If you missed the US Grand Prix weekend just passed, then don’t let the top-level outcome kid you. Yes Lewis Hamilton wrapping up his third drivers’ title wasn’t unforeseen. Indeed this conclusion has looked inevitable for months; one can even make a case that it’s looked inevitable ever since he creamed the season-opening race in Melbourne back in March.
Also don’t be fooled by the top three at the finish in Austin of Lewis the victor followed home by his Mercedes team mate Nico Rosberg with Sebastian Vettel in the Ferrari third, one that looks standard for 2015 F1 almost to the point of parody.
All this is true, but we were strapped into one heck of a roller-coaster ride in order to get there. Really.
The story of the hurricane
Much of the Austin weekend was, as Bob Dylan might have had it, the story of the hurricane. Hurricane Patricia’s outer remnants to be precise, which meant vast quantities of rain – with high winds added – was dumped on the place (apparently a third of its annual rainfall in just three days). Friday practice was disrupted and heavily curtailed, and on Saturday the hammering rain literally never stopped and qualifying was therefore moved to race-day morning, when the rain still fell and the track still was treacherous. That had to be cut short too.
The rain desisted finally about an hour before the race start, but with the surface still damp at the outset it gave us one of those thrilling wet-to-dry affairs, with safety car periods and the rest turning matters onto their head repeatedly. Even aside from that certain competitors – and some highly unlikely ones – looked the class of the field at some points and also-rans at others. And that included Lewis.
Lewis prevails under pressure
Early on when the track was perfidious it looked a day for the Red Bulls. They however faded to near-nothing after the track dried. To provide further evidence of what a strange one this was Daniel Ricciardo who’d led impressively was later spotted fighting with Alexander Rossi for last place.
Lewis indeed was under pressure for much of the way, while Rosberg this time looked fast and aggressive, swatting away seemingly more than one stroke of misfortune with safety cars and the like. These strokes of fortune ensured that Lewis remained near to him, yet Nico still looked to have first place well under control. That was until eight laps to go when he, incredibly, got it wrong. He did a tank-slapper under acceleration and his resultant wobble off track was all Lewis needed to take the lead which he kept to the end. And as outlined it ensured his triple crown which with it brings many auxiliary all-time records his way too. His place in the sport’s pantheon now is assured.
As for Nico, as you’d imagine he afterwards appeared devastated, and was utterly bewildered as to how his vital error had happened. But to be brutal in this one we saw both of his extremes, and what ultimately separates him from his team mate. Which also is the difference between triumph and falling short. And between the great and the good.