Lap 40/56 Hulkenburg forces Kvyatt wide and onto the gravel, moving a head of him into 12th. Then both pit, having had their fun. Bottas has now got clear of that bothersome traffic, and has daylight to Hamilton, who’s now only 4.6sec ahead of him. Verstappen, in third, is now dealing with the same congestion that was bothering Bottas.
2019-11-04 by W.M.
F1 US Grand Prix: Lewis Hamilton goes for the drivers’ title – live!
Lap 39/56 Bottas continues to purr, but he’s got some back-field traffic between him and Hamilton to make his way through. The lead is 5.8sec now.
Lap 38/56 Bottas has eaten two seconds into Hamilton’s lead in the past two laps. Verstappen, in third, is told he needs to take eight tenths of a second per lap off Hamilton to win – it’s doable, but not easy. And he’s not torn up trees in this race, Verstappen, despite his strong starting position.
Lap 37/56 So to recap, Hamilton leads by 7.5sec, having pitted once, from Bottas, who’s been in twice, and Verstappen, six seconds further back having also stopped twice. Bottas sets a fastest lap of the race though, and is going for the win here.
Lap 36/56 Hamilton now leads, but he’s reportedly just beginning to question his tyres, so he and Mercedes face a judgment call on how to handle this race. Will he pit again? Or is he bluffing? Ricciardo is facing a battle for fifth from the improving Albon, whom I was clearly right to praise earlier.
Lap 35/56 Verstappen goes into the pits, having struggled with his tyres in the previous couple of laps, switching onto medium tyres. The Red Bull man is down to third as he comes out, so we currently are back to a one-two for Mercedes scenario again. Bottas is pitting now too, for the same tyres.
Lap 34/56 Bottas has a poor lap, getting caught in traffic at the back of the field, particularly around turn 12, trying to lap Magnussen. His lead is down to just over six seconds.
Lap 33/56 A how-they-stand recap: 1 Bottas +7.4sec, 2 Verstappen +5.72 3 Hamilton, 4 Leclerc, 5 Ricciardo.
Kubica retires from the race, having been bringing up the rear in 20th.
Lap 32/56 Albon’s moving nicely through the field again after his early problems forced a premature put stop. He overhauls Sainz to move into seventh place. Bottas still leads from Verstappen and Hamilton, who also has the fastest lap, which means he can finish ninth and still win the title, if that record stands to the end of the race.
Lap 31/56 “Why does Mercedes work to give Hamilton a one stop race, and not Bottas?” asks Susan Preston. “Is Hamilton the only driver able to do it? And doesn’t Bottas get annoyed by the preferential treatment of Hamilton?”
Lap 30/56 It’s as bumpy as an austerity-ravaged cul-de-sac on turn two, which will mitigate against risks at that part of the track. Meanwhile, further back Perez regains some ground with a fine manouevre on turn 15 to move ahead of Kvyatt and Stroll back into 12th. Bottas stretches his lead to 6.9sec over Verstappen, who’s labouring a touch.
Lap 29/56 Hamilton duly heeds the advice and drops the pace a tad, staying around the 1.39 mark to stay third and 11.7sec behind the leader, Bottas. Verstappen is holding steady in second.
Lap 28/56 In the middle of the field, Hulkenberg’s one-stop strategy is beginning to labour, as he’s passed by Gasly and Albon who move into eighth and ninth respectively.
Lap 27/56 A swift Hamilton lap 26 tooka 2.7sec chunk out of Bottas’s lead there. Hamilton’s now told “It’s critical we make the one-stop plan work”, cautioning him perhaps about not burning the speed too excessively right now.
Lap 26/56 Here’s the latest scores on the doors then. Bottas leads by five seconds from Verstappen, with Hamilton eight seconds further back in third. Leclerc is fourth, 24 seconds off the lead, with Ricciardo fifth. Hard to call, this, it really is.
Lap 25/56 Hamilton comes out of the pit lane in third, and will want to go the distance on these tyres now.
Vettel is speaking from trackside about his calamitosu race. He said he felt “no contact, wanted to go through the footage. I had a really poor grip, struggled to get the tyres to work, had a poor feeling with the car straight away. I was just about settling into a rhythm and the the suspension failed.”
Lap 24/56 Bottas attacks Hamilton, having got the nod from his team, and he retakes the lead. And this time Hamilton DOES pit.
Lap 23/56 Ricciardo takes on Perez and wins, moving into sixth and continuing an impressive drive in upper midfield. Hamilton’s called into the pit but is having none of it. “I want to go longer,” he says. That’s thrown a few plans.
