Austin Takeaways: A fitting tribute, a great race, and other stories

Austin Takeaways: Fitting tribute, great racing, and other stories

Austin Takeaways: A fitting tribute, a great race, and other stories
Austin hosted a great 2022 United States Grand Prix weekend, worthy of the race’s tenth iteration, with some great racing, despite being overshadowed by sad news.

The weekend revolved around Red Bull to be honest. Will they secure the 2022 Formula 1 Constructors’ Title in Austin? Will they have to wait?

What about their cost cap breach saga? Will they receive their penalty and what will the outcome of their discussions with the FIA be?

All those question put Red Bull in the spot light, two weeks after Max Verstappen secured his second F1 Drivers’ Title at Japan’s Suzuka.

But then the shocking news hit the paddock ahead of qualifying at the Circuit of the Americas (COTA), with the passing of Red Bull founder Dietrich Mateschitz being announced as drivers were suiting up for the one-hour shootout for pole.

That shifted the mood and the whole focus of the weekend, and while Red Bull may have tripped in qualifying, they delivered a great race – especially Verstappen – to honour the memory of their late founder.

And with this we head to our first takeaway from a few others from the 2022 United States Grand Prix.

Red Bull rise through adversity and tragedy

Red Bull started the weekend in Austin on the defensive, with the cost cap saga haunting them from the moment they set foot in Austin and regardless of how that matter ends up being sorted, the team handled the pressure well, as they have done in Singapore and Japan.

But the death of Dietrich Mateschitz definitely threw the team off balance, and understandably so, as the Austrian has been the reason behind their existence and success over the years, without neglecting the personal aspect of the relation especially as some members of the team – Christian Horner and Helmut Marko to name a couple – have been there from the very beginning so one can imagine the personal relations that were forged over the years of development, failure, and success.

Qualifying was not ideal, and while the race started off well with Verstappen leapfrogging polesitter Carlos Sainz, the RB18 did not seem to be that dominant as before, especially on the Hard tyres, and the botched pit stop for Verstappen – a rare blip from Red Bull – made the team’s mission to win the race even harder.

But Verstappen had other ideas, losing was out of the question, and after the pitstop and a few colourful words to his team, the double F1 Champion acted like one, put his head down, and blasted to the front beating Charles Leclerc and Lewis Hamilton to the win with some seriously good driving and overtaking, denying the latter his chance of a first win this year.

Sergio Perez who started ninth from the grid penalty was not spectacular but solid to take fourth keeping in mind his broken front wing, but having him on the podium would’ve been sweeter for Red Bull.

Nevertheless, in the end the Milton Keynes outfit will now have a fifth Constructors’ Trophy added to their coffers after an epic drive from their reigning Champion; a fitting way to honour “Didi”.

On Lance Stroll and Fernando Alonso’s crash

Alonso penalized, drops out of the points

To be honest, I replayed the video of the incident between Stroll and Alonso several times, and tried as much as possible to find a way to defend the Canadian but to no avail. Guilty…

What Stroll did was deliberate, and there is no use hiding that fact, but whether it was driven by malice or stupidity is what we need to figure out.

I am leaning towards the latter, as you have to admit he was driven by instinct to block the charging Spaniard, but he was stupid not to recognize the dire consequences of his actions. After all, Stroll is not a rookie anymore and has been around in F1 enough to realize what he should or should not do.

We were all lucky Alonso drove away from that crash, and boy did he drive after that (more on that later), but we have to keep in mind that other drivers coming from behind the pair’s crash site were susceptible to harm as well, which somehow makes Stroll’s three-grid drop in Mexico a lenient penalty.

I have to admit that Stroll has shown some flashes of speed over the six years he spent in the sport, his three podiums in Baku 2017, Bahrain 2020, and Monza 2020 proof of that, but overall the Canadian has been underwhelming and when drivers like Nyck de Vries have to wait to be 27 years old to get into F1, that really raises a question about Stroll’s F1 worthiness.

For the successful billionaire businessman that Lawrence Stroll is, a man who knows how to pick profitable ventures, to keep bankrolling his son’s expensive weekend hobby is incomprehensible, and can only be explained by two simple words: “Fathers’ Love”.

How can Alonso Drive that way?

Not that it’s the first time he does something like this, but the way in which Fernando Alonso drove the wheels off that Alpine in Austin, especially after his accident with Lance Stroll was nothing short of remarkable.

It reminded me of his drive in Baku back in 2017, when he dragged a badly damaged McLaren all the way up to seventh, his team and engineers in disbelief, as physics meant such a feat was not possible.

As a reminder of how badly his car was damaged, he drove it back to the pits on two wheels after getting caught up in a first lap incident, and after that had to drive with 20 points of downforce lost, equivalent to half a second in lap time as estimated by McLaren at the time.

We are used to superlative drives from the Spaniard, but to keep delivering this level of performance while he is 41 years old is very impressive, keeping in mind his consistency.

That he was stripped from his points after the Haas protest is a pity, and whether it was right to do so or not, part of me doesn’t care, and I hope Alpine’s protest succeeds and Alonso gets his point back.

After all he had to work hard for those points, telling from the footage from his onboard camera in parc ferme.

Quick hits

  • Another veteran who deserves a shout out is Sebastian Vettel who delivered a great race in Austin as well, but couldn’t get the result he deserved thanks to Aston Martin’s mess of a pitstop.
    The German’s tussle with Magnussen at the end of the race was one of the race’s highlights.
  • Charles Leclerc delivered a strong drive as well, but the way he dropped back after Verstappen overtook him due to tyre degradation should be a massive worry for Ferrari.
    The team need to do something about it if they dream of having another shot at the Title in 2023.
  • Lando Norris was not shabby himself, and delivered some entertaining overtakes on his way to sixth, but were did Daniel Ricciardo finish? Horsing around in 16th… Sorry but it had to be said…
    Maybe the break in 2023 is what the Aussie needs right now…