The United States Grand Prix marked another milestone in the Mercedes-AMG juggernaut, with Valtteri Bottas claiming a fine win ahead of teammate Lewis Hamilton. While flawless in qualifying and the race, however, the Finn could not deny Hamilton his sixth World Championship title.
Hamilton now sits one short of equalling the all-time record of the great Michael Schumacher and in his post-race celebrations indicated that he plans to remain in the sport beyond its shift to new technical and sporting regulations in 2021.
It was an exciting race that built to a thrilling crescendo as the varied strategies used by Mercedes and Red Bull Racing came to a head. Bottas converted his pole position into the early lead ahead of Max Verstappen, while a sensation opening lap by Hamilton launched him ahead of the two Ferraris to slot into third place. The Englishman only needed an eighth-place finish to wrap up the Drivers’ Championship, but his DNA is hard-wired to win and he was going to give it everything on Sunday.
Hamilton gambled on a one-stop strategy to the two pits stops elected by Bottas and Hamilton, and inherited the race lead after both made early first pit stops with Bottas successfully covering Red Bull Racing’s attempt to get Verstappen ahead through the tyre change cycle.
He stayed out in the lead for another ten laps before making his sole stop, and reclaimed it again when his rivals made their second and final stops with a little over 20 laps of the race to run. A ten-second lead over Bottas was always going to be a challenge of tyre management until the chequered flag, and gradually he was reeled in by the pair.
He fought hard to stay in front of his teammate, but on Lap 52 Bottas used his DRS to perfection and slipstreamed by Hamilton for the lead down the back straight. Hamilton was left to watch his mirrors for the fast-closing Verstappen and was saved by a yellow-flag zone at the end of the back straight when Kevin Magnussen beached his Haas Ferrari in the gravel after its front brakes exploded. They were separated by just 0.8 seconds at the flag.
Behind the top-three, it was daylight to the rest of the field. Ferrari’s qualifying speed didn’t translate into the race, with an off-the-pace Charles Leclerc finishing almost a minute down the road in fourth while teammate Sebastian Vettel chalked up a rare retirement when his right-rear suspension failed on Lap 8.
How much Ferrari’s loss of form was track, tyre and temperature specific remains to be seen, however an overnight technical clarification from the FIA may have been a factor as well. Brought upon by Red Bull Racing who detailed the design of a system that might have allowed it to run more than the allowed amount of fuel flow by using electrical disturbances to disrupt the sample pulses sent to the FIA from the fuel flow metering units. The system was, of course, rejected by the FIA as being illegal – there were allegations that Ferrari was using such a system, which the Italian team was quick to reject. Yet all Ferrari-powered cars were distinctly lacking in their usual speed on Sunday…
Verstappen’s teammate Alexander Albon was left to rue what might have been. The Anglo-Thai driver qualified sixth-fastest and threatened to be a disruptive player in the early phase of the race by starting on the Soft compound Pirelli tyres, but found himself forced into the pits after contact at Turn 1 with McLaren’s Carlos Sainz Jr. He then staged a mighty recovery drive, climbing through the field despite two further pit stops to finish in fifth place.
Equally entertaining was Renault’s Daniel Ricciardo, who had a seemingly race-long see-sawing fight with McLaren’s Lando Norris to beat the British teenager to sixth place and claim ‘best of the rest’ honours. Sainz was a lapped eighth in the sister McLaren ahead of Ricciardo’s teammate Nico Hülkenberg.
The battle for the final championship point went down to the wire and was decided by another post-race penalty to Toro Rosso’s Daniil Kvyat who, for the second race in a row, bundled another driver out of the points with a rash piece of driving. The Russian’s victim this time was Racing Point’s Sergio Pérez (who started from the pit lane), but the Mexican was reinstated to the position after a five-second penalty was handed to Kvyat.
|FORMULA 1 EMIRATES UNITED STATES GRAND PRIX 2019 – FINAL CLASSIFICATION (56 LAPS)|
|Driver||Team / Entry||Laps||Result||Pts|
|1.||Valtteri Bottas||Mercedes-AMG Motorsport W10||56||1:33:55.653||25|
|2.||Lewis Hamilton||Mercedes-AMG Motorsport W10||56||+ 4.148||18|
|3.||Max Verstappen||Red Bull Racing RB15||56||+ 5.002||15|
|4.||Charles Leclerc||Scuderia Ferrari SF90||56||+ 52.239||13|
|5.||Alexander Albon||Red Bull Racing RB15||56||+ 1:18.038||10|
|6.||Daniel Ricciardo||Renault F1 Team RS19||56||+ 1:30.366||8|
|7.||Lando Norris||McLaren F1 Team MCL34||56||+ 1:30.764||6|
|8.||Carlos Sainz Jr.||McLaren F1 Team MCL34||55||1 lap behind||4|
|9.||Nico Hülkenberg||Renault F1 Team RS19||55||1 lap behind||2|
|10.||Sergio Pérez||Racing Point F1 Team RP19||55||1 lap behind||1|
|11.||Kimi Räikkönen||Alfa Romeo Racing C38||55||1 lap behind|
|12.||Lance Stroll||Racing Point F1 Team RP19||55||1 lap behind|
|13.||Daniil Kvyat||Scuderia Toro Rosso Honda STR14||55||1 lap behind|
|14.||Antonio Giovinazzi||Alfa Romeo Racing C38||55||1 lap behind|
|15.||Romain Grosjean||Haas F1 Team VF-19||55||1 lap behind|
|16.||Pierre Gasly||Scuderia Toro Rosso Honda STR14||54||Suspension|
|17.||George Russell||ROKiT Williams Racing FW42||54||2 laps behind|
|18.||Kevin Magnussen||Haas F1 Team VF-19||52||Brakes|
|Not Classified||Team / Entry||Laps||Reason|
|DNF.||Robert Kubica||ROKiT Williams Racing FW42||31||Hydraulics|
|DNF.||Sebastian Vettel||Scuderia Ferrari SF90||7||Suspension||18|
Points are awarded to the top 10 classified finishers on a 25-18-15-12-10-8-6-4-2-1 scale.
Charles Leclerc is awarded an additional 1 championship point for posting the fastest lap of the race by a points’ finisher.
- Daniil Kvyat – provisionally classified P10 – was issued a 5-second post-race time penalty for causing a collision with Sergio Pérez.
Image via Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport