Formula 1 fans were again robbed by the stewards while Lewis Hamilton took a massive leap towards title number four.
Out is out, or at least it should be
Red Bull have, as to be expected, hit out at the United States GP stewards after Max Verstappen was penalised for exceeding track limits on a day when track limits seemingly did not apply. Apparently neither did consistency.
Verstappen was the star at the Circuit of the Americas as he raced from 16th on the grid to third at the chequered flag. Celebrating his podium result, he was yanked from the room after learning of his five-second penalty.
The stewards ruled that Verstappen had “gained a lasting advantage by leaving the track, with all four wheels clearly off the track by at least half a metre, and overtook [Raikkonen] in doing so.”
— Formula 1 (@F1) October 23, 2017
So what makes his move different to all the others, most notably Valtteri Bottas, who also had wheels off the track.
The stewards reportedly deemed that Bottas, fighting with Verstappen and earlier Daniel Ricciardo, had been on the outside of the corner when he went beyond the limits whereas Verstappen cut the inside of the corner.
Surely off the track is off the track whether that be at the inside or outside of the corner?
Once again the consistency of F1’s stewards has left a lot to be desired, once again it has robbed a driver of a deserved result, and once again it is likely to divide fans depending on who you support.
Masterful Mercedes and their star driver
Faultless and fast was the story of Lewis Hamilton’s United States Grand Prix weekend.
He topped the practice timesheets, claimed pole position, and raced to the victory having bided his time in the opening laps rather than try to challenge what he called Sebastian Vettel’s unnecessary early pace.
Lewis Hamilton's US domination continues in Austin
Two-stopping Sebastian Vettel is P2
— Planet F1 (@Planet_F1) October 22, 2017
It was ideal weekend for the Mercedes driver, who with his 25 points and Valtteri Bottas’ 10, handed Mercedes a fourth Constructors’ Championship. Although the Brackley squad dominated from 2014 to 2016, this season they were made to work for it by Ferrari, pushed hard in the opening half of the campaign.
However, a near perfect run from Hamilton since the summer break – five wins in six races and a runner-up result at the only grand prix that he lost – have shown Mercedes to be the winners in F1’s development war and in F1’s Constructors’ Championship.
And 66 points ahead of Sebastian Vettel with just 75 still in play, a fourth successive Drivers’ title is arguably just one race away.
Vettel’s almost out of his misery
He may be putting on a brave face and insisting that the title race is not yet over but, let’s be honest, it pretty much is.
Hamilton will wrap up the 2017 Drivers’ Championship in Mexico if he finishes fifth or higher, irrelevant of where Vettel finishes.
Should the Ferrari driver finish second, Hamilton needs to be P9 or higher and if Vettel is third or lower, Hamilton is World Champion.
And Ferrari really have no one to blame but Ferrari.
Not only have reliability and crashes put them out of contention but they also failed to keep pace with Mercedes in the development race.
Although Vettel’s SF70H at the Circuit of the Americas sported a new diffuser along with revised front and rear wings and an updated floor, it was still no match for Mercedes’ W08.
Ferrari may have started this year’s championship with the car to beat but Mercedes have taken that billing in recent grands prix.
Sainz shows his class
One of the big questions ahead of the United States Grand Prix was how would Carlos Sainz would fare against Nico Hulkenberg, arguably one of the best driver never to reach the Formula 1 podium.
The answer… he’s right up there with the German.
Despite putting in his first laps in the RS17 this weekend, Sainz was quicker than Hulkenberg in two of the three practice sessions and outqualified him – granted the German had car troubles – on Saturday.
More car troubles on Sunday meant we never got to the see the new Renault pairing go head-to-head but a P7 on the day for Sainz, his first points in yellow, clearly point to what is going to be an interesting, and well matched, intra-team battle.
— Renault Sport F1 (@RenaultSportF1) October 22, 2017
Kvyat makes his point
On a weekend where the pressure was staggering, Daniil Kvyat rose to the challenge. Billed as “The Torpedo” by Michael Buffer during the grid presentation, Kvyat fired his way into the points on his Formula 1 return.
Although he spent the past two race weekend’s twiddling his thumbs, or whatever it is they do in Russia, he came back strong in Austin as he fought for his Toro Rosso – and probably F1 – future.
11th on the starting grid and 10th at the chequered flag, Kvyat did not put a wheel wrong ahead of crunch talks with Helmet Marko about his future.
But with Brendon Hartley, racing from P19 to P13 on his debut, also knocking on the door, Toro Rosso are spoilt for choice as to whom will partner Pierre Gasly next season.