Formula 1’s return to the United States turned out to be a big success as the brand new Circuit of the Americas delivered one of the most exciting races of the season, featuring a race-long duel for the lead and some strong drives through the field.
There were impressive performances from both title contenders – Sebastian Vettel and Fernando Alonso – and two former champions – Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button, while Felipe Massa overcame a cruel psychological blow to score a great result – but who was your Driver of the Day?
It’s not every day that you pass both Red Bull cars to win a race. Arrived in Austin on the back of a disappointing race in Abu Dhabi which saw him retire from the lead of the race with a mechanical failure. Looked comfortable on the new Circuit of the Americas track, and set the second fastest time in first practice, albeit 1.4 seconds slower than pace-setter Sebastian Vettel. Pulled out a brilliant lap in qualifying to achieve the second fastest time, just one tenth of a second behind Vettel. Lost a place at the start to Mark Webber, but repassed the Red Bull driver on lap four. Chased Vettel down and took advantage of the German getting held up in traffic to close up and then pass him at the end of the long straight. Held on to take his fourth victory of the season, second successive win in the United States and 21st triumph of his career.
On fire in Friday practice, finishing 1.4 second clear of the field in first practice and 0.7 seconds clear in the second session. Dominated third practice and each segment of qualifying to take his sixth pole position of the season. Made a clean getaway from pole to lead after the first corner, but struggled to pull away at the front as he has so often done. Resisted pressure from Hamilton, but lost time in traffic which allowed Hamilton to close up. Lost the lead to Hamilton, but easily held on to second to extend his championship lead over Fernando Alonso to 13 points going to the final race of the season in Brazil.
Arrived in Texas knowing a strong result was necessary to keep his title challenge alive. Struggled for pace on Friday and continued that poor form on Saturday. Was beaten by his Ferrari team-mate Felipe Massa in all three segments of qualifying to end up ninth fastest. That became eighth, as a result of Romain Grosjean’s gearbox penalty. Promoted to seventh on Sunday as his Ferrari team chose to pick up a penalty deliberately on Felipe Massa’s car which dropped the Brazilian behind Alonso and allowed the Spaniard to start on the clean side of the grid. Made a good start, rising to fourth at the start but struggled to keep pace with the leaders. Inherited third when Webber retired and maintained that position until the end of the race, allowing him to go to Brazil with a shot at the title.
Recovered from the forced five place grid drop by his team to emerge a giant on Sunday. Looked more comfortable at the Circuit of the Americas compared to his team-mate Alonso. Replicated that pace in qualifying to outqualify Alonso for only the second time this season with the sixth fastest time. Demoted to 11th after his team decided to take a penalty deliberately to aid Alonso’s title challenge. Kept his nose clean at the start, but passed just one car to run 10th. Put good moves on Michael Schumacher, Paul di Resta and Kimi Raikkonen to rise up to fourth and help Ferrari’s push to beat McLaren to second in the constructors’ championship. JA’s shout for Driver of the Day on BBC Radio 5 Live.
Looked strong in Friday practice, finishing fourth and fifth fastest in practice, but had his weekend compromised in qualifying when his McLaren suffered a power issue in Q2. Started the race 12th but lost a host of places after struggling for grip off the line as he was on the dirty side of the grid. Battled back impressively, running quite deep into the race before pitting and putting moves on Michael Schumacher, Kimi Raikkonen and Romain Grosjean. Climbed up to fifth but ran out of laps to catch Massa.