Austin was at least 130 decibels louder over the weekend when F1’s elite automotive speedsters made their way to the 2019 U.S. Grand Prix at Circuit of the Americas.
The Circuit of the Americas (COTA) has proudly hosted Formula One (F1) for the last seven years. Fans from across the globe flock to Austin to watch the currently only Grand Prix held in the United States. The 3.426-mile track was specifically designed to bring F1 back to the States and get people in America excited again about F1. In past years, COTA has been a favorite amongst the teams and drivers. This year, however, proved a much different experience.
“Bumpy” was the buzzword during the sell-out weekend at COTA. Beginning in Friday’s Practice 1 session, F1 drivers were complaining of headaches and backaches caused by bumps on the merely seven-year old track. Today’s F1 cars prefer tracks with high-speed corner combinations, s-bends, straights and chicanes where they can reach speeds of up to 230mph— the last thing these highly-tuned machines, or their drivers, want are bumps.
The COTA track had deteriorated significantly compared to last year with the bumps likely resulting from recent heavy rains. These sources of collective aggravation led to the retirement of Scuderia Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel to the disappointment of fans around the world. Vettel’s right-rear suspension failure during lap eight turned the prancing horse into a scarlet three-wheeler.
Ultimately, Finnish driver Valtteri Bottas, who drives for Mercedes AMG Petronas, won the race, but the real winner was his team mate Lewis Hamilton who captured his sixth F1 World Championship title and third consecutive drivers’ crown. With a one-stop strategy, Hamilton officially ties for most F1 championship wins with the legendary Michael Schumacher, who retired from the sport in 2012.
Red Bull Racing’s Max Verstappen didn’t make it easy on Hamilton. The Dutchman finished on the podium in third position coming within less than a second of Hamilton. Ferrari’s second in command, Charles Leclerc, finished fourth in his U.S. Grand Prix debut. Red Bull’s Alexander Albon rounded out the top five.
Austin’s favorite Aussie Daniel Ricciardo, who wears a Texas cowboy during the week of the race, first fell in love with the Music Capital of the World during his 2014 U.S. Grand Prix debut with Red Bull, finished this year’s race in sixth place. Sporting a Texas Longhorn crash helmet, the now Renault driver is known for his larger-than-life smile that can light up the Texas sky.
Since Mercedes already won the World Constructors Championship at the Japanese Grand Prix in October, the two remaining F1 races, Brazil and Abu Dhabi, might have teams focused more on testing new strategies or pushing FIA limits rather than winning.
Regardless of their overall standing going into winter break, these 20 ridiculously talented drivers just want an all-out racing experience inside the world’s most technologically advanced vehicle. Hopefully, they will look back and appreciate not only the athleticism, endurance and intuition they brought to the 2019 F1 season, but the sheer joy experienced by their fans.