► Red Bull win constructors’ championship pending report next week
► Mercedes get competitive
► Alonso and Vettel show their quality
Formula One may once again be in total disarray off the track, but it did provide a good race this weekend. Featuring numerous overtakes, incidents and some vintage performances from the likes of Sebastien Vettel, Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton it was by far one of the most entertaining races of 2022.
Max Verstappen was the eventual winner, clinching Red Bull the 2022 constructors’ championship, but both of those titles are still overshadowed by the team’s breach of the budget cap rules – but we’ll find out more about that in a week.
In the meantime, here’s everything we learnt in the Austin GP.
1. Sainz’s poor luck continues
Ferrari’s championship challenge unravelled throughout the year, but even then it was only Charles Leclerc who ever felt like an actual danger to Red Bull domination. Although he’s had the pace a lot of the time, Carlos Sainz’s season has been plagued by driver errors, mechanical failures and just plain bad luck. And at Texas we saw at least two of those.
After a stunning drive to get pole on Saturday, Sainz was slow off the lights on race day and was soon punted out the race by Mercedes’ George Russell. In the end it was Leclerc who finished third as the top Ferrari. Carlos Sainz’s season was pretty much summed up in Austin.
2. Mercedes fights back
Mercedes may have not won the constructor’s championship for the first time since 2013, but it had reasons to be optimistic about the future this weekend. After bringing its final update of the year, Mercedes looked quicker in practice, and converted that speed to the race.
A dodgy pitstop for Verstappen put maximum points in touching distance, but even without that good fortune it was clear the Mercedes was much closer to the top runners. One could argue it also had the pace to outperform the Ferrari of Leclerc.
The result should be encouraging for the Brackley-based team as it looks to fight back in 2023.
3. Red Bull wins first constructors’ championship since
Red Bull took the team’s championship in Austin, marking the first time any team other than Mercedes has claimed honours in the hybrid era. It comes just a under a decade since its last, won by Sebastien Vettel and Mark Webber in 2013. However, the news of the team’s breach of the budget cap rules has put an asterisk over the celebrations.
The team was due to meet with the FIA to discuss punishments for its latest scandal, but the death of its founder and huge motorsport advocate Dietrich Mateschitz has put a delay on proceedings.
While yesterday saw some incredible driving from both Verstappen and Hamilton, the possibility that teams may not be fighting on a level playing field makes the whole thing feel a little pointless.
4. Vintage performance from Vettel
Any moment now, Sebastien Vettel is going to do a Tom Brady and announce he’s not retiring after all. At quite a few points this year he’s looked like the driver Aston Martin signed, and the driver that brought four drivers’ championships to Red Bull. And the race yesterday was one of those times.
Starting P10, Vettel even led the race for a while, capitalizing on an Aston Martin that looked pretty good around the Circuit of the Americas. A problematic pit stop dropped him back to 10th, but that forced him to fight back through the field, passing Magnussen for 8th on the last lap before being promoted to 7th due to a penalty for Alonso.
Just one race after another storming drive in Japan, Vettel might be wondering If he’s called time a little too early.
5. Alonso and Stroll get together
Fernando Alonso and Lance Stroll will join forces next year at Aston Martin, but they also got together on Lap 23 of the race yesterday. A late, defensive move from Stroll on the straight saw Alonso make contact with the Canadian’s car – resulting in a huge crash which looked much worse than it was.
Stroll had to retire, but Alonso incredibly carried on and finished P7 – before a penalty (for driving a car unfit for the track) ultimately saw him finish P15. Stroll will also receive a three-place grid drop at the next race in Mexico.