Formula One’s continental tour returns to North America for it’s annual trip to Austin, Texas. The relatively new destination for drivers, teams and fans alike is fast developing a reputation for being a larger than life weekend – can the 2016 edition live up to it?
Battle Is Resumed
For what now feels like an age, the title fight between Mercedes drivers Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton resumes after a fortnight of respite. The German’s lead extended to 33 points after Suzuka and Lewis’ failure to launch off the line, and the number of races the Brit has to claw the gap back are starting to dwindle.
Saying that, Austin has always been a happy hunting ground for Hamilton in recent years, taking the inaugural victory at the track in 2012, and using his racecraft to pass Rosberg on track in the last two consecutive seasons on his way to the top step of the podium.
This has to be the scene of a convincing victory for the reigning champion if another, and fourth, World Championship is to come his way. Anything else, and it might just slip further from his grasp.
Lewis In The Spotlight Again
Suzuka could have seen an all-time classic take place on-track, but it would still have been overshadowed by Lewis’ penchant for Snapchat and the furore surrounding his antics in the driver press conference and his preceding walkout while on further media duties.
While it’s highlighted the need for change when it comes to F1 presenting itself in front of printed and TV media alike, the changes that are so desperately needed won’t be coming anytime soon. In the meantime, Lewis faces the press in Austin as the FIA have called him up again for the duty. Who knows what app he’ll pull out next?
Haas On Home Soil
It’s taken 30 years, but the stars have finally aligned again and there’s an American Formula One team racing in front of a partisan US crowd. The last time this happened, it was another team with the name Haas – the ill-fated Haas-Lola outfit that folded the season it fielded home hero Eddie Cheever at Detroit.
It may be three decades since US F1 fans had some investment in the F1 grid, but the passion has never waned. The modern-day Haas has brought them some cheer with some fantastic points scoring positions earlier on in the season, but the team has found it’s debut season a learning one as the months have gone on.
Can Romain Grosjean add to his 28-point haul? Can Esteban Guttierez break the glass ceiling and finish higher than 11th? Only time will tell, but they’ll have the backing of a passionate fanbase to push them on.
Rivalries Up And Down The Field Continue
We’re getting the business end of the season and the threads that we’ve all followed since Melbourne are starting to get to the point where every mistake may mean the difference in positions in the constructors championship and, ultimately, the promise of bigger prize money.
Red Bull and Ferrari have been scrapping over best of the rest behind Mercedes all season, but the Italian marque have fallen 50 points behind their rivals in recent races and have struggled to make the podium. Force India and Williams are now separated by 10 points, with the former being the form team thanks to double points finishes in the last two outings. McLaren have taken the fight to Toro Rosso thanks to new developments from Honda and now lead their plucky rivals by 15 points, while Manor and Sauber’s desperate fight over not finishing last is merely one point’s difference.
It’s fascinating stuff up and down the field, and plenty to keep us entertained if the championship fight fizzles out.
Drivers Are Racing For Their Future
Since Japan, we’ve had the announcement that Nico Hulkenberg will be a Renault driver in 2017, which, while not being a shock signing that shakes the sport, does unbottle the potential for some curious driver moves in and around the F1 midfield.
Currently, Haas, Williams, Toro Rosso, Renault and Force India all have at least one seat available, while Manor and Sauber can be bought for the right money, which means the likes of Magnussen, Palmer, Ocon, Wehrlein, Ericsson, Nasr and Gutiérrez have plenty to prove if they want to either stay in the seat they’re in, or even move into a more promising one. The racing should be more intense because of this, keeping us guessing just who will be where when the 2016 merry-go-round stops in just over a month’s time.