Austin – The 2014 United States Grand Prix got off to a roaring start on Sunday, as the 18 car field barrelled around Turn 1 and down to my vantage point on the Turn 2 berm. Nico Rosberg led the field for much of the first quarter of the race, maintaining his pole position despite the constant threat coming from his teammate, Lewis Hamilton’s challenges to that first place.
Lap 1 resulted in the first safety car deployment in the three years that the US Grand Prix has been held at Circuit of the Americas in Austin. On Turn 11, Force India’s Sergio Pérez gave all of his fellow Mexicans at the circuit a shock when he clipped Kimi Räikkönen’s Ferrari, causing Räikkönen to in turn hit Sauber’s Adrian Sutil. The collisions resulted in Pérez and Sutil’s retirements, leaving both Force India and Sauber with only one driver apiece on track, and for Sauber their greatest chance at point scoring all season. Sauber’s remaining driver, Mexican Esteban Gutierrez, remained at the back of the pack for the remainder of the 56 lap race, finishing in 14th over a lap behind race winner Hamilton.
After 16 laps, Force India’s Nico Hülkenberg retired after his car shut down on the track. Thankfully, there were no other major collisions or retirements on Sunday.
Perhaps the greatest surprise drivers on Sunday were the Lotuses of Pastor Maldonado and Romain Grosjean, who each were challenging the McLarens and Ferraris for the last couple points scoring places. Maldonado was successful, finishing in 10th, whilst Grosjean was a less successful, finishing in 11th and being lapped in the process.
Ferrari did decent today, with Spaniard Fernando Alonso maintaining 6th throughout most of the race, though he was running a full minute and five seconds behind the Williams of Valtteri Bottas for the latter half of the race. Kimi Räikkönen did not fair well at all following the collision on Lap 1, falling back eventually to finish in 13th after being lapped.
The McLarens of Jenson Button and Kevin Magnussen remained soldily in the back half of the points throughout the majority of the race. Despite this, Button fell behind to finish in 12th, a dramatic drop in the field from the season’s opener in Australia.
Williams did very well on Sunday, starting in the second row and staying largely in the upper half of the points throughout the day. Both Williams were overtaken by Daniel Ricciardo’s Red Bull, resulting in Massa and Bottas finishing in 4th and 5th.
The Red Bulls succeeded in holding the crowd at their mercy. Sebastian Vettel rose up from his start at 18th in the pits to finish at 7th, running the fastest lap of the race at 1:41.379. His Australian teammate Daniel Ricciardo advanced from his 5th place start to take 3rd on the podium Sunday, no doubt keeping the eyes of the F1 world on him, as well as on the Mercedes.
The two Mercedes stayed within the reaches of 1st and 2nd for the entirety of the race, not looking back for even an instant. Hamilton overtook Rosberg on Lap 24, securing his second victory in three years in the United States.
As a result of Sergio Pérez’s causing of the collision on Lap 1, the Mexican will receive a 7 spot grid penalty at the next race in Brazil. Also, a statement by Sky Sports released after Sunday’s race revealed that there may be a chance for Marussia to return to the grid in Abu Dhabi.