Drying track conditions in Austin meant that different drivers thrived in different stages of the US Grand Prix, with early race leader Lewis Hamilton taking home the winner’s trophy after Nico Rosberg’s late off-track excursion. Both Vettel and Sainz recovered from their poor grid slots to score a decent haul of points, while the ever impressive Max Verstappen equalled his best result of the season in fourth place. Ricciardo seemed to be in control of the race at one stage, but fell backwards as the conditions eased off, with a strategy error demoting him further down the pack.
Many had expected Lewis Hamilton to clinch the 2015 drivers’ crown, having seen him dominate the proceedings during the early part of the season. However, few would have expected him to secure the title as early as the US Grand Prix. And while we can talk all day about the significance of his third title, we’ll restrict our focus to this race.
The British driver forced past his teammate at turn 1, but started losing positions at the end of first stint, having worn out his intermediate tyres.
A decision of not pitting under the first ‘real’ safety car seemed wrong at that stage, but such was the pace of the Mercedes in dry conditions - coupled with the benefit of pitting under the virtual safety car - that
Hamilton came out in second place, ahead of the chasing pack.
And when Rosberg made a crucial error a few laps from the chequered flag, the 30 year old needed no invitation to retake the race lead.
A 10 place grid penalty for an engine change was always going to make life difficult for Vettel. But a stonking first lap - coupled with impressive laps in the middle of the race - meant that Sebastian Vettel finished in third place, securing another podium finish as a result.
It’s arguable whether Vettel could have won the race without the last safety car period, but a third place finish was nevertheless an excellent result, given his starting position.
Although Vettel was never realistically in the title fight, it would be interesting to see whether his approach changes in the last three races of the season.
After the apprehensions of last year, there has been a positive change in the attitude of fans and media alike towards Max Verstappen. Race after race, Verstappen is showing his impressive skills, particularly those related to wheel-to-wheel combat.
And the 2015 US Grand Prix was another one of his fine drives, with the Dutchman finishing just outside the podium in fourth place, equalling his best result of the season. In challenging conditions, Verstappen was able to make his way up the grid, even overtaking the Red Bull drivers in the 56 lap race.
Carlos Sainz’s form has been on an upward trend, leading many to hail Toro Rosso’s current line up as the best ever. And perhaps Sainz needed to up his game, considering Verstappen has been making majority of the headlines for the Faenza based squad.
And while the Dutchman was again the leading Toro Rosso driver at the chequered flag, it was Sainz who was faster of the two.
Having started from back of the grid following a crash in qualifying , Sainz rocketed to 11th place at the start, before breaking it into the top 10. With a strong car underneath him, Sainz continued to move up the order, eventually crossing the line in sixth place.
However, he still requires to eke out silly mistakes. For a penalty for speeding in the pitlane dropped him one position before Jenson Button in the final classifications.
In a race full of accidents and safety cars, one can secure a strong finish by keeping himself out of trouble. And that’s exactly what Perez managed to do at the Circuit of the Americas.
On pure pace, Perez doesn’t deserve a place in this list. He was clearly second best to teammate Hulkenberg and languished in the lower half of the top 10 for a major chunk of the race.
But Perez kept his nose clean and a decision to pit midway under the safety car handed him track position, leading to a credible fifth place result.
by Rachit Thukral