Lap 22/56 A bit of data boffinry on screen shows impressive tyre performance from Hamilton, who maintains a lead from Bottas but it’s down to 1.3sec. Leclerc moves up above Hulkenberg and Perez into fourth.
Lap 21/56 Leclerc goes into the pits, and is a little tardy with it, coming out in sixth. Hamilton leads by 4.1sec from Bottas, who has pitted. Verstappen is third
Lap 20/56 Hamilton has been told by his team that they expect Bottas and Verstappen to go for a two-stop race, though the Briton is losing around two seconds a lap to Bottas at the moment. Norris and Gasly pit – it looks like we’re looking a lot of two-stop races here.
Lap 19/56 Verstappen’s losing a second a lap at the moment to Bottas, as the cards continue to fall Mercedes’ way. The Red Bull man may need to stop again. Sainz and Magnusson pit.
Lap 18/56 Right, time for an update after all these comings and goings: Here’s how they stand – 1 Hamilton 2 Bottas 3 Verstappen 4 Leclerc 5 Ricciardo 6 Norris 7 Gasly 8 Sainz 9 Raikkonen 10 Hulkenberg. Giovinazzi pits
Lap 17/56 Bottas set a newfastest lap for the race on lap 16 by the way, as Hamilton has his one-stop strategy confirmed by his team. Meanwhile Albon’s been told by his team that they’ve spotted some damage to the car, and he’s struggling back down in 13th, having lost six places since the start. I knew I shouldn’t have bigged him up in my preamble.
Lap 16/56 Bottas effortlessly passes Leclerc on the corner to move into second. That looked almost too easy, though Leclerc might have been chancing it had he fought that one too hard. Hamilton still leads.
Lap 15/56 Bottas comes out of the pits in third, behind Leclerc, who’s not looked too threatening but is now in second. Hamilton leads. That title’s within sniffing distance. Verstappen is fourth, but still very much in contention here – that pit stop looks to have benefited him.
Lap 14/56 Verstappen comes back out on fourth, posing Mercedes the question of whether to pit Bottas, which they do.
Lap 13/56 Verstappen comes into the pits, as soon as the pit window opens, and hard tyres go on for medium. So it’s a Mercedes one-two at the moment. There’s some speculation that the damage was done to Vettel’s car on turn eight before he veered off after turn nine.
Lap 12/56 Verstappen is struggling to get much from his tyres here and has Hamilton closing on him – he’s within DRS range of Verstappen, who’s been complaining about his car.
Lap 11/56 Vettel is out of the race. That suspension failure has ended his involvement in this grand prix, his first DNF here. Towards the back, Perez takes advantage of a Giovinazzi lock-up at turn 12 to sneak ahead of him into 14th
Lap 10/56 A tasty little duel between Kvyatt and Magnusson sees the former overhaul the latter to move into 11th. Further up, Hamilton’s starting to gain on Verstappen. As Bottas’s lead moves over two seconds. Could we be headed for a Mercedes one-two here?
Lap 9/56 Vettel’s considerate parking after his mini-accident has prevented the emergency safety car from being deployed at least, so fair play to him for that.
Anyway, out front it’s 1 Bottas, 2 Versappen, 3 Hamilton, 4 Leclerc, 5 Ricciardo, 6 Norris. The top three in particular look serene while it’s all a bit frenetic and fractious behind them.
Lap 8/56 More woe for Vettel – his rear suspension has gone, and he slides off the track. Have the track bumps done for him? He’s having an absolute nightmare here, and he’s becalmed at trackside. Ricciardo passes Norris and moves into fifth.
Lap 7/56 Albon’s had a warning for exceeding track limits on turn 19. Three of those and he’s out.
Lap 6/56 Lando Norris has done well to move up to fifth, but there’s a fair old gap in front of him to the top four, where Leclerc’s still hanging in there. Ferrari tell Leclerc “we are going for plan B, and you need to close the gap to Hamilton.”
Lap 5/56 So, Bottas leads by 1.8sec from Verstappen who’s 1.5sec ahead of Hamilton, as things begin to settle down. The junior Mercedes man is looking good.
Lap 4/56 No further action will be taken over the Albon-Sainz clash. Looking back at the start, that was a masterful start by Hamilton, going round the outside to overhaul Leclerc. Ferrari say they can see the massive understeer Vettel’s reporting but they don’t have explanations for his grip problems. Wonder when he’ll pit.
