The United States Grand Prix weekend wasn’t completely plain-sailing for Red Bull and Max Verstappen, but the now three-time champion was able to bring up his 50th Grand Prix victory at the Circuit of the Americas.
Much of the drama, however, occurred well after the chequered flag had been flown after Lewis Hamilton and Charles Leclerc were both disqualified from the race after both cars failed floor and plank wear inspections. Hamilton had finished second while pole sitter Leclerc finished sixth.
The news was finally confirmed some four hours after the race had finished, raising some questions on the length of time it takes the FIA’s lengthy post-session scrutinteering checks to take place.
Perhaps the biggest beneficiary of Hamilton’s and Leclerc's ejection from the race results was Williams’ Logan Sargeant, who was able to pick up his first point of the season in front of his home American crowd.
Let’s take a look at what else we learnt from the 2023 United States Grand Prix.
Sprint Saturdays starting to leave a sour taste
This season, of all seasons, has certainly taught us not to always expect the most thrilling of action at the front of the field, such has been Max Verstappen’s sheer dominance.
However, to want perhaps a little bit more of exciting action on a Saturday during Sprint weekends is not too unreasonable of a request.
Part of this problem stems from the stubbornness of Formula One’s leading teams. The majority of F1 fans would prefer to see sprint races operated in a reverse grid format, but the sport’s leading runners fail to agree on this for obvious, yet understandable sporting reasons.
Sprint races have, of course, produced some great moments, not least Oscar Piastri’s first F1 win last time out in Qatar, but it is hard to really argue that the shorter races have enhanced Formula One as a ‘show’, now that we have a larger sample size.
With the sport now fully committed to the sprint format though, it will be interesting to see how the powers that be continue to evolve Formula One’s newest innovation.
Ferrari falter once again
It never really felt that Leclerc was in the race having been passed by Lando Norris into the first turn on the opening lap. Sunday’s struggles were emblematic of the season for the Italian team who have been up there with Verstappen in many qualifying sessions, only to fall back dramatically in the race.
Tyre wear seems to be a big problem. The Ferrari appears to eat through its tyres at a much faster rate of knots than their direct competitors, which makes their choice to run Leclerc on a one-stop strategy a bit bizarre - and their choice to run Carlos Sainz on the softs during the sprint race even more bizarre.
It’s a challenging time for Ferrari who risk squandering one of the strongest driver pairings since the Schumacher days with their inability to provide a championship winning car as well as championship winning strategy.
Taking into account McLaren’s resurgence since mid-season, Ferrari look set to end the 2023 season third in the Constructor’s standings, with what it very much the fourth fastest car.
Time to speed up scrutineering
Disqualifications are nothing new in Formula One, even if they have become increasingly rare. Typically, there are no more than a small handful of disqualifications in a season nowadays.
What is very rare though is for two of the front runners to be disqualified for exactly the same issue at the same race. Thankfully, the verdicts will have little bearing on either championships, but it is perplexing nevertheless.
Arguably the biggest problem with post-race disqualifications is the impact on the race attending fans, many of whom will be travelling home when they learn that the result of the race has changed.
It could, perhaps, be in Formula One’s interest to expedite and/or slim down the heavily complex scrutineering process. Greater communication with fans is also needed. Word of Hamilton's and Leclerc’s troubles in Austin only became public knowledge through hastily created and shared press releases.
We’ll have to wait and see what the FIA does the next time this situation arises.
F1’s American Dream is realised
18 years ago, ahead of the infamous 2005 US Grand Prix at Indianapolis, Martin Brundle famously asked a then beleaguered F1 chief Bernie Ecclestone what he thought of Formula One’s future in the United States following the Michelin tyre crisis. Ecclestone muttered “Not good.”
Ecclestone was right at the time, but fast forward nearly two decades and Formula One’s relationship with the United States has never been better - and it only continues to grow.
Around 430,000 fans descended on the Circuit of the Americas over the course of the weekend and the Texan venue has well and truly become the home of F1 Stateside.
The USA was for decades the jewel in the crown that F1 couldn’t crack, but the sport is finally a major presence in the eyes of Americans.
Formula One’s visit to North America continues with the Mexico City Grand Prix this weekend.