8 things we learnt from the United States Grand Prix

Recap the United States Grand Prix with eight talking points from COTA.

Hamilton finally returned to his winning ways at the United States Grand Prix, having failed to finish on the top step of the podium since the summer break. But even with the 25-points, Rosberg can clinch his first Formula One title next time out in Mexico. After Verstappen’s retirement handed Rosberg Ricciardo’s second place.

Lewis Hamilton celebrates 2016 USGP victory. Copyright Mercedes AMG F1 Team

Lewis Hamilton celebrates 2016 USGP victory. Copyright Mercedes AMG F1 Team.

1) Hamilton gets back to winning ways

Since the German Grand Prix back in July, Hamilton has stood on the podium at every round bar the Malaysian Grand Prix. A race he was controlling, right up until his victory bound race came to a sudden halt with his engine on fire.

But for those four podiums, no victory was his. A run that saw his championship lead turn into a 33-point deficit to Rosberg.

In America, however, Hamilton broke his duck. Converting his ninth pole of the year into victory number seven of the year. The 50th victory in Formula One for the boy from Stevenage, 29th of which with Mercedes.

Opening lap of the 2016 USGP. Copyright Red Bull Racing

The opening lap of the 2016 USGP. Copyright Red Bull Racing.

2) Verstappen costs Ricciardo second place

After starting the race as the only man amongst the top four on supersoft tyres, Ricciardo gained second place from Rosberg at the start of the race and was controlling the position.

But after having come into the pits for what would be his final stop, a Virtual Safety Car for Verstappen’s Red Bull meant the two Mercedes drivers could stop for an effect free change of tyres.

The lack of lost time by coming into the pits under a VSC for Rosberg meant when he emerged from the pit-lane, Ricciardo remained in third position – the position he would end the race in.

Verstappen had been forced to retire from the USGP after a gearbox failure struck as he accelerated onto the back straight. He then attempted to return to the garage and passed many marshal points – but later parked at the side of the track at turn 17.

With the car stuck at T17, a VSC was needed to recover it. But Max parked there after orders from the team to initially continue.

“I could [have stopped earlier], but the team told me to keep on going, they said there is a serious issue.
“And then at one point they decided ‘OK Max, stop the car over there’.
“It was in neutral, but the car got stuck. You can press a button on the top [of the chassis] but that didn’t work.”

Lewis Hamilton walks away from his smoking car. Copyright Mercedes AMG F1 Team.

Lewis Hamilton walks away from his burning car at the 2016 Malaysian GP. Copyright Mercedes AMG F1 Team.

3) Hamilton lives in fear of reliability concerns

Having had victory snatched from his clutches in Malaysia, and then his fuel system changed over Friday night in America. Hamilton has admitted to concerns he had that his car would again fail during the United States Grand Prix.

It would not fail again, as things turned out, and Hamilton was able to claim his fifth Stateside victory. But only after Lewis controlled his pace with his own concerns raised.

“That was the longest afternoon I have had, I didn’t know if the car was going to make it – that was the biggest concern I had throughout the race,” Hamilton told Sky F1 following the race.
“I was petrified the whole race. I am haunted by the sound l heard in Malaysia. It weighed heavy throughout the whole race.
“There was a fuel system change and the unreliability which only we seem to have, so that plays on your mind. I was down on power compared to Nico.”

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Max Verstappen at the 2016 USGP. Copyright Red Bull Racing.

4) The ‘Verstappen’ gets banned

F1 race director, Charlie Whiting, has issued a clampdown on drivers moving under braking to form a defensive move.

The clampdown comes after a heated debate in the Friday drivers’ briefing. That saw some of F1’s biggest names come out and support the clampdown.

Across the course of the 2016 season, Verstappen’s wait-and-see defensive nature has come under regular scrutiny from drivers. With Max’s moves in Hungary on Raikkonen, in Belgium on Hamilton and in Japan on Lewis again the more notable occasions.

The one on Hamilton last time out in Japan particularly lead to the clampdown after Mercedes requested clarity on the situation that cost Lewis a shot at second place.

Whiting sent out a note to teams on Saturday prior to qualifying that stated how any movement under braking would be deemed a breach of regulations.

The note said: “Article 27.5 of the Sporting Regulations states that ‘…no car may be driven…in a manner which could be potentially dangerous to other drivers…’, furthermore, Article 27.8 prohibits any manoeuvre ‘…liable to hinder other drivers, such as…any abnormal change of direction’.”

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Nico Rosberg during the 2016 USGP. Copyright Mercedes AMG F1 Team.

5) Rosberg within touch of title glory

After coming home in Austin in second place, Rosberg goes on to Mexico with the Formula One title within touching distance.

Rosberg can win what would be his first Formula One Drivers’ World Championship title with victory in Mexico City. So long as Hamilton fails to finish or fails to score a single point.

Should Rosberg win the Mexican Grand Prix and Lewis fail to bring home a point, Nico will then hold a 51 point lead over Hamilton, with 50 points still to play for. Title Rosberg.

Furthermore, should Rosberg win and Hamilton scores a point in 10th place, the title would also be the German’s on the basis of Nico claiming more victories in 2016.

A Rosberg win at the Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez would be his 10th of the year, while Hamilton – even with victories in Brazil and Abu Dhabi – would only be able to claim nine.

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Jenson Button during the 2016 USGP. Copyright McLaren.

6) McLaren: From messed up quali to double points

Having looked strong in practice, Button’s time in qualifying came to an abrupt end in Q1. Knocked out early on as traffic meant his final sector was far from optimal.

But despite starting from 19th place, Jenson quickly made up places and was on the cusp of points by the end of the opening lap. Later moving up to ninth and scoring points for McLaren.

While Button made his way through the lower half of the field, Alonso was moving his McLaren further into the points as Verstappen and Raikkonen retired.

Finding himself in seventh place late on, before barging his way by Massa and eventually taking Sainz on the penultimate lap.

Fernando’s overtake on Massa, however, left him with a lingering investigation for causing a collision. As both drivers were taken off the road, and Massa left with a slow puncture, when Felipe and Fernando made wheel-to-wheel contact.

Alonso, though, escaped punishment as the stewards found “no driver was wholly or predominantly to blame for the collision.”

Nico Hulkenberg during the 2016 USGP. Copyright Force India

Nico Hulkenberg during the 2016 USGP. Copyright Force India.

7) Hulkenberg to Renault, Palmer to Force India?

With Renault confirming the acquisition of Nico Hulkenberg, after missing out on Sergio Perez, only one seat remains open at the French manufacturer. While another opens at Force India.

It is likely that Magnussen will be retained for a second season. But Renault still appears to be reaching out to drivers such as Ocon – however, his ties to Mercedes could prove the end of that road.

But should Magnussen be retained, or Ocon is signed, that leaves Palmer without a drive. While Force India now have a lucrative seat open.

Force India is currently in a battle with Williams for fourth in the constructors’ championship. A place that would guarantee the privateer team a profitable amount of money. But for their second seat, a driver who brings a budget will go a long way to secure them the drive.

As a result of the need for a driver with a budget, Felipe Nasr and the money he brings via his Brazilian sponsors puts him in an advantageous position for a switch from Sauber to Force India. But Palmer does bring a budget of his own, just not as large as Nasr’s financial support from Banco do Brasil.

Esteban Ocon also remains in the picture for the Force India seat.

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Daniil Kvyat with the Halo fitted for USGP practice. Copyright Toro Rosso.

9) Red Bull retain Kvyat for 2017

While seats remain open at Force India and Renault, Toro Rosso made the announcement that Daniil Kvyat will be retained for 2017. Meaning Toro Rosso’s driver line-up of Carlos Sainz and Kvyat is locked out for another year.

Kvyat had been sounded out by Force India following Renault singing Hulkenberg. But just three days after that news came out, news came out of Faenza that Toro Rosso’s “talented pair” were staying put in a “hands off” press release.

With Kvyat being resigned for another year, and Sainz’s future already confirmed, it means there is no seat at Toro Rosso for Pierre Gasly – the young Frenchman challenging for the 2016 GP2 title.

The 20-year-old Frenchman has since spoken of his surprise at Kvyat’s retention for another year.

“Of course, I was a bit surprised. Things were looking pretty good, and suddenly, everything went very quickly and they signed Daniil,” Gasly told Motorsport.com.
“I was a bit surprised and didn’t really understand why. That’s how it is. We know sometimes with Red Bull everything can go very quickly.
“We saw that with the decisions they made in the last two seasons. Now it’s done, so I need to move forward.”