US: post-race analysis
In betting terms, the race was more or less flat. One bet came off, the other didn’t. Both had the pace but either a small mistake or some misfortune with the track cost Hulkenberg. So, a slight shame there, but these things happen.
The race was difficult to follow at the time, let alone recall the following day’s afternoon, as there were four safety car periods (two virtual, two actual). Therefore, I have cheated somewhat and used a short highlights video to remind me what went on.
At the first corner, Hamilton barged his way past Rosberg. Not the most gentlemanly of moves, and the German seemed quite unimpressed with it after the race. It also allowed both Red Bulls to pass Rosberg at the same time and Perez shortly thereafter.
Vettel had a storming first lap, climbing all the way to 7th from 15th in short order.
In the early stages of the race the Red Bulls appeared faster, on a damp but drying track and intermediate tyres, than the Mercedes. Ricciardo passed Hamilton around lap 15/56.
Hamilton was especially struggling on his tyres, and at one point was down to 4th whilst his team mate had recovered to 1st.
After a safety car period, which erased Rosberg’s 10s lead over his team mate, Vettel passed Ricciardo for 3rd.
Ricciardo continued to slide down the order (at this stage the track was almost entirely dry and slicks were on), getting passed by the impressive Verstappen. Hulkenberg then tried the same, but failed (unsure if it was driver failure or a slippery track to blame), putting the German out and necessitating a pit stop for Ricciardo.
Hulkenberg peeled off the track and another virtual safety car emerged (there was one and an actual safety car earlier). Rosberg pitted as did Vettel, Perez and Verstappen. Hamilton did not (he was 2nd to Rosberg at the time, so the German got the preferential treatment).
On-track, Vettel was passed by Rosberg, so the Mercedes was 2nd and Vettel 3rd. Hamilton wasn’t too far ahead but would have to pit again because his tyres would not last the distance.
Kvyat then crashed, and another real safety car came out, during which Hamilton pitted. Rosberg then made a mistake and slipped off-track, enabling Hamilton to reclaim the lead without really doing anything.
Many different drivers led the race at various points, but in the end it was the same chap who won it. Rosberg claimed his traditional runner-up spot, with Vettel not able to challenge the Mercedes, in the end.
Verstappen had a great result in 4th, and Perez, who earlier seemed a bit on the back foot, secured a strong 5th for Force India.
Button’s 6th will go down very well with McLaren, although the late power loss for Alonso robbed him of what should’ve been a similar position, and the team of a strong double points finish. The Spaniard ended up 11th, a second a half off the final point.
Sainz was 7th, with the unusually anonymous Maldonado 8th. Nasr got a couple of points in 9th, and Ricciardo managed to nab the final point.
Hamilton wins his third title. A bit of a 2011-style victory. Undoubtedly the combination of driver and car was the class of the field, but the Mercedes advantage meant it was never really in doubt. Not a classic season. I hope Ferrari (and/or others) can improve sharply for 2016.
McLaren’s decent result for Button means they’re just nine points off Sauber for 8th. As a matter of pride (and Constructors’ cash) that would be a good gain for them, and it’s not impossible to close the gap.
Force India are 32 points up on Lotus, and I can’t see that being closed. Critical for Force India, as they get both lots of lovely money and one of just five decision-making seats available to teams (which is a ridiculous system, or F1 governance, as it’s known).
Toro Rosso close to within 7 points of Lotus, thanks to Verstappen’s great 4th and Sainz’s impressive recovery from the back of the field after slapping the wall with his car in the morning. Toro Rosso’s driver line-up is very good indeed. I think they may well leapfrog Lotus.
So, although the Driver’s title is done and dusted, there are a couple of interesting Constructors’ battles that are ongoing.
The next race is Mexico, this coming weekend. The race starts at the same time (7pm, UK time). It’s possible that the impact of Hurricane Patricia may cause the race to be cancelled although, thankfully, the damage caused appears to have been less than expected.