At a time of trouble and uncertainty in the sport, Formula 1 needed a refreshing break from the political and financial sectors of its background. It was a relief, then, that Austin put on a hell’uva show. In his first piece for Badger, Charlie Eustice brings you the Top 5 for the 2014 US GP.
There were rumours that the smaller teams (Lotus, Force India and Sauber) had a plan to ditch the race altogether this weekend after Marussia became the second team in as many weeks to enter administration.
Formula 1’s soaring costs, which have been compounded this year by a new formula, a lack of points – and chiefly, an uneven distribution of prize money – have all crippled the less financiallystable outfits.
It was therefore great to see all three teams in the ‘danger zone’ take part in the race, and in the case of Lotus, score some valuable points. Considering the double retirement though, Force India may as well have sat the race out…
Lewis is America’s darling
It has taken a while, but it looks like Formula 1 has finally found its home in America. The Circuit of the Americas has features from Silverstone, Istanbul Park and Hockenheim. Lewis Hamilton has notched wins at all three of those tracks, so it is little surprise that the Brit has triumphed in two of CotA’s three Formula 1 races.
With a win at Indianapolis in 2007 to boot, and a trio of wins in Canada, it marks Hamilton as by far the most successful current F1 driver in North America.
F1 doesn’t have an American driver at the moment. We nearly did in Belgium with Marussia’s Alex Rossi, but Max Chilton found enough sponsorship to get his seat back.
Instead, the crowds across the Atlantic have had to make their own idol, and it was made clear with banners, flags, and a huge cheer when he took the lead, that it is the current World Championship leader that they favour.
A smaller grid did not equate to less excitement
Marussia and Caterham’s struggles are not something we like to point fun at. Let’s face it, F1 seems much more empty with just 18 cars on the grid, and when two more dropped out on the opening lap (we’re looking at you, Mr. Perez) it meant more than a quarter of the cars that started 2014 weren’t racing.
Those that were sure put on a show though.
We seriously hope that Marussia and Caterham bounce back from these troubled times, but while the show goes on, as it must, at least we’re getting a pretty decent spectacle.
It was also another chance to see Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg go toe-to-toe. Though there was only one overtake between the two of them, it was fascinating to see the pair trade fastest laps like a couple of pugilists sucker-punching one another in the chops, and the gap between them barely fell below three seconds. The result? Mercedes’ 9th 1-2 of the season, and a championship fight that, regardless of what happens in Brazil, will be settled in Abu Dhabi.
That’s not necessarily a good thing though. Hamilton could win the next race and his team mate could retire, giving him a 49-point advantage, but if the opposite happens in Abu Dhabi, thanks to the ludicrous 50-point win tariff, Rosberg would be the victor.
That’s not to say Rosberg doesn’t deserve it, but to do it in that way would be just farcical.
An initial lack of Stetsons.
Two years ago, Pirelli’s standard-issue baseball caps were replaced on the podium in Austin for one of Texas’ most prestigious, authentic, and vital pieces of apparel.
Gun holsters. No, wait. Cowboy hats.
It was a bit of an anti-climax then, that Hamilton, Rosberg and Ricciardo emerged from the post-race cool down room in their plain ole’ team merchandise.
Not that there’s anything wrong with a baseball cap, especially when they’re free, but after that initial us of ridiculous, magnificent head wear, we kind of wanted to see them return.
It was left to 1978 World Champion Mario Andretti to salvage the honour for Southern skull-coverers, and many rejoiced (not least Lewis Hamilton) when they saw his law enforcer’s cowboy hat.
Hamilton and Andretti standing and posing on the podium felt like watching American fan-favourites past and present, and it was great to see the Mercedes driver cheekily don “The Sheriff’s Hat”.
While the Mercedes duo once again sauntered off into the Texan sunset, virtually everyone behind was in contention to score some points. With a sadly depleted grid, the race was not split into the customary ‘Front-runners’, ‘Pack’ and ‘Back-markers’. Instead, everyone else mixed it up.
It’s one of the first times this season we have seen the performance of drivers like Romain Grosjean, JEV, and even Pastor Maldonado, who was able to score his first points all year.
Ricciardo set the ultimate standard early on with his wonderful move on Alonso into turn 1. Perhaps inspired by being passed, Alonso made the same move on Jenson Button, and later Kevin Magnussen.
Alonso then scrapped with Vettel, but unlike in Silverstone, neither driver flapped their arms around, or complained to the team. It was good, clean, old-fashioned, family-friendly, gluten-free* racing. *Nutritional facts not verified.
Since the singing of Max Verstappen, Jean-Eric Vergne has done nothing but show why he deserves to stay in Formula 1. He was our Top Dog for Singapore, and he made a few daring moves in Austin that put him in contention for the title again.
Though one of his moves was a little bit aggressive (David Croft dubbed it the ‘French Kiss’ overtake), JEV stormed past Grosjean and then Magnussen to take a valuable point, despite being slapped with some post race penalties.
Next up is Brazil, one of the classic F1 tracks. It’s sure to be a thrilling race, and if you’re quick, you could still grab the last few tickets to join us at out Brazilian GP Badger Bash! Watching the race in a bar with a Cinema screen with us, 100 other F1 fans, and complimentary doughnuts? What’s not to like?