AUSTIN, TX – It turned out to be a great day for a race, but that was not apparent on Saturday or Sunday morning. As the remnants of tropical Hurricane Patricia dropped torrential rain on the Circuit of the Americas, Saturday practice sessions were cancelled, and instead, fans were given an unprecedented time with Formula 1 drivers and crews. Then, Sunday morning, the rains did not appear to let up until around noon. By the scheduled 1:25 PM start of the race, the clouds receded showing some sunshine allowing the start of the USGP without safety car – and what a race it was!
With some water remaining on the track, the cars started the race on intermediate tires. As it turned out, the lack of practice time left the teams unprepared for what was about to unfold, and tire strategy was thrown out the door. Some of the drivers had to use all three tire types to optimize their lap times as the track dried out. "It was very difficult," said Toto Wolff of Mercedes-Petronas, "So many decisions to make, so many marginal calls, with the virtual safety car and safety car. I guess, at the end, we had the luck on our side.” The danger was clear following Williams’ and Sauber’s early decision to put on slicks causing slow laptimes for Bottas and an incident requiring Nasr to pit for a new front wing.
From the very start, it was clear that his race was to be exciting. Nico Rosberg had claimed the starting position for the race, but at the first turn, Hamilton pushed Nico off the track and sped off in first place. Nico could only manage 4th place at this point. The Red Bull cars showed very good speed at the beginning as Ricciardo was able to reel in and pass both Mercedes cars claiming the lead. Then on lap 18, Hamilton and the Red Bulls came in to switch to slicks, but the speed was not there and Rosberg, still on intermediates sped away.
After an incident where Ericcson stopped on the track, Vettel brought his Ferrari in for tires preferring the medium rubber gambling on the possibility that he could go the rest of the way. Then Haulkenberg and Ricciardo collided bring out the virtual safety car once more. This gave Mercedes the chance to bring one of their drivers in for tires. Choosing Rosberg over the now leader Lewis, the Mercedes pair were a formidable team. Vettel challenged Vettel but was not able to catch the Silver Arrows.
The final start left 10 laps to the finish, and Hamilton held all competitors at bay, winning the race and championship. A dejected Rosberg came in 2nd followed by Vettel in third. Team Boss Niki Lauda must be very excited with Mercedes clinching both the driver and Manufacturer Championships. With rumors that he is being considered for F1 boss, what better way to leave Mercedes.
Seeing the excitement of this race, I hope that F1 considers the idea of less practice laps for the teams. Charting the race with a level of unknowns makes for wonderful excitibg racing as opposed to machines running in Teutonic reliability. Since we lost the exciting sounds of 20,000 rpm engines, maybe some exciting racing can be had.