Lap 3/56 Sainz and Albon are under investigation by the stewards over that first-turn collision. There’s plenty of movement in pecking orders here – Raikkonen has gained six places since the start, and he’s up to 11th. Bottas leads by 1.3sec from Verstappen, with Hamilton third.
Lap 2/56 Vettel is complaining of damage. Another who’s had some, Albon, is already coming into the pits, having been squeezed by Sainz and veering off the track. But the top two look unscathed – Bottas leads from Verstappen, with Hamilton in third. Vettel has also been overtaken by Ricciardo, leaving the German in seventh.
Lights out …
Lap 1/56 … and away we go. The front runners get away well and Bottas comes out on top, but Albon and Sainz veer off and make contact, but return to the track. Then Hamilton MAKES GROUND ALREADY, he passes Leclerc and Vettel, Norris moves ahead of Ricciardo. Vettel’s struggling already. Ferrari do not seem to have fired their tyres up, Leclerc is fourth and Vettel sixth.
The general sense is that drivers will opt for a one-stop strategy, with the top five on the grid all on medium tyres. “I have a bad feeling Lewis might suffer reliability issues today. Law of averages and all that,” emails James Roe. Perhaps it’s been that kind of sporting weekend for fans of English sportsmen, but I think he’ll be Ok.
It’s a sharp, demanding start, a short uphill to turn one. And they’re getting ready for the formation lap.
More news on that Verstappen car bother: Red Bull officials confirm it had a hairline crack on the wing, but they got permission to change it, and it’s “all done and dusted”.
A snatched chat with the man in pole, Valtteri Bottas: “I feel a lot of pressure, the start will obviously be one of the key points of the race, that’s the first thing I’ll be focusing on. If I can come out of that in front, it’ll be an interesting race.”
Verstappen’s needing to replace a rear wing, with Red Bull engineers scurrying around his car, as Sky’s Martin Brundle sets off on his grid walk, stopping for a jabber with the actor Matthew McConaughy, who casually remarks that he had dinner with Hamilton last night. “We could see something special today,” he says.
And Hamilton’s dad, Anthony, is in and among it. “I got the call [to come to the race]. he says, “‘Dad you need to be here,’ so the whole family are here en masse. It’s unreal, we can’t believe we are where we are, and what’s happened to us. It feels like the first year in formula one every year.”
Track details: there are 56 laps in the USA Grand Prix, and the Circuit of the Americas’ lap distance, across 20 turns, is 5.513km. The lap record is 1:37.392, set last year by none other than Lewis Hamilton, though he only came third here last year, behind Kimi Raikkonen and Max Verstappen
“Hi from turn 4,” chirps Kevin, by email, “Surrounded here by fans from all over the world. Lots of cowboy boots in attendance too. I came from relatively nearby Boston. Looking fwd to a great race. Conditions are …. perfect.” Yes, it looks a scorcher.
It’s a sell-out at the Circuit of the Americas, despite the fixture clash with the Nascar weekend up the road at the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex. Whether the additional carrot of live pop in the evening from Imagine Dragons and Pink is a moot point, but there should be enough glamour on the track anyhow. Get the party started.
And those driver championship standings:
1 Lewis Hamilton (Gbr) Mercedes GP 363pts
2 Valtteri Bottas (Fin) Mercedes GP 289
3 Charles Leclerc (Mon) Ferrari 236
4 Sebastian Vettel (Ger) Ferrari 230
5 Max Verstappen (Ned) Red Bull 220
6 Pierre Gasly (Fra) Scuderia Toro Rosso 77
7 Carlos Sainz (Spa) McLaren 76
8 Alexander Albon (Tha) Red Bull 74
9 Sergio Perez (Mex) Racing Point 43
10 Daniel Ricciardo (Aus) Renault 38
How they line up on the grid:
1 Valtteri Bottas (Fin) Mercedes 2 Sebastian Vettel (Ger) Ferrari 3 Max Verstappen (Ned) Red Bull 4 Charles Leclerc (Mon) Ferrari 5 Lewis Hamilton (Gbr) Mercedes 6 Alexander Albon (Tha) Red Bull 7 Carlos Sainz (Spa) McLaren 8 Lando Norris (Gbr) McLaren 9 Daniel Ricciardo (Aus) Renault 10 Pierre Gasly (Fra) Scuderia Toro Rosso
11 Nico Hulkenberg (Ger) Renault 12 Kevin Magnussen (Den) Haas 13 Daniil Kvyat (Rus) Scuