United States GP Analysis: Hamilton hits back

Lewis Hamilton claimed an easy win in Austin on Sunday, one that could revitalise his diminishing championship charge.

United States GP Analysis: Hamilton hits back
Lewis Hamilton claimed his fifth US victory. | Photo: Getty Images/Peter J Fox

Last Sunday's United States Grand Prix was a must-win for Lewis Hamilton. With his championship hopes hanging by a thread, the whole weekend went as hoped for the three times World Champion, apart from the fact that his bitter rival Nico Rosberg finished five seconds behind him, in second.

Hamilton reaches 50

In his tenth season in the sport, Lewis Hamilton could finally celebrate his half tonne of wins. And moreover, he achieved the feat in a country he's dominated at since 2007. He joined Ayrton Senna and Michael Schumacher on five wins in the United States. Additionally, it marks his 10th win in North America.

Although as easy as he made it seem, it was anything but. Fearing the worst after his retirement from the lead in Malaysia, Hamilton revealed post-race that he was "petrified" of another failure, that would've all but sealed the title for Rosberg.

"I couldn't get my mind off the reliability issue," Hamilton told Sky Sports. "I was petrified the whole race. I am haunted by the sound l heard in Malaysia. It weighed heavy throughout the whole race."

The win means that Hamilton now trails Rosberg by 26 points, but can afford no more barren runs - Sunday's triumph was the 31-year-old's first since the German Grand Prix in July.

Rosberg can wrap up the championship in Mexico this weekend with a win, albeit if Hamilton finishes 10th or lower. With Mercedes only having finished a full race distance outside the points once, courtesy of Rosberg's 14th placed finish in Abu Dhabi in 2014 - the occurrence seems unlikely. But, as shown in Malaysia, the W07 can sometimes be anything but reliable.

Hamilton's first win came in North America, at Canada in 2007. | Getty Images/Clive Mason
Hamilton's first win came in North America, at Canada in 2007. | Getty Images/Clive Mason

Haas' happy homecoming

For the first time since 1986, a United States Grand Prix had an American team on the entry list. Haas marked the occasion with their first points finish in nine races, again courtesy of Romain Grosjean - the team's only points scorer this year, on his 100th Grand Prix start, no less. The underwhelming Esteban Gutierrez registered his fourth retirement of the year.

In fairness to the Mexican, had brake problems not curtailed his afternoon, that battle for the last of the points paying positions between the two would have been enthralling. But for now, he still has nothing to show for his three F1 seasons.

Haas scored points on their home debut. | Photo: Getty Images
Haas scored points on their home debut. | Photo: Getty Images

An impressive event

The new home of the United States Grand Prix announced a record attendance for Saturday and Sunday, the number standing at 269,889 for the two days. It makes a welcome change from other recently added venues that have tried and failed to hold interest beyond their inaugural races.

This week, the Malaysian government expressed their reluctant interest to cancel their Grand Prix, an event that has become a staple of the calendar since its introduction in 1999. This is due to hard financial times for the country, and waning attendances - despite Petronas being Mercedes' main sponsor, and having seen three different constructors win the the first three years of the new V6 turbo era; the only other track to see that is the Hungaroring.

Ferrari's costly mistake

In another shambolic weekend for the Scuderia, Kimi Raikkonen's bizarre retirement on lap 40 has been met with a €5,000 fine for an unsafe release.

The stewards report, released moments after the race declared this:

"Car 7 was released in an unsafe condition.

The car was released before all the mechanics had finished fitting all wheels correctly, As the car was not classified a fine is imposed."

The panel consisted of Paul Gutjahr, Silvia Bellot, Dennis Dean and former F1 driver and pundit, Mark Blundell.

Whilst this may be mere pocket change for Ferrari, it's another mistake to add to the unwanted collection book of mishaps in 2016, a year in which Red Bull have charged back at the Italian giants to take second place in the Constructors' standings. Although Sebastian Vettel drove well to secure a fourth placed result, Daniel Ricciardo's third for the Austrian team sees the gap stand at 53 points. With Mercedes' hot favourites to claim six podium spots in the last three races, the battle for second looks to be all but confirmed.

Kimi Raikkonen had a race to forget. | Photo: Getty Images/Lars Baron
Kimi Raikkonen had a race to forget. | Photo: Getty Images/Lars Baron

Red Bull's parking fine

Not a monetary fine to speak of, but Max Verstappen's retirement prompted a Virtual Safety Car that inadvertently (one would hope) hampered Ricciardo's race, with Mercedes calling Rosberg into the pits at the same time as Hamilton under the VSC, and this enabled the championship leader to leapfrog the usually smiling Australian.

Honorary Texan Ricciardo's radio during the race was hardly complimentary, saying to race engineer Simon Rennie:

"Let me know about Rosberg's times. I'd love to catch that motherf****r."

Verstappen defended his actions.

"I could have [stopped]. But the team told me to keep on going," he explained to Sky Sports. "And at one point they decided, Max, stop the car."

The Dutchman endured a trying race, before grinding to an inconvenient halt on lap 30, with a transmission problem cited as the cause for retirement. Two laps prior to the end of his race, the teenager mistook a call to pit in, leaving his mechanics caught by complete surprise at the sight of a car in the box.

Verstappen watches on. | Photo: Getty Images/Lars Baron
Verstappen watches on. | Photo: Getty Images/Lars Baron

Not so civil warfare

Another day, another story about Renault's potential driver lineup for 2017. This time it was the two men currently occupying the seats that caused all the noise, with Kevin Magnussen and Jolyon Palmer seemingly fighting to stay in the remaining seat alongside Nico Hulkenberg.

The two drivers were embroiled in a tense battle in the midfield, with both being asked to yield to one another at differing points in the race. The calls fell on deaf ears. Magnussen ended up finishing in 11th, with Palmer back in 15th.

Rumours say that Magnussen is the favourite to stay on, however Managing Director Cyril Abiteboul is adamant that the decision will be based on the final standings. All to play for. Or is it?

Kevin Magnussen is favourite to keep the second Renault seat. | Photo: Getty Images/Mark Thompson
Kevin Magnussen is favourite to keep the second Renault seat. | Photo: Getty Images/Mark Thompson