Bottas Wins Race, Hamilton Crowned Champion
F1 2019 United Stated Grand Prix took place at the Circuit of the Americas (COTA) in Austin, Texas, USA. This was 49th running of United States GP, and 8th time that event was held at COTA Austin. This round was a two-horse race for the title between the Mercedes. Last week in Mexico, Valterri Bottas finished on the podium and denied his teammate a chance to become six times world champion. This time, however, the task was quite simple for Lewis Hamilton, and he achieved it with ease. Valterri had a super weekend, stormed to pole position ahead of pre-race favourites Ferrari, and then took a commanding on Sunday afternoon. A win too late to keep title hopes alive.
Thursday Pre-Race Preparations
US Grand Prix is the second flyaway race after Mexico before the curtain falls at Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. These final few races are all about consolidating drivers and team positions and finish the season on a positive note.
Lewis Hamilton just needed to finish inside the top ten at the end of the race on Sunday, which is straightforward for Mercedes given the advantage they have over midfield teams.
Renault again needed to outscore customer McLaren by massive points if they want to have a realistic chance of snatching 4th position away from them, with only three races left on the calendar.
Austin's race track which is often called COTA is modern-day track designed by Hermann Tilke. The track itself is a mixture of famous corners from Silverstone and Turkey. Friday practice was done under dry conditions, and the talked-about theme after Friday was that the circuit was very bumpy, and in some places, it could even damage the car or its suspension. But F1 teams are technically so good, that they can dial the car around any circuit.
On Friday, low fuel runs put Mercedes on top, although with a small margin on rivals. On paper, Ferrari was the team to beat over single-lap pace, but they were third on the ranking behind Honda-powered Red Bulls. Midfield pack of Toro Rosso, McLaren, Racing Point, Alfa Romeo and Renault were all covered by 0.4 Sec.
Mercedes is the most efficient race car, and this week was no different. They tried three different tyre compounds during FP2 and looked quick on all of them. Mercedes on average had 0.3 sec/lap advantage on Scuderia and 0.5sec/lap on Red Bull. So everything to play for on Sunday between the top three teams.
Racing Point led the midfield pack on long runs, albeit ahead only by 0.1sec/lap from McLaren and Renault. Toro Rosso and Alfa Romeo were evenly matched at race pace some 1.7sec/lap slower than Mercedes, and 0.1 sec behind McLaren. Haas F1 Team and Williams could not show any speed, looking set for a difficult weekend.
Teams study their Friday run data, analyse the numbers and sign off best car settings and strategy for rest of the weekend. Max Verstappen showed impressive pace and prepared well to have a great qualifying. On the other hand, Charles Leclerc started the day with an engine failure, which raised concerns for Vettel a well. Rest of the teams completed the running as per plans.
Q1 started with bright sunshine, and temperature in the region of 18 Celsius making life easier for some, while some cars prefer cold conditions. Lando Norris (McLaren) was the star of the first session, powering his MCL-34 to P1 on his second run. The Alfa Romeos continued their unimpressive run and got eliminated along with the Williams pair and Racing Point's Sergio Perez.
The second session started with Mercedes, Ferrari and Verstappen opting for medium tyres to run longer during the first stint in the race. Charles Leclerc led the Q2 session from his teammate. Nico Hulkenberg (Renault) missed the top-ten shootout. Both Haas drivers, Daniil Kyat and Lance Stroll, failed to reach Q3.
Valterri Bottas surprised everyone including his team by going fastest from Sebastian Vettel and was 0.3 sec ahead of Hamilton who had a scrappy first run. Everyone went for their second runs, and green sectors appeared on timing screens, but as the laps went on nobody improved their times, apart from Max Verstappen who snatched third from Hamilton. Charles Leclerc 4th, Hamilton a disappointing 5th, Albon 6th, row four locked by McLaren, Daniel Ricciardo 9th and Pierre Gasly 10th.
Bottas said that in the morning, he worked on finding all the details and focusing and putting things together. He expressed his satisfaction on getting it done in Q3, especially on a track that could be tricky.
Bottas won the battle on Saturday by taking pole position, which meant giving himself a flicker of hope to a chance to the title and hoping that Lewis finishes 9th or lower. Lewis needed to bounce back, and a driver of his calibre can do that more often than not. Five red lights and Bottas raced to the first corner followed by fast-starting Max Verstappen. Vettel emerged out of Turn 1 in third, ahead of Hamilton. Behind them, Albon and Sainz came together inflicting damage to Red Bull who pitted the same lap to take on the new front wing, and a set of medium tyres.
Hamilton was not going to hanging around and overtook a struggling Vettel in Turn 8. Sebastian Vettel on Lap 8 went over the Turn 9 kerb aggressively, which resulted in rear suspension failure ending his race. Bottas and Verstappen pitted on 14 and 13 respectively to switch to hard tyres, while Lewis stayed out and tried to do a one-stop strategy like Mexico. Bottas stormed to the back of Hamilton's car by Lap 23 and overtook him. Lewis finally pitted on Lap 24 and switched to hard tyres.
Verstappen pitted on Lap 35 and Bottas on 36, both replacing hard tyres with medium tyres. Valterri came out within striking distance of 10 sec with 20 laps remaining. Bottas intelligently crept behind Hamilton at a steady pace and expertly overtook him on Lap 52 down the back straight, and eventually went onto win the race. Verstappen showed remarkable speed and finished third just a second behind the champ. Sole surviving Ferrari of Leclerc finished a distant 4th, while Albon drove brilliantly to finish fifth after three stops, ahead of Daniel Ricciardo. Lando Norris 7th, Carlos Sainz Jr. 8th, Nico Hulkenberg 9th and Sergio Perez took final world championship point.
Bottas won the seventh race of his career and the fourth victory of the current campaign, but a win too late as barren middle half of the season cost him a shot at the world championship. Bottas had mixed feelings, saying that it felt good to win the round though he failed on his target in terms of the championship. He quickly added that Hamilton had a strong season and deserved it.
Drivers World Championship 2019
Lewis Hamilton became the second driver in the history of Formula 1 to win more than five championships, second only to the great Michael Schumacher (Germany) who won seven world titles. Lewis is only one behind that all-time record, and with no significant change in regulations, that feat which once looked impossible to achieve is very much possible now.
The 6th-time F1 driver’s world champion said that he was far above Cloud Nine at the moment and felt only pure happiness. Of all the races in his career, he said that this season was the 'Hardest year I can remember' – Lewis Hamilton.
We now move to the penultimate race of the season at Interlagos in Brazil, home of the greatest racing driver of all, Ayrton Senna.