, and his third overall.  It was still the best race of the 2015 season by a very long shot.  A wet track makes everything better.

*HAT DRAMA:  Afterwards, Rosberg sat dejectedly in the "podium room," where the top three finishers get to relax for a few minutes before heading out for the podium ceremonies.  Hamilton was there as well, of course, still pumped up on victory emotion.  After getting a hug from Paddy Lowe, the Merc tech director, Lewis grabbed his 1st place ballcap, lobbed the 2nd place cap to Rosberg, and handed the 3rd place cap to Vettel.  However, Rosberg wasn't paying attention, being (understandably) too wrapped up in his own emotions... and this happened.  When they moved out to the podium, Rosberg was booed by the crowd.  We here at F1U! think that Rosberg should have clocked Hamilton upside the head with the cap... we understand Hamilton was high on his victory, but we also think that Lewis was an insensitive berk, too.  Still, congratulations must be given to Hamilton on his third World Driver's Championship... he's moved into very rare company by doing that.

Next week we see the debut of the new circuit in Mexico City!  See you then!!!

Posted by: Wonderduck at 11:17 PM | Comments (2) | Add Comment
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1 And I'm back. Kept in the dry, watched with a couple of friends. Was worried I was setting them up for a boring afternoon, but the gods of rain and F1 combined for a great show.

The drive to Austin was a bit more adventurous than I normally enjoy, though. Uneventful in the other direction.

Posted by: Avatar at October 26, 2015 03:28 AM (v29Tn)

2 Don't like the drive to Austin at all, but I'm usually passing through to hit the coast from D/FW. 

I'm considering trying to get down there for a race on the Circuit of the Americas.  How bad is traffic on race days?

Posted by: Tom Tjarks at October 27, 2015 05:24 AM (J0lM9)

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