What we learnt from the US Grand Prix?

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The US Grand Prix saw Ferrari raise its game once again and return to its pre-Singapore form. Following a thrilling qualifying session in which the Ferrari duo of Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Räikkönen were just beaten by Lewis Hamilton by a margin close to zero, exactly by 0.061 and 0.070 seconds respectively, Kimi Räikkönen went on to take a brilliant first win in five years.

Räikkönen’s return to the top step of the podium just so happened to come on the same day as, 11 years ago, the Finnish driver won the Brazilian Grand Prix to be crowned the 2007 World Champion.

Last weekend, Austin, capital of the U.S. state of Texas, played host to the 40th US Grand Prix as the 18th round of the 2018 FIA Formula One World Championship. The venue which first appeared on the race calendar in 2012, has already managed to make its name for itself and is held in a higher regard among drivers and fans than the much-maligned Indianapolis grand prix circuit, where the USA last hosted Formula 1 in 2007.

The German architect Hermann Tilke, who was tasked with the construction of the COTA race track, took inspiration from famous and beloved sections of other F1 circuits, including from some of his own tracks. In particular the high-speed S-shaped bends in the first sector, modelled after the Maggots-Beckets-Chapel complex of Silverstone, and the high-speed turns 17 and 18, modelled after the triple apex turn 8 of the Istanbul Otodrom, are popular among the drivers.

Race in numbers

1. Kimi Räikkönen took his first victory after more than five years. The Finn last won a race in Australia 2013 some 2044 days ago. With his triumph, he became the second Finnish driver to win the US Grand Prix after Mika Häkkinen took a victory in Indianapolis in 2001.

2. The 2018 FIA American Grand Prix was the seventh held at the COTA facility. The most successful driver in Austin is Lewis Hamilton with five wins. Until Sunday’s race, only Sebastian Vettel had also managed to clinch a victory in Austin. The illustrious group was joined by Kimi Räikkönen who took not only his first Austin win, but his very first U.S. win.

3. Kimi Räikkönen’s win was his 21th career victory, making him the most successful Finnish Formula One driver in terms of race wins. Mika Häkkinen won two world championship titles, but he ‘only’ took 20 victories during his career.

4. Lewis Hamilton’s pole position on Saturday was his 81st. With that, the Briton extended his lead in the list of the most successful qualifier in front of Michael Schumacher who managed to secure 68 pole positions during his long and ultra-successful career.

5. Sebastian Vettel remains the youngest polesitter in the history of Formula One. The German took his first pole in the 2008 Italian Grand Prix when he was 21 years and 72 days. After the American Grand Prix, Max Verstappen, the youngest ever Grand Prix participant, has only three more race weekends to demote the German from this record.

6. Last weekend’s American Grand Prix was the 994th Formula One race. Next year’s Chinese Grand Prix will be the 1000th race of the Moving Circus.

7. Kimi Räikkönen broke his record of not gaining any places during the first lap for more than a year. Starting on the softest compound, the Finnish driver overtook polesitter Lewis Hamilton at the start. While the initial getaway for both drivers was practically identical, Räikkönen gained momentum during the second phase of the start.

8. With his 21st career triumph, Kimi Räikkönen set a new record for the number of races between wins. 113 races were completed between the 2018 American Grand Prix and 2013 Australian Grand Prix.

9. The race at COTA has always been won by a driver starting from the first row, with an even 3-3 split between starting from P1 and P2. With Kimi Räikkönen’s triumph, the P2 spot regained a slight advantage in the statistics.

10. With Ferrari’s win on Sunday, the Italian marque extended its lead in terms of highest number of race victories in the US Grand Prix. The Scuderia have won ten US Grands Prix, three at Watkins Glen, six at Indianapolis and one in Austin.

11. Three drivers made their US Grand Prix debut this weekend. Pierre Gasly, Sergey Sirotkin and Charles Leclerc. Interestingly, and unfortunately for them, none of them managed to add any points to their tally. Of the current grid, Sebastian Vettel also made his debut in the USA. The German appeared for BMW-Sauber in 2007 when he stepped in as a replacement for the injured Robert Kubica. The Heppenheim-born finished in a sensational eighth place, earning a championship point for himself and for his team. Other prominent champions who made their debuts in US Grands Prix are Mario Andretti, Jody Scheckter and Mika Häkkinen.

