The first of three USA races in this year’s Formula 1 calendar started off with elated apprehension but the excitement of competitive racing soon wore off.
Qualifying seemed to set the scene for an exciting battle with Sergio Perez (Redbull) in pole, 2-time World Champion Fernando Alonso (Aston Martin) in second and Carlos Sainz Jr (Ferrari) in third.
Back-to-Back current World Champion, Max Verstappen (Redbull) was away down in 9th, and 7-time World Champion Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) was even further down in 13th.
However, the biggest shock of qualifying was Kevin Magnussen (Haas) coming in at an impressive fourth place. The American-licensed team were having a barely note-worthy season up until Maggnusen’s impressive qualifying session.
It wasn’t happy news for all of the drivers, however, with Charles Leclerc (Ferrari) crashing out. His incident ended up qualifying early for everyone. It was majorly disappointing for the Monegasque driver who was on track for one of the fastest laps of the session.
Race day got off to a semi-cringeworthy start with driver introductions by LL Cool J. His words did not always seem appropriate with Esteban Ocon described as ‘Pierre Gasly’s childhood best friend’, and some drivers almost speed walking away from the lines of cheerleaders.
Will.i.am even conducted a 40-piece orchestra. Either way, it was very American, with pyrotechnics, pizzaz and all-around USA extravagance. The drivers seemed to have very mixed reactions to this sort of thing, but most seemed to concede that while these fanfare presentations were now becoming a big part of F1, they shouldn’t be regular. They should be spread across the racing calendar as well, not just something done for the American fans. Maybe non-American parades would be less extreme?
Verstappen Speeds Ahead
The race itself passed without much fanfare. Unsurprisingly, Perez’s Redbull quickly extended his lead and was already 1.261 seconds ahead of Alonso by Lap 3. Things didn’t go so well for local driver, Logan Sargeant, in the Williams car. Born in Fort Lauderdale, only 24 miles from Miami, Sargeant started in the 20th but a long pit stop solidified his last-place finish.
The track really came alive with Max Verstappen. He completed demonstrated the capabilities of Redbull’s car and the absolute talent of his driving. By Lap 6, he was up to 6th after initially losing a place at lights out. Verstappen even overtook Leclerc (Ferrari) and Magnussen on Lap 4 while the pair were too busy fighting each other.
A Fight for the Win
By Lap 15, the Dutch driver was up into second place, with only his teammate in front. Fans were beginning to feel the tension as Perez and Verstappen had only six points between them at the start of the Grand Prix. If Perez won, he would move into championship position.
The true battle came down to the last few laps with Perez and Verstappen neck and neck. The current World Champion was in the lead by Lap 34 but still had not pitted. Even with factoring in a pit stop, by Lap 43, Verstappen would come out of the pits only half a second behind Perez so needed to extend his advantage as much as possible.
The tension continued to build after Verstappen finally pitted on Lap 46 (an impressive feat on medium tyres), and came out only 1.2 seconds behind his teammate. The hunt was on, with only 11 Laps of the race left to go.
However, within two laps, Verstappen had done and swiftly overtook Perez. His teammate did well, defending on both turn 16 and 17 but the DRS was too much to hold off. Verstappen held onto his lead and was out of DRS range by Lap 50. An impressive drive by the current Championship leader and it’s no surprise that Max Verstappen was also voted Driver of the Day by the fans.
Disappointment for Hamilton
Elsewhere, Hamilton managed a modest sixth-place finish after his shocking qualifying session and starting in 13th. It’s disappointing to see the Mercedes driver fall so far, especially as the 7-time world champion still has so much left to offer.
The lack of performance makes one wonder how long the British driver will stay in Formula 1 and why Mercedes has lost their winning streak. Their car is nowhere near what the performance fans are used to seeing, especially after dominating the teams up until 2021. Many are left to wonder how they have managed to fall so far.
The checkered flag waves and it’s another 1-2 for Redbull, making it their fourth of the season.
Fernando Alonso joins them on the podium, after finishing in third for Aston Martin. Despite Mercedes’ initial disappointments, both their drivers finished in the top ten. George Russell finished fourth, two places ahead of his teammate. Verstappen seemed especially satisfied with his performance.
However, a virtually uneventful race isn’t always entertaining and fans can be left disappointed. Redbull’s dominance is unparalleled this year but Aston Martin is holding their own. Will we see a proper title fight this year, or will Redbull completely sweep the points?
After the cancellation of the Emila-Ramagona Grand Prix due to deadly floods, Brig would like to extend their thoughts to everyone affected.
Here is how the standings look, and catch the next race in Monaco on 26th-28th May.
Featured Image Credit: F1
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