American Grand Prix: Race Analysis

Lewis Hamilton made it two out of two in the USA yesterday, after taking the win in the inaugural GP to be held at CotA, in Texas. The Brit has continued his 100% run in America after he took his second win of his career in 2007 at Indianapolis. Sebastian Vettel could only manage second, yet felt the win was snatched away from him by backmarker’s blocking through the tricky sector 1 complex. Fernando Alonso finished third, taking the championship fight to Interlagos. However, Ferrari will come under fire for their unorthadox tactics, of moving Fernando onto the clean side of the grid. On the other hand, Ferrari are used to their share of controversy over the years.

After controversy before the race even started, the difference between the clean and dirty side of the grid, was not as prominent as first thought. Despite this, Lewis did drop down to third by Turn 1. However, after quickly dispatching Mark Webber, the Brit hunted down Sebastian in what proved to be a race long battle. The two were very evenly paced, yet it was Hamilton who came out on top, in what could well be his final win for McLaren.
The win had evaded them, yet Red Bull were crowned constructors champions. However, not in the manner with which they intended. Mark Webber was forced to retire early on, with yet another Alternator failure, as the feud between Red Bull and Renault grows ever deeper. The issue stems from a small piece in the system which breaks. This causes the alternator to machine itself into a phase of overheating. Since it is situated alongside the oil tank within the car, this heating process can become very dangerous; which is why the team swiftly diagnose the issue in order to stop the car.
The fear for Red Bull is that they are powerless to recover the situation. Driving slower will not cool the system down, so if the part fails in Brazil, it could have major implications for Vettel’s championship. Fortunately, the failures seem to only occur in warmer conditions, and therefore, a wet Sao Paulo should be just the tonic the alternator requires to survive.
Sebastian was particularly disappointed with the second place, after he felt that Lewis only managed to pass him after he was blocked by Narain Karthikeyan. As Christian Horner announced, “our race hinged on a backmarker who couldn’t use his mirrors”. Throughout the race, up to that point, Vettel had been able to maintain a gap, just big enough to keep Hamilton behind, even with the activation of DRS. In what was a tight battle all the way to the flag, the race was always set to be decided by a mistake. It was a shame that it was an error courtesy of a third party.
Meanwhile at McLaren, suggestions were made that Hamilton was in fact tight on fuel towards the end of the race. Without any past data on fuel consumption it was difficult for the teams to judge a suitable amount of fuel. Despite this, it was a fantastic comeback drive from Lewis, and one which has brought him much acclaim. After the race, Jenson was even quoted as saying, “A fantastic drive. McLaren will miss Lewis Hamilton”
Button was a driver who performed very well himself, claiming a well deserved 5th, after a disastrous first lap, saw him fall to 16th. Starting on the hard tyre was always going to be tricky, as it took several laps for them to reach the optimum range. Once they had done, Jenson was matching the pace of the leaders, and could easily have finished on the podium, without his throttle issue in Qualifying.
Ferrari were also a team under pressure heading into the race, and caused a stir after their tactics moved Fernando Alonso onto the clean side of the grid. Felipe, who had qualified in 7th, was in front of his teammate, who was placed 9th. Ferrari decided to break the seal on Massa’s gearbox, (which would incur a penalty) in order to move Alonso into 8th, and more importantly, the clean side of the grid. In what was described as ‘sabotage’, Ferrari had given Alonso a better chance in the championship. Massa though, demoted into 11th place on the grid. It was a cynical move from Ferrari, yet one which payed off.
Massa had an excellent recovering drive, to make it into 4th place, while his teammate finished in 3rd. Massa was by far, the quicker of the two, and Fernando was fortunate to finish in 3rd, after falling almost 40 seconds off of the lead.
The fact that Ferrari are having to resort to these tactics, defines their season. Alonso has driven magnificently, staying in the title fight until the final race, against a far superior car in the RB8. The team have been unable to bring enough developments to allow Fernando a shot against Vettel, so the team seem to have been forced into making these un-sporting decisions. Alonso has reached the point where he cannot push the F2012 further, like he did earlier in the season. Heading into Brazil, only 13 points behind, is quite an achievement. He is still in with a decent chance, however, he will require an issue for Vettel to win. There is no doubt that Fernando can make the podium, yet you would image Sebastian to be right there with him.
Mercedes had what could be described as their worst race so far this season, after they were the only team to have to make 2 stops, as their run of no-points continues to Brazil. Schumacher, after a promising qualifying, immediately fell back into the pack. After he reported overheating on the rear tyres, it was clear that 2 stops were the teams only option. Rosberg was unable to progress through the field, and finished only 13th. Since Monza, the German team have been without any points. You would imagine that the prospect of Hamilton in 2013 is the only tonic for the under-achieving team.
Williams managed to get both cars into the points for the first time this season, in 9th and 10th. Maldonado notched up the nerves in the garage, after diving up the inside of his teammate on lap 53, in Turn 1. Fortunately  the two bumped wheels, yet no damage was sustained, and the overtake was successful. When Pastor had asked, “Can I have a go”, I am sure the team did not have that maneuver in mind.
A fantastic race, which will have entertained the 100,000 strong crowd. F1 has been a success in America, and after the horrors of 2005, I never thought I would be saying that. Can Lewis win in the US agian next year? Perhaps a long shot, considering he will be driving a car that could only manage 13th and 16th on Sunday.


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