Six things we learned from the US Grand Prix

Adriaan Slabbert Adriaan Slabbert

Formula 1 visited the Circuit of the Americas in the US state of Texas last weekend for yet another instalment of an epic 2017 season.

A thrilling race ensued, with Lewis Hamilton continuing his dominant form to claim yet another victory and all but secure a fourth world title. However, matters weren’t as straightforward as they may have appeared, and there were several things to learn from Formula 1’s stateside visit.

Masterful Mercedes take their place in history
With their P1 (Lewis Hamilton) and P5 (Valtteri Bottas) finish in the USA, Mercedes secured a fourth consecutive World Constructor’s Championship title, wrapping up the silverware in style with three races to spare. After utterly dominating from 2014 to 2016, the German manufacturer were pressed a little harder in 2017, but still displayed all the quality of champions to create yet another piece of history. The Mercedes W08 is, by the team’s own admission, “a bit of a diva”, but it has sung on key more often than not this year.

Apart from their strong package, Mercedes have displayed reliability, speed of development and operational efficiency in abundance, and they are quite clearly a cut above their rivals at this point. The German outfit have now equalled Red Bull’s run of four titles from 2010 to 2013, and will now turn their attention to equalling the incredible dominance of Ferrari, the Italian team having amassed six consecutive Constructor’s Championships from 1999 to 2004. Based on the quality of the Mercedes team, you wouldn’t bet against them coming close to matching the Italians.

Check…mate.

Lewis Hamilton has tightened his grip on the title race in recent races, and was already the firm favourite to add another championship to his collection before last weekend’s race. Before the wheels started turning, the Briton likened the title battle to a game of chess, insisting that while he had Vettel at “check”, he was not yet assured of victory. In Austin, that changed. Hamilton produced a top-class weekend, and apart from losing the lead to Vettel for a few laps, made no mistakes on race day. The Mercedes man now leads the German by 66 points with only 75 points left to play for, making it all but inevitable that he will wrap up a well-earned fourth title sooner rather than later. A P5 finish next time out in Mexico will make Hamilton’s triumph official, and even if he fails at the next attempt, he will still have two more races to secure the required points, no matter what Vettel does.

Verstappen brings his A-game
Max Verstappen had it all to do during Sunday’s race after being forced to start from P16, having incurred an engine penalty due to power unit component changes. The Dutch youngster was undeterred by the challenge and set about his business with his usual mixture of aggression and admirable flair. Aided by a smart strategy from his Red Bull team, Verstappen scythed through the field and was soon mixing it up at the front of the pack.

A last-lap attack on Kimi Raikkonen for P3 was ultimately unsuccessful, as the stewards judged that the Dutchman had gained an unfair advantage by leaving the circuit to pass the Ferrari. Replays suggested that their verdict was accurate, as unfortunately, Verstappen had all four tyres a fair distance off the circuit as he zoomed past the Finn. Regardless, the Red Bull man was highly impressive all race long, and he will surely enjoy many visits to the podium in races to come. Verstappen continues to establish himself as the face of Formula 1’s future, and after the current top guns say their final goodbyes, the sport will be in talented hands.

Sainz delivers on debut
After a series of long-winded and complex negotiations, Carlos Sainz finally made his first start as a Renault driver last weekend, and the Spaniard wasted no time in repaying the faith put in him by the French team. Starting P8 on the grid, Sainz led the Renault charge, making steady progress, which included a highly impressive pass on Sergio Perez that could have ended in tears, but didn’t, due to the skill of both drivers.

The Spanish youngster earned himself a fully-deserved P7 finish, bagging 6 points for Renault on debut. Given the upward trajectory that the French manufacturer find themselves on, Sainz can look forward to more success in future, and with him and the well-regarded Nico Hülkenberg in charge of driving duties in 2018, Renault have reason for optimism. While Jolyon Palmer undoubtedly gave it his best effort during his time in the seat, the simple truth is that he was never on Hülkenberg’s level, and has been replaced by a driver who is, frankly, superior in all regards. Renault now have a driver line-up of real quality, and in Sainz, one of the names around which the sport will revolve in the decade to come.

Kvyat makes his case
After initially being dropped by Toro Rosso earlier in the year, Daniil Kvyat found himself back on the grid last weekend, with Carlos Sainz having departed to Renault, and Pierre Gasly away fighting for the Super Formula title. The Russian has seen his F1 career slowly fall to pieces after a series of unfortunate outcomes over the past 18 months, a good few of which were of his own making, but there is still a chance that he could drive for Toro Rosso in 2018.

In Austin, he did his chances of doing so no harm, producing a clean weekend and finishing in P10 after a solid race. It is unclear whether the Russian will receive another chance to state his case before the end of the year, but he has made the best of what may well have been his final opportunity at staying in the sport for next year. If only he had done so on more occasions when he was secure in his seat, matters might have been different for Kvyat. For now, however, it’s a case of wait-and-see as far as his future is concerned.

Job done for Hartley

For Brendon Hartley, it was always going to be difficult to be parachuted into a Toro Rosso race seat for an F1 debut in the middle of a season. However, the New Zealander made the best of his circumstances, staying out of trouble and crossing the line in P13. It was far from smooth sailing for the Kiwi, given that he exited Qualifying after the first round, but he can be pleased with his efforts given the manner in which the odds were stacked against him. There are even rumours that Hartley may have a shot at a 2018 race seat with Toro Rosso, but how credible those rumours are remains to be seen. All in all, however, even if Hartley never races an F1 car again, he can be hold his head high after his efforts in Austin.

Enjoy the full experience of the 2017 FIA Formula One season on FOX Sports Play, where you can catch LIVE races from angles unseen before, exclusive interviews, behind the scenes, in-depth analysis and so much more. Don’t miss it!

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