Formula One racing has made a triumphant return to the United States after a four-season hiatus, only to find that some things just haven’t changed.
Lewis Hamilton was the last F1 driver to stand atop the podium at a U.S. Grand Prix when he claimed victory at the final Indianapolis race in 2007.He stood atop the podium again in Austin as he held Sebastian Vettel at bay to claim a hard-fought race win.
While the race winner may not have changed, everything else has.
The fans were treated to a great race, with lots of overtaking, some outstanding wheel-to-wheel action, breathtaking pitstops and Ferrari even delivered a little bit of the intrigue and shenanigans that F1 is famous for.
And it all happened on a track deep in the heart of Texas.
While the U.S. has a long association with F1, it hasn’t always been a happy marriage. The last dalliance ended in 2007 when the owners of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway decided that they no longer saw value in paying the exorbitant sums demanded for the privilege.
It did fans a favour too, as the Indianapolis track was awful for F1 racing.
With F1 finding difficulty securing a permanent home since the 20-year tenure at Watkins Glenn, all hope turned to the new Circuit of the Americas in Austin Texas.
It didn’t disappoint.
The circuit is a custom F1 track, designed—as are nearly all new tracks—by German racetrack architect Hermann Tilke. At first glance, it has all of the hallmarks of every other Tilke track—the big runoff areas, the flowing combination of corners, long straights followed by a hairpin—but it worked.
Yes, the drag reduction system helped a lot, but there was passing all around the circuit which is incredibly unusual for a Tilke track.
It was a race that F1 had to get right.
With the 2005 Indianapolis debacle still lingering in the American fans' memory and with no American teams and no American drivers, the product had to deliver on its own terms. It had to bury the perception that F1 is boring and lacking in excitement.
Any lingering doubts were put to rest, despite the dominance of Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton, with action from one end of the field to the other.
Hamilton took the most of a momentary distraction for Vettel, as he got tangled behind a back-marker, making the pivotal pass that Vettel was unable to recover from.
While Hamilton claimed the victory, it was the Circuit of the Americas that was the superstar of the weekend, aided and abetted by a massive crowd of 117,429 fans (via CircuitoftheAmericas.com).
The drivers loved it, and probably would have said so without prompting, even if Mario Andretti didn’t pleadingly fish for praise in yet another pointless podium interview by an ex-driver.
Hamilton told F1.com:
There are a couple of Grands Prix that are somehow out on their own: there’s Monaco, Silverstone, Montreal, Spa and Monza. Now you can this circuit to that list - it’s already one of the best racetracks in the world, maybe even right up there in the top three.
Then again, he won the race—he would say that.
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