The inaugural United States Grand Prix at Austin, Texas was steeped in drama before the red lights went out, as Ferrari announced their intention to instruct Felipe Massa to take a deliberate five place grid penalty in order to ensure Fernando Alonso started from the clean side of the track. Having originally qualified in ninth place on the clean side, the Championship contender was moved up to eighth place as a result of a gear box penalty for Romain Grosjean. Although gaining a grid spot, it was widely believed that the dirty side of the track, and not being on the racing line, would counteract that gain. Ferrari’s decision saw Alonso move onto the racing line in seventh, from where he made a fire bolt start ending up in fourth on the exit from Turn 1.
Sebastian Vettel benefited from a lot of good luck in Abu Dhabi while Austin appeared to be looking favourably on Fernando Alonso. Having stayed positive all weekend about his chances, despite a a disappointing qualifying session, he was rewarded when Mark Webber retired from the race on lap 17 with an alternator problem. This gifted the Spaniard third place. By lap 11, Lewis Hamilton was gaining on Sebastian Vettel and by lap 35 he was only half a second behind. Vettel responded effectively by clocking up two purple laps, but was then held up by a back marker. Having to negotiate his way past Narain Karthikeyan gave Hamilton the opportunity to get into the DRS zone, then swoop past and snatch the lead. Hamilton had driven imperiously up to that point extracting everything he could out of his Mclaren in order to hunt down the leader. Alonso benefited from this development as it cut the points difference between himself and Vettel from twenty to thirteen, on which it now stands. Lewis’ win was well deserved and means fans will be treated to a final race thriller at Interlagos in Brazil, a track that can throw up the unexpected.
Although they didn’t manage to take the driver’s title, Red Bull did clinch their third consecutive Constructors crown in Austin, something they didn’t appear to be too enamored with. Despite following in the footsteps of Ferrari, Williams and McLaren, to be only the fourth team to have achieved this in the history of Formula One, it seemed clear that taking only one title in a season isn’t enough ‘winning’ for them.
For a track the driver’s had predicted a lack of overtaking opportunities at, the inaugural race at the Circuit of the America’s provided a spectacle in terms of skillful, fair overtaking manoeuvres. Jenson Button fought his way from thirteenth on the grid to finish fifth, making a fabulous overtake on Romain Grosjean for sixth on lap 39, followed by another on Kimi Raikkonen for fifth on lap 46. Elsewhere in the field, all moves made were of good quality, demonstrating fair and respectful racing.
Overall, the first Formula One race in the United States since 2007 was tremendously successful. A challenging track, facilitating first class racing may have cemented this much anticipated return.