October 24, 2018

Not F1Update!: United States 2018

Remember when I said that this race deserved more than a casual couple of minutes thrown together off the cuff?  THIS is your F1 Thrown Together Off The Cuff Update for the 2018 United States Grand Prix!

*THE RACE:  The USGP had almost everything you could possibly want.  It had drama, it had redemption, it had fantastic performances, it had horrible performances at the worst possible times, it was exciting... the only thing it really lacked was a wheel-to-wheel fight for the lead.

In this particular case though, that's okay.  What we did have was a bunch of teams who had no idea how their tires were going to act... it had rained during Friday Practice, Quals were run in cool and cloudy conditions, but the sun was out for the race.  Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen took advantage of this and took the lead from Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton at the start of the race.  At the same time, Hamilton's rival for the championship Seb Vettel, starting fifth after shooting himself in the foot with an infraction on Friday, spun his Ferrari and found himself 18th... on a day where he desperately needed to beat Hamilton if he was going to have any chance, realistic or no, to win the championship.

Hamilton was never going to go wheel-to-wheel with Raikonnen, not with the championship on the line.  While it would never really happen, there must have been thoughts of Ferrari instructing Kimi to 'accidentally' punch the Mercedes off the road.  When Smiley Ricciardo saw his Red Bull just... stop working again... a virtual safety car period was called.  Mercedes told Hamilton to do the opposite of Raikkonen: pit if he stayed out, stay out if he pit.  Despite an attempt to trick Hamilton that saw Raikkonen twitch towards the pit-in, the Brit stopped for new tires.

As it turned out, this was the deciding moment in the race though nobody quite knew that yet.  Emerging on fresh, faster tires, Lewis should have been had the race in his pocket... hang back, let the Finn wear his rubber out, take the lead when he pitted, and go quickly enough to negate the time gap, thus winning the race.  Except that's not what happened.

Hamilton instead tried to attack Raikkonen.  For 12 laps, the Ferrari driver defended the lead in a crisp and fair manner.  All the while, Hamilton's efforts began killing his new tires.  By the time Kimi pitted on Lap 21, it was looking evident that Merc's call had been a good one, but Raikkonen's skills on defense had gotten the better of them.  One of the announcers later figured that Hamilton had lost some eight seconds during the laps he was stuck behind the Ferrari.  In any case, as the Finn began to close in on the grip-impaired Mercedes, the team brought Hamilton in for a second stop.

When he returned to the track, he was not only behind Raikkonen, but the other Red Bull of DH Verstappen who had begun the race in 15th place due to a suspension failure in Quals.  With Vettel seemingly stuck in fifth place, unable to get past the Mercedes of Valterri Bottas, all Hamilton had to do is get by the young Dutchman and he'd secure the driver's championship.

He couldn't.  While both cars were closing in on the Ferrari, Hamilton put everything into one solid attempt to get by the Red Bull with a couple of laps remaining.  This failed, though not for lack of trying, and in the squabble Raikkonen was able to return a second back to his lead.  That put paid to any hopes to defeat him.

When the Finn crossed the line, it was his first win since the Australian Grand Prix in March of 2013.  It was a popular result... over at Reddit, the discussion thread for the post-race became the highest up-voted thread in the Formula 1 subreddit's history, hit the top of the front page within one hour of the race ending, and the user who submitted it was given "reddit gold" some 460 times, the most ever for one post.

So now the championship fight moves to Mexico City this weekend, where unless Hamilton DNFs, he should be leaving with his fifth championship.  See ya then.

Posted by: Wonderduck at 11:08 PM | Comments (5) | Add Comment
Post contains 716 words, total size 5 kb.

1 As the local Verstappen fan, I feel it incumbent upon me to make one minor correction: he started *eighteenth*. And finished second. (I do realize Ricciardo was out, Vettel spun, Bottas was nowhere all race, and Hamilton got screwed on strategy, but still.) (He was promoted to 13th because the Toro Rossos took new engines, then dropped to 18th with a gearbox penalty.)

Anyway, Verstappen fan notwithstanding, I was rooting for Kimi to win. It was basically a perfect race for me - Kimi won, Max had a fantastic charge through the field that I got to actually witness in person, and Hamilton did not win the championship. Would have preferred to see Ricciardo in the mix, but still, thumbs up.

Posted by: Mrs. Will (Kathryn) at October 25, 2018 04:26 PM (JPRju)

2 <puts on Seinfeld costume>

So what's the deal with Ricciardo's Red Bull?

<takes costume off>

So, seems like Red Bull has had some PU problems this year...like, beyond NORMAL power unit problems...or is that just flawed perception because I keep rooting for them to do well?

Posted by: Ben at October 26, 2018 07:54 AM (osxtX)

3 There's a popular theory that RBR is deliberately sabotaging Daniel's car because they're pissed he's leaving and they have third sewn up anyway. Seems unlikely to me. Max had a very similar run of awful luck last year. 

Daniel could also be overdriving the car (which was one popular explanation for Max's problems last year). He actually admitted recently that Max has been spanking him in qualifying all year (even considering only Q3s in which they both appeared), and if he's saying that out loud, it must really be in his head.

RBR does put more strain on their Renaults than Renault or McLaren do, from what I can tell. They use a different fuel which isn't optimized for the engine (it's because they have a deal with a fuel supplier, which I believe is Mobil), and supposedly, they compromise the engine package to accommodate their aero. (not sure if that one is true) So, we'll see what happens with Honda next year. RBR will effectively be a works team again. 

By the way, during Friday practice, we were standing near that turn that leads to the back straight (Turn 11 maybe? No idea), and over there, you can get some good engine sound. The Hondas have a very different sound to any of the other engines. And the same engine in different cars (e.g., Ferrari, Haas, and Sauber) sounds different. It was very interesting.

Posted by: Mrs. Will (Kathryn) at October 26, 2018 08:09 AM (Utq5p)

4 Thanks, Mrs. Will! Interesting info, all of it!

Posted by: Ben at October 26, 2018 01:37 PM (osxtX)

5 Sounds like a hell of a race.

Posted by: Mauser at October 26, 2018 11:28 PM (Ix1l6)

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