Morning After: Has the Scuderia any fight left?

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Amidst the pomp and circumstance of the United States Grand Prix pre-race introductions, NBC’s Will Buxton asked Sebastian Vettel if he had the car under him to challenge Lewis Hamilton – turns out he didn’t, and thus Hamilton’s inexorable march to the title continues.

If this race had taken place in April, or even June, Vettel jumping Hamilton at the start might have led to a race long duel. Unfortunately at this point in the season it didn’t matter how well Vettel started, Hamilton was up to the challenge, and in this Mercedes, that meant six laps of fighting, not fifty-six.

With that in mind it was only fitting Mercedes managed to seal their fourth-straight constructor’s title here in Austin – further salting Ferrari’s wounds by having their former employee James Allison accept the winner’s trophy. This decisive battle was the perfect window into their season, Ferrari’s early gains wiped out by a car and driver who were both too strong.

The championship lost, six races since their last victory, the only question now is if the Scuderia has any fight left – with three races left, they’re running out of time to show it.

Controversial call costs Verstappen a podium

Driver of the day for the 2017 US GP, something tells me Max Verstappen would rather have his podium back.

Unfortunately the Dutchman was deprived of sharing the stage with Bill Clinton and Usain Bolt (although let’s be honest, he’d probably be more interested in the cheerleaders), after being penalised for leaving the track and gaining a lasting advantage with his late pass on Kimi Raikkonen.

Having to slink out of the cool-down room as Raikkonen replaced him, Verstappen was predictably upset (like father, like son), but does he have a right to be? Well, yes… but he’s not exactly in the right either.

After all, there’s no denying Verstappen did indeed have all four wheels well off the track when he passed Raikkonen, which obviously gave him an advantage. Still, it’s far from the only case of corner-cutting we’ve seen this weekend, and to have the one time it’s enforced come at the death and cost him a podium is understandably going to sting.

Judging by the mixed reaction from fans and commentators afterwards, it seems more than anything a question of philosophy. Should drivers be penalised to the letter of the law? Or should precedent and circumstance earn them a little leeway? On another weekend with another steward who wasn’t Gary Connelly (who did the same to Verstappen in Mexico last year), he might have gotten away with it – but it wasn’t, and he didn’t. Such is the luck of the draw.

Quick Hits

  • You think being an F1 driver is a great job? Michael Buffer probably got paid upwards of $1 million for that intro – and he does that dozens of times a year
  • If there was one good thing to come from the Verstappen controversy, it was the contrast in personalities with Usain Bolt interviewing Kimi Raikkonen
  • P8 yesterday, P7 today, Carlos Sainz’s debut could hardly have gone better – unfortunately, the same can’t be said for Brendon Hartley