Performance under scrutiny

12. The shortest time spent in the pit lane was 23.446 seconds achieved by Red Bull’s Max Verstappen. The longest period of time among the top-five drivers was recorded by Sebastian Vettel who spent a total of 24.449 seconds in the pit lane. That was because of a 3.2 second stationary time caused by a delay removing the rear right the Pirelli tyre on the SF71-H. In contrast, Ferrari's pit stop rhythm was spot on during the stop of Kimi Räikkönen. The Finn’s tyres were changed in 2.3 seconds, a difference of 0.9 seconds, however, the total time spent in the pit lane showed a difference of 0.7 seconds, meaning that Sebastian Vettel had a slightly better exit from the pit box.

13. During the 56-lap-long American Grand Prix, Lewis Hamilton achieved the fastest race lap with a 1:37.392, setting a new official race lap record. The Briton was 0.888 seconds faster than Sebastian Vettel and 1.090 seconds faster than the race winning Kimi Räikkönen. The Ferrari SF71H might have been the fastest car during the race, but Hamilton's two-stop strategy meant that he had much fresher tyres towards the end of the race. The previous official lap record was held by Sebastian Vettel who clocked a 1:37.766 in 2017. The outright COTA lap record was also broken this weekend when Lewis Hamilton secured his pole position with a lap time of 1:32.237 in Saturday’s qualifying thriller.

14. Another statistics on the fastest lap. During the first six US Grands Prix in Austin, Sebastian Vettel went on to set the fastest race lap, he only missed out in 2015 when Nico Rosberg went quickest. The German duo was joined by Lewis Hamilton in that regard.

15. Sixteen drivers finished the Grand Prix in Austin with 10 drivers finishing it on the lead lap. However, the sixth-placed Nico Hülkenberg crossed the finish line 87.210 seconds behind race winner Kimi Räikkönen. Of these 16 drivers, nine achieved their fastest lap between lap 40 and 50, two after lap 50, four between lap 30 and 40. Interestingly, Sergey Sirotkin set his fastest lap on lap 12.

Sporting matters and penalties

16. Unexpectedly, the Pirelli tyres showed a little higher wear during the American GP than the usual trend this season. Even so, only a handful of drivers were forced to stop more than once. After pitting early to make benefit of the virtual safety car, Hamilton needed a second visit to the box after his Mercedes created blisters on its rears. Other than the Briton, Stoffel Vandoorne, Pierre Gasly and Sergey Sirotkin opted for two stops while Lance Stroll went for a three-stop strategy after colliding with Fernando Alonso’s McLaren Renault on the first lap.

17. Interestingly, the post-race technical scrutiny spotted two infringements, both were related to the fuel usage. Kevin Magnussen’s Haas Ferrari used more than 105 kg of fuel during the race. Esteban Ocon’s Racing Point Force India exceeded the fuel mass flow rate during lap 1. Both drivers were disqualified from the race, as a consequence losing their point scoring finishes.

18. For sporting infringements, two drivers have been penalized. Romain Grosjean was handed one point on his driving licence and will have to serve a three-place grid drop for the Mexican Grand Prix for driving into Charles Leclerc’s Sauber Alfa Romeo. Lance Stroll was handed a drive through penalty for tangling with Fernando Alonso on lap 1.

19. Interestingly, only Lewis Hamilton dived into the pits during the early virtual safety car period. This was deployed in a rather ‘displeasing’ period as the time for the first pit stop was still some laps away. However, the time gain was enticing enough for Mercedes to call Hamilton in to the pits. The Briton gained around 8 seconds compared to a normal pit stop which could have handed him a dominant race victory. However, his tyres would have needed to last 45 laps. This distance has been manageable during other races on the softs, but Mercedes developed heavy blistering on the rear axle this time.