Formula One returned to Austin in much sunnier circumstances for 2016. Lewis Hamilton stormed to victory while team-mate Rosberg played the championship game, they were joined by Daniel Ricciardo on the podium; Gerard Butler falling victim to the worst ‘shoey’ so far.
Controversially Max Verstappen walked away with the official ‘driver of the day’ award despite retiring after completely messing up his pit-stop. Here at BadgerGP we’ve chosen to give it to another of Red Bull’s alumni who really was deserving of such plaudits, step forward…
Carlos Sainz has been frustratingly underrated so far in 2016. He’s handily shown Daniil Kvyat how to bounce back from disappointment – Sainz was overlooked in favour of Max Verstappen for Red Bull promotion back in Spain, and his level of consistency for a twenty-two-year-old has been nothing short of remarkable.
Let’s not forget that this year’s Toro Rosso car is powered by a year old Ferrari engine that has seen little, if any, development since Melbourne. Yet Sainz thrust his car into Q3 in qualifying ahead of Sergio Perez’s Mercedes-powered Force India, both McLaren-Hondas and Esteban Gutierrez’s 2016 Ferrari powered Haas. Team-mate Kvyat languished down in 13th.
Pundits all over the paddock expected Sainz to drop down the order like a stone once the race settled down after a rather chaotic start. He didn’t. Instead, he fought tooth and nail with his rivals including Jenson Button and Felipe Massa.
His defence from Massa lap after lap was nothing short of brilliant, more so given the Mercedes power Massa had at his disposal. The tussle between the pair brought Fernando Alonso back into play and he quickly ‘touring car’d’ his way past the Williams.
For Sainz this was a dream come true. Alonso had been his childhood hero when he was winning championships with Renault; now here he was battling him fair and square for fifth place in an inferior car.
Sainz held on gallantly for a few laps before Alonso finally muscled his way by in a slightly less aggressive manner than he deployed on Massa. Sainz’s tyres had seemingly given up after all those laps defending from Massa himself.
He still managed to finish a fantastic sixth, five places ahead of Kvyat who had been given a ten-second time penalty earlier in the race for causing a collision with Perez.
Sainz has incredibly good race craft mixed with strong and consistent pace. It’s baffling that he isn’t in a top seat yet. If Alonso really does leave F1 at the end of next season McLaren would do well to hire young Carlos…
…but for now, congratulations on being our US Grand Prix TOP DOG!