Winners and Losers: US GP

Monday 18th November 2013

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His drive suited him better than his hat

His drive suited him better than his hat

Vettel claimed a record, Bottas got some points, but it was Grosjean who withstood the pressure...

Star of the Race

Romain Grosjean, Lotus, 2nd
Given the strength of the Red Bull RBR9 in the last race at Abu Dhabi and given the parlous state of the Lotus team, this was an almost miraculous result. We have seen Lotus get close to Red Bull thanks to running fewer tyre stops, but this was a Lotus going head-to-head with Red Bull at a circuit where tyre wear was not an issue. Grosjean got a brilliant start and maintained a place that Mark Webber should have taken from him, but couldn't, thanks to Romain failing to make an error under the most enormous pressure.

Overtaking Move of the Race
Lap 55: Jenson Button on Daniel Ricciardo for P10
Jenson had older tyres than Ricciardo when he caught him at the end of the race and had spent long periods following others making them worse. Daniel might have expected him to try for the inside going into Turn 1 but instead Jenson took an outside (karting) line and squirted it around the outside to claim the final points position.

Bottas' pass of Gutierrez on Lap 35 was equally brave, but at that point Esteban's tyres were going away from him having stopped on Lap 1, a fact reinforced when the Sauber driver pitted for new rubber at the end of Lap 36.

Button equalled the number of grands prix starts set by David Coulthard (246) and next weekend he will become the most experienced British grand prix driver of all time. He'll want to get through the opening lap in Brazil without hitting anyone or being hit, something that has characterised most of the tail-end races of this season.

Winners
Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull, 1st
Sebastian Vettel's engineer Rocky had to dig deep into his book of 'Things To Say On The Radio To Make Sebastian Slow Down' to find ones that applied. Because when you can make the medium tyre last till Lap 26 starting on full tanks, the remaining 30 laps of the grand prix, on hard tyres and diminishing tanks, could be one long qualifying spree if you wanted. And so Rocky had to invoke the spectre of the unexpected Safety Car.

There was a cameo moment after Vettel had just put in three fastest laps from Laps 15 to 17. Rocky came on with: "Going as far as we can is important, not going as fast as we can." And so Seb duly fell into line for Lap 18. Then in a glorious Toad of Toad Hall moment he threw in another fastest lap on Lap 19. "Poop, poop!"

Mark Webber, Red Bull, 3rd
Getting stuck behind Lewis Hamilton at the start robbed Mark of the opportunity to get close enough to Grosjean to pass him with strategy, and the Lotus driver was able to counter every KERS move he made. Mostly by listening in to Red Bull team radio.

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, 4th
In the absence of Raikkonen on the grid, Lewis took up the challenge of being the grumpiest and most irritable driver on team radio. And he achieved it pretty well, cutting a figure somewhere between a surly teenager and a serial complainer to customer services. Gone was the "mellow" individual who was just loving his new team and putting his faith in the Lord.

After the race the mask was back on and he was all smiles - but we all saw it slip. That aside it was a good performance with his new uncracked chassis, a hustling start and a careful preservation of tyres towards the end.

Fernando Alonso, Ferrari, 5th
It's not so much fun when you can't switch sides of the grid as he did last year, but patience had its reward. Fernando played to the Turn 1 gallery in a race where overtaking was non-existent until Lap 11 and then like the best HBO series, steadily cranked up as the race went on. Except we already knew the ending to this one.

Nico Hulkenberg, Sauber, 6th
Sauber were back in the points and it will be interesting to see if Hulk will learn anything from his last gasp failure to take a place back off Alonso.

Sergio Perez, McLaren, 7th
McLaren finally saw off the Force India challenge with this result, which is good for the team and Sergio's employability. Spare a though for the animators who have to put together McLaren's 'Tooned'. They'd only just finished perfecting Lewis when they were sent pictures of their new 2013 driver 'Checo'. Now it's straight on to Kevin and in 2015 it might even be Fernando. It really is a case of back to the drawing board.

Valtteri Bottas, Williams, 8th
This was no freak result, Bottas was strong all weekend. Towards the end of the race he was going away from Nico Rosberg, not getting caught. It's finally banished the idea that a freaky race in Brazil could gift Caterham or Marussia a 9th place finish and allow them to creep ahead of Williams.

Losers
Pastor Maldonado, Williams, 17th
This weekend he was like a wasp in a jam jar, it's hard to remember when a driver has had such a blast at his own team, let alone one that was so wholly unjustified. Maldonado thought there was something odd about his car in qualifying, but when your team-mate's just taken P1 in Q1 and you've just finished P18, you need to find some mud to hurl. All he needed to do was look down the timesheets to see other great disparities in performance between team-mates - namely Rosberg and Massa - to see that he was acting like a big girl.

Unfortunately he's a big girl with a big budget and so he will get a good racing car next year that puts him within striking distance - and we do mean striking distance - of a lot more competent drivers.

Nico Rosberg, Mercedes, 9th
Luckily for Nico, Felipe Massa flunked qualifying as well, otherwise it would have been a very worrisome final grand prix for the Mercedes team.

Felipe Massa, Ferrari, 13th
Covering Jenson Button's Lap 20 stop might not have been the smartest of moves, after Felipe was forced into a two-stop race.

Heikki Kovalainen, Lotus, 15th
He may have had a front wing problem, but much greater damage was done on Lap 1 when he started from P8 and after only two-thirds of the lap was down to P12. It was the kind of result reminiscent of his time at McLaren when he spent his races slipping backwards while Lewis would go forward.

Media Watch
BBC's Jenny Gow: "I'm just stood in front of the locust garage."

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