By Lee McKenzie
Eighteen cars on the grid was a strange sight in Austin, although in some respects qualifying seemed better with a smaller field. The four cars eliminated in Q1 all brought an element of surprise; it wasn’t going to be the usual suspects from Caterham and Marussia plus one. Of course we’d all like to see more cars, but it did highlight that, especially on Saturdays, it would also be better and more unpredictable if the field was tighter. Therein lies the problem, and a focal point of the arguments from the struggling midfield teams. Something has to be done, and quickly. Thankfully, it now seems that the powers that be, including Bernie Ecclestone, are listening.
Austin is always a great place to visit, and if you are considering coming to a grand prix and building in a holiday then this is a pretty good place to start. The appetite for the race is huge and the city really gets behind it, in a similar way to Montréal, and it’s still got a novelty factor having only three years under its belt.
One thing I did notice was how popular Lewis Hamilton is over here, now more than ever. I know there was a big media push and he appeared on several high-profile TV shows in the build-up, but the one name on everyone’s lips at the circuit was Hamilton. He really has captured the imagination of race fans in the United States and his love for the place and people is reciprocated.
I was impressed with Nico Rosberg after the Grand Prix. He told me that the feeling of losing the race having started from pole “sucks”. So often sportsmen hide behind a mask of infallibility but Nico was open and honest saying he just struggled to get into a rhythm and only did so several laps after Hamilton had already passed him. There has been no doubt this season that whilst Nico is the man for Saturday, Lewis is the one to beat come Sunday.
It means that the championship will now go down to the wire in Abu Dhabi where double points loom. I hope they don’t make the difference in the end, but F1 tends to attract controversy like a magnet. Let’s just say I’m expecting some highly charged and emotional interviews come Sunday November 23.
Daniel Ricciardo is no longer mathematically able to win the title but I’m not sure many people would have thought he’d still be in with a chance at this stage of the year. He’s been strong and assured all season, adding a real warmth to the paddock with his personality. Even his slightly dodgy beard – in the style of ‘keep Austin weird’, a city slogan – was fun, although I’m delighted to report that come Sunday night it had gone!
Most of the drivers are still in Austin but the teams have flown out to get things ready for the penultimate chapter in this season’s story. For many years Brazil has been the scene of many dramas, none bigger than when Lewis won his championship in 2008. This time Interlagos won’t crown a champion, but it will provide more stories, more points and more highs and lows for some drivers in an already dramatic season.