Lewis Hamilton clinches F1 championship
Texas rain provides thrills and spills at the US Grand Prix
If you haven’t had a chance to see the 2015 United States Grand Prix (held last Sunday), I implore you to put down this paper immediately and watch the replay as soon as humanly possible. If you’ve never watched a Formula 1 race before, this would be a pretty great place to start. The excitement started when the green flag dropped, and didn’t end until Elton John finished his podium interview (in a black and gold tracksuit, no-less).
The teams and drivers arrived in Austin, Texas to sheets of rain on Thursday. Both practice sessions were soaking wet, and qualifying was completely rained out on Saturday. This left fans chuckling as the teams stayed amused by dancing in the rain while their cars sat half-assembled in the garages. Highlights included a breakdancing Force India mechanic, and a slow waltz between the two Red Bull drivers.
Despite the poor start to the weekend, Sunday dawned with that type of greasy, sort-of-rainy-but-not-quite weather that Formula 1 fans pray for. They say that rain is a great equalizer in motorsport. When the track is wet, the car’s top speed stops mattering, and all that matters is which driver is willing to dive further into the corner before touching the brake. Rain takes what is typically a mechanical competition, and makes it about the drivers’ cojones instead.
At the start of the race, the circuit was wet enough to require treaded tires, but dry enough in some sections to allow for overtaking maneuvers. Hamilton (Great Britain, Mercedes) immediately proved this point by squeezing his teammate, Nico Rosberg (Germany), wide into the first corner, and finding a way past. Although this type of starting maneuver is typical for Hamilton, what followed was anything but typical. Over the first third of the race, all four Mercedes and Red Bull cars diced for the lead constantly, keeping the pressure high and never allowing the leader to break away. A four-way scrap for the lead? I was already in heaven, and we weren’t even ten laps into the race.
The lead being challenged was an ongoing theme during the race. It seemed that every time someone (usually Hamilton or Rosberg) would start pulling away, someone in the backfield would crash and bring out the safety car, bunching everyone back up again. While the race was punctuated by spectacular spills, the wheel-to-wheel racing was fairly clean, and most accidents were single-car errors brought on by the wet track. Unfortunately, we would run out of ink before I could finish an accurate play-by-play of the action, so I will simply recap some of the more unbelievable moments:
I would be remiss if I did not congratulate McLaren drivers Jenson Button (Great Britain) and Fernando Alonso (Spain) for finishing sixth and eleventh, respectively, in a car that could be described as worthless. Button even pulled off a double-overtake, temporarily shutting up those who have been calling for him to retire. Congratulations are also in order for young Max Verstappen (Netherlands), as the Toro Rosso driver managed to snatch fourth place only days after his eighteenth birthday. Verstappen drove like a veteran all race, and made some really nice moves to stick against the much quicker Ferraris. This kid really is something special, folks.
Kimi Räikkönen (Finland, Ferrari) took a big dive into the gravel, but somehow unstuck his car and plodded back to the pits before retiring a few laps later due to the damage. Also retired from the race were Daniil Kvyat (Russia, Red Bull), Nico Hulkenberg (Germany, Force India), Marcus Ericsson (Sweden, Sauber), Felipe Massa (Brazil, Williams), Romain Grosjean (France, Lotus), Valtteri Bottas (Finland, Williams), and Will Stevens (Great Britain, Marussia).
Sunday also represented the first time in years that an American driver has entered the United States Grand Prix. In the tragically-slow Marussia, Alexander Rossi managed to secure twelfth position on his home turf. While the fact that everybody behind failed to finish might take some of the wind out of his celebrations, congratulations are still in order to the young American for finishing a dangerous, slippery race.
At the end of the day, Hamilton managed to secure both the race win, and enough points to clinch his third World Drivers Championship. The entire emotional spectrum was visible on the podium as Hamilton choked back tears while Rosberg visibly seethed with anger and frustration.
This race was filled with changing weather, changing leads, and changing strategies, but the entire time I knew that I was witnessing something truly special. Races like this are incredibly rare, so do yourself a favour and watch this one.