Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Circuit of the Americas, 2016

Hamilton masters Austin again for vital win

2016 United States Grand Prix reviewPosted on | Author Keith Collantine

Lewis Hamilton responded to the trials of Sepang and Suzuka in emphatic fashion at the Circuit of the Americas, winning a race he never looked like losing.

The 31-year-old Briton has a deep affection for the United States and it continues to repay him in kind. Of the six occasions he’s raced in America he’s now won five times, four of which have come at Austin’s superb modern F1 facility.

But the damage he was able to inflict on team mate Nico Rosberg’s championship lead was negated by a stroke of fortune for his team mate.

Ricciardo gets Rosberg at the start

Start, Circuit of the Americas, 2016
Ricciardo split the Mercedes drivers
Reliability aside, starts have been the other great grievance of Hamilton’s 2016 championship campaign. Having only converted pole position into the lead from a standing start twice this season prior to Sunday, the pressure to get it right this time was immense.

Hamilton had laboured long at the Mercedes factory to get away cleanly, and he did. The number 44 Mercedes captured the inside line for turn one, obliging Rosberg to use the outside line, and opening the door for Daniel Ricciardo to take advantage.

With both Mercedes drivers starting on the soft tyres, Ricciardo’s super-soft-shod Red Bull was ideally placed to out-drag Rosberg on the plunge towards turn two. Behind him Kimi Raikkonen used the same advantage to pass Max Verstappen, while Sebastian Vettel followed the pair of them.

The immediate question was how long the super-soft tyres would last. The answer came as early as lap eight when Ricciardo headed for the pits. Crucially, most of his rivals reacted to that move.

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Rosberg plays the waiting game

Nico Rosberg, Mercedes, Circuit of the Americas, 2016
Rosberg spent most of the race on mediums
Knowing Rosberg couldn’t jump Ricciardo at this first stop, Mercedes put him on medium tyres in the hope of extending his middle stint and giving him better-performing tyres at the end of the race. He came in two laps after the Red Bull and Hamilton the lap after that, the race leader sticking to the preferred strategy of two stints on the soft rubber.

Raikkonen had followed Ricciardo in on lap eight, and as Verstappen stopped on the next lap he emerged behind the Ferrari. Raikkonen had to pass Jenson Button and did so in the DRS zone approaching turn 12. But Verstappen wasn’t that patient when he came to do the same. Improbably, he sliced up the inside of the McLaren entering turn six, and pressed on in pursuit of Raikkonen.

By lap 13 he was with his rival and approaching turn 12 Verstappen jinked his car to the left, braked deep and late and took the Ferrari. Now Vettel, who had stayed out later than the other front runners, finally made his pit stop, so the order was Hamilton from Ricciardo, Rosberg, Verstappen and the Ferraris led by Raikkonen.

Verstappen had to be restrained from going after Rosberg too aggressively: he was over-taxing his tyres and the pursuit of the Mercedes looked optimistic. Verstappen was game, however, telling his team on the radio he wasn’t content to settle for fourth.

Verstappen costs Ricciardo second

Max Verstappen, Red Bull, Circuit of the Americas, 2016
Verstappen passed Raikkonen before retiring
Ferrari aimed to gain Raikkonen’s place back with a three-stop strategy, which they converted to on lap 24 by bringing him in for a set of super-softs. Soon afterwards Red Bull told Verstappen to up his pace, but he mistakenly believed he was being called in and pitted.

He lost around 12 seconds while the team scrambled to ready tyres for him. And soon after he went on his way came a fresh blow: his car jammed in gear at the far end of the circuit, the Red Bull rolling along at pathetic speeds as his rivals screamed by.

This was a double dilemma for the team, as Ricciardo had already made his final pit stop from second place. If Verstappen triggered a Virtual Safety Car period by parking that would allow Rosberg to make his final stop while losing less time and keep his place ahead of Ricciardo.

Despite the team’s efforts, this is exactly what happened. Verstappen parked close to an access point but found he couldn’t put his car into neutral, allowing it to be quickly cleared away. The VSC was therefore initiated, Rosberg headed for the pits and Mercedes, knowing he would easily come out in front of Ricciardo, could even afford to put him on another set of mediums.

With that the contest for the podium places was finished. Raikkonen’s race ended in the most humdrum of ways when the team fluffed his pit stop, allowing the car to drag a wheel gun with it, and had to tell him to stop as the wheel hadn’t been attached properly. They were fined $5,000 for the error.

That left Vettel in an unchallenged fourth place. Despite their bad experience with Raikkonen, Ferrari risked another pit stop for Vettel to put him on super-softs for the final three laps. Unsurprisingly, the fastest lap went to him by almost two seconds.

Alonso wins fight for fifth

Fernando Alonso, McLaren, Circuit of the Americas, 2016
Alonso had a run-in with Massa
A tense scrap for fifth place provided great drama over the final laps. Carlos Sainz Jnr, who worked wonders on Saturday to get his underpowered Toro Rosso into the top ten, had also benefitted from the VSC and got ahead of Felipe Massa. While he tried to balance his desire to pass Sainz with the need to score points towards Williams’ constructors’ title fight, he had the added complication of Fernando Alonso edging closer in the McLaren.

The straight-line speed advantage of Massa’s Mercedes engine ruled out an attack at turn 12 from Alonso, so he got creative. An opportunistic lunge at turn 15 go him inside the Williams, and as Massa turned in the pair made contact and ran wide. Alonso claimed the place, and the stewards later ruled it had been a racing incident.

But Alonso wasn’t done. His next target was Sainz who, knowing the Honda is now at least a match for his year-old Ferrari power unit, reckoned it was inevitable Alonso would get through. Even with the benefit of DRS Alonso ran wide at turn 12 as he prised fifth from Sainz’s hands. Nonetheless the Toro Rosso driver was justifiably jubilant to equal the best result of his career.

Massa had enough of an margin for his deflating front tyre not to cost him seventh place. Sergio Perez limited the damage for Force India after team mate Nico Hulkenberg tangled with Valtteri Bottas on the first lap.

Perez had also been assaulted from behind by Daniil Kvyat at the start, the Toro Rosso driver copping a penalty for his error. Kvyat was the beneficiary of another penalty, however, as Kevin Magnussen was docked five seconds for overtaking Kvyat off the track. However Kvyat remained point-less after being promoted to 11th behind Button and Romain Grosjean, the latter snagging a point for Haas in their home race.

Hamilton losing the war

As Hamilton’s rivals gave him nothing to worry about he instead spent the race fretting over his power unit. But unlike in Sepang it held until he claimed his 50th grand prix victory.

But while Hamilton won the battle of Austin he’s still losing the war. Despite taking his seventh victory of the year he remains more than a win’s-worth of points behind Rosberg.

And now there are only three races left.

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Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Circuit of the Americas, 2016
Hamilton claimed his seventh victory of 2016

31 comments on “Hamilton masters Austin again for vital win”

  1. So was Rosberg fighting for second place all along? It doesn’t sound like a good strategy if you are lucky to finish second after starting from P2 in the Mercedes.

    1. All Rosberg has to do is keep finishing second and it

      1. ITS a wrap..I can’t see Lewis winning this title unless Rosberg has a mechanical failure or a crash.

        Damn phone.

      2. Man, then they really planned to finish second even before the start. I haven’t done the math, but you can’t guarantee you’ll always finish at least second. Though it’s pretty safe in this case, but still, anything could happen, and then you can end up just a few points short.

    2. It looked like Rosberg knew his best chance of getting past Hamilton was at the start so he positioned his car then tried to cut to the outside, unfortunately he lost a place so after that it was just a matter of ensuring a safe second. No point risking pushing too hard for first at this stage.

      1. Yeah, true. And maybe they were also taking it relatively easy with the car.

  2. Possibly.

    Without the VSC Rosberg would probably have come out behind Ricciardo but with fresher tyres, it would have been a good fight to the finish. Rosberg would have the quicker car and fresher tyres but would also be very careful to make sure he finished.

    We were also robbed of another fight as Kimi had to retire, he would have had a chance to catch his team-mate as Vettel had a problem with his rear wing.

    1. Yeah he touched lucky on that one. Still a uphill climb for Lewis. Rosberg has the upper hand mentally knowing all he needs is second from here on in.

  3. Well,dt wz a Gud drive 4rm lewis..bt dt win won’t count mch as in d nxt remaining 3 racz,al Nico haz 2 do is 2 tke 2nd,2nd n 3rd plc.Who knws, Nico myt actly go on2 win d remaining racz lyk last yr.Mreovr, i reckn dt Nico hz bn mch stngr dn Lewis in doz circuits of Mexico, Brazl,n Abu Dhabi.Unlz sme mechncl disastr or engne failre hits Nico, I dn’t see in anywy Lewiz hamprng d odds of Nico 4 2016 WDC.

    1. Reading your english gave me a headache.

    2. w8 a mo.. spelt abu d B innt?

    3. Wait guys, I got this. I can translate this lazy mess.

      Well, that was a good drive from Lewis… But that win won’t count much as in the remaining three races, all Nico has to do is to finish 2nd, 2nd and 3rd place. Who knows, Nico might actually go on to win the remaining races like last year. Moreover, i reckon that Nico has been much stronger than Lewis in the circuits of Mexico, Brazil, and Abu Dhabi. Unless some mechanical disaster or engine failure hits Nico, I don’t see in anyway Lewis can overturn the odds of a Nico win for the 2016 WDC.

    4. Doesn’t it take longer to type like that instead of using the actual words? Like how do you decide which letters will be replaced by a ‘y’ and which one you leave out?

      1. IKR! IDK…

      2. Lol. Also it must have been big fight with autocorrect :)

    5. Please don’t post again, ever.

  4. Isn’t it ironic that we saw so much overtaking today that was worse than Verstappen’s defending?

    1. Yes, but it wasn’t as dangerous.

      1. So far Verstappen’s defending’s ‘danger’ has been purely hypothetical whereas multiple drivers had their race ruined today by bad overtaking. We’re solving the wrong problem, people can’t overtake anymore.

    2. There isn’t really a connection. The accident that late blocking risks is launching a car when a front wheel connects tread-to-tread with a rear wheel, like Webber/Kovalainen in Valencia or Alonso/Guteirrez in Oz, or Nakajima/Kobayashi in Brazil (not that they were all deliberate). Bumping and paint-swapping is a different thing altogether. This is why the F1 drivers feel strongly about it.

    3. Actually you saw ‘so much overtaking’ and late dives up the inside because the drivers have more confidence to do that knowing that someone isn’t going to do a ‘Ves’ on them. I actually think the new rule encourages overtaking and makes for a better spectacle.

  5. F1 regulations should tell:

    Virtual Safety Car (VSC): must be employed when Lewis Hamilton is leading the race, otherwise normal Safety Car will be used

    1. Even though the VSC gifted Rosberg 2nd place anyway? Nice logic buddy.

  6. VSC gifted Hamilton win, and is not the 1st time. Rosberg should be 2nd anyway (or maybe 1st), as he had Medium and coulg go til 40th lap, opening gap to Ricciardo before his last stop and mounting soft tires. VSC happened right at the time Lewis had to stop…
    Wich race did you see?

    1. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
      24th October 2016, 13:52

      @frk I thought it was strange that Mercedes put Rosberg on the medium and Hamilton on the soft. We’ve seen them “handicap” Hamilton by putting him on the same tyre or denying him better tyres if he pits with 10 laps at the end of the race. I wonder if they expected the tyre to be slower but discovered it was as quick. Given the fact that Hamilton’s car was slower, this could have played to Rosberg’s advantage and he could have overtaken Hamilton.

      I’m getting the impression that Rosberg is only fighting Hamilton’s bad luck while Hamilton is fighting bad luck, bad reliability, his team’s strange decisions and finally Rosberg’s ability. It’s a really tough championship for Hamilton – an easy one for Rosberg but amazingly Hamilton is still hanging in there. Any other driver who had to face what Hamilton has would be out of contention months ago. Rossi is the only one who fights like Hamilton does in racing but he’s on motorcycles.

      1. @freelittlebirds Mercedes decided to split strategies, so Hamilton would use the mediums only in the final stint, while Rosberg would use them in the middle stint. Because of the VSC both had to stop earlier than planned and the only suitable tire at that moment was the medium tire, which crippled Rosberg’s strategy. He was lucky to jump Ricciardo of course, but without the VSC the race would have been much more interesting I guess. I don’t even know if the VSC was really needed.

        1. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
          24th October 2016, 21:41

          @f1infigures Yeah I just haven’t seen Mercedes split strategies much before. It was only to give Nico P2 which to be honest he could have gotten with the same strategy as Lewis. In fact getting P2 for Nico makes the races boring because Lewis can’t win with 4 P1 and 4 P2 positions and he’s only losing because of the team. They picked a great time to make a good call for Nico and a call that could have put Lewis behind Nico and unable to overtake…

      2. @ Michael: first of all thanks for replying me with kindness and excuse my english. I’m not a Rosberg fan, i’m not a fan at all, i simply follow F1 since 30 years and i like to make my own idea. I don’t hate Hamilton, I was extatic for his debut and i sincerely thought he deserved the title in his 1st season.
        That said, i see a completely different situation. Hamilton benefitted of Mercedes favour since his first season with them, in 2013. Rosberg made years-long development only to see Mercedes taking Hamilton, paying him a lot more money, when the car was starting to become competitive. 2014 was a nightmare for Rosberg. What Mercedes did to him after Spa was disgusting: they blamed him publically and the whole press crucified him. Rosberg had to leave the win to Hamilton in Monza, and then he had to retire in Singapore due to “extraneous substance” causing a short-circuit… Another technical issue in Abu Dhabi finished the job: Mercedes had “reserved” that title to Hamilton. Nobody talked of “conspiracy” at that time. Strange thing.
        This year, aversion of Mercedes against Rosberg was even more clear. They blocked him 3-4 seconds more then the penalty in Germany. They gifted Hamilton 3 extra engines in Spa. They caused Rosberg penalty in UK giving him instructions over the radio (strange thing in Baku they correctly remembered it was forbidden and refused to give instructions to Hamilton). They never appealed penalties given to Rosberg, despite them being more than questionable. But they immediately complained to FIA against Verstappen blocking Hamilton in Japan, quitting only for Hamilton’s decision (applause to him for that!).
        Signs that Mercedes prefers Hamilton to win titles are literally hundreds, but press and audience seems not to see them, and this is the reason i don’t like fans at all, whether they are on the bleachers or at TV microphone or sitting on a chair at Mercedes.

        1. Rosberg made years-long development only to see Mercedes taking Hamilton

          To be fair when Rosberg joined Merc in 2010 the outfit was the current World Constructor Champion. Its not like he joined HRT.

          2014 was a nightmare for Rosberg. What Mercedes did to him after Spa was disgusting: they blamed him publically and the whole press crucified him.

          Interesting, care to supply any links on that? It was a while ago now but my impression is Mercedes were very careful to not publicly blame either driver. I tried searching for something to back up your statement but it is admittedly hard to find results, especially after further incidents in Spain and Austria. I did find this though where Toto seemed to be at pains not to blame Nico even though Ted’s questioning was clearly trying to lead him down that path

          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FfqFR-Hm5mM

          Rosberg had to leave the win to Hamilton in Monza, and then he had to retire in Singapore due to “extraneous substance” causing a short-circuit… Another technical issue in Abu Dhabi finished the job: Mercedes had “reserved” that title to Hamilton. Nobody talked of “conspiracy” at that time. Strange thing.

          It would be odd for people to talk about conspiracy given the problems Hamilton had already faced that season. Keith did an article on this very site that went through the reliability for the 2 drivers over the season and found that it really hadn’t made a difference to the overall championship. Also are you actually suggesting the Merc didnt allow Rosberg to win in Monza/Singapore? Because that is too far into tin foil hat territory for my liking.

          This year, aversion of Mercedes against Rosberg was even more clear. They blocked him 3-4 seconds more then the penalty in Germany. They gifted Hamilton 3 extra engines in Spa. They caused Rosberg penalty in UK giving him instructions over the radio (strange thing in Baku they correctly remembered it was forbidden and refused to give instructions to Hamilton). They never appealed penalties given to Rosberg, despite them being more than questionable.

          -It wasn’t Mercedes fault Rosberg had the penalty, and it isn’t the first time they have made a mistake where timing and pitstops are concerned (see Monaco 2015)
          – They didn’t gift him anything. You really have to be bias against Hamilton to think that Hamilton having 2 turbo failures and then having to start from the back of the grid in a third race is Mercedes favouring him (unless you dont understand what the word favouring means).
          -Hamilton and Rosberg have different race engineers. You can easily chalk that up to one of them making a mistake.
          -Which penalties do you think they could have questioned?

          Signs that Mercedes prefers Hamilton to win titles are literally hundreds

          Really? Because if there are literally hundreds how come you have failed to post a credible one yet? I have yet to see a believable sign that the team favours either driver (presumably because they dont).

    2. VSC gifted Hamilton win

      Hahahahaha no.

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