Morning After: We might just get a proper race

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Another pole in the bag for Lewis Hamilton, this time at the United States Grand Prix, but perhaps not quite as easily as he expected.

Comfortably ahead of the pack – including Sebastian Vettel – on Friday, Saturday was a much more competitive affair for the Briton, snatching the top spot by just 0.239s from his title rival.

Afterwards Hamilton didn’t hesitate to admit the circuit was “really challenging” – understandable especially given the conditions. Even at its calmest, CoTA can be particularly difficult for drivers to strike a balance with set-up given the variety of corners the circuit offers, but when the wind is buffeting as it was on Saturday, it goes to a whole ‘nother level.

In saying that, credit has to go to Vettel for finding almost seven tenths between Q2 and Q3 to keep Hamilton honest. Unfortunately the SF70H just doesn’t seem to have the raw pace to push the Silver Arrows when tyre temps aren’t an issue, but if the conditions stay tricky on Sunday and Vettel continues to bring the goods, we might just get a proper race after all.

Sainz Proves His Worth Immediately

Not a bad start to life at Renault for Carlos Sainz, eh?

Not only was he immediately on the pace of Nico Hulkenberg, but in taking P8 in his first qualifying, Sainz has already managed to equal Jolyon Palmer’s number of Q3 appearances in 37 races. Poor Jolyon, even when he’s not in the car, he continues to get shown up.

No, it wasn’t exactly the most controversial move to bring Sainz in early, but it’s nevertheless remarkable when such a change-of-direction proves its worth so quickly. Even if they’ll miss Palmer’s financial assistance, Saturday was a textbook example of why it pays to have a strong driver lineup, with Sainz lessening the sting from Hulkenberg’s grid penalties.

With the constructor’s battle for fifth through eighth as tight as it is, Renault needs every ounce of performance it can get, and already, Sainz is looking like a million dollar difference.

Quick Hits

  • Easy to blame mister-congeniality Kevin Magnussen for his Q1 blocking of Sergio Perez, but if the Dane is to be believed, it was the team that dropped the ball – the second time in as many races, mind you
  • Gotta feel for Pierre Gasly, who gave up his race seat this weekend only to see his chances at a Super Formula title washed away – mother nature must be a pretty big Hiroaki Ishiura fan
  • Another strong performance from Esteban Ocon, outdoing Sergio Perez by 0.501s. Three qualys on the trot now for the young Frenchman…

Sunday Race-Strategy Preview, Courtesy of Pirelli

  • The Fastest: Two-stopper: two stints on ultrasofts (18+18 laps) plus one stint on supersofts to the flag
  • Second Fastest: Two-stopper: one stint on ultrasofts for 18 laps plus two stints on supersofts (19+19 laps)
  • If degradation is lower than expected lso very interesting: One-stopper: one stint on ultrasofts for 21 laps + 1 stint on supersofts to the flag
  • This simulation doesn’t take into account the effect of diminishing fuel loads. Different permutations of compound usage within each strategy are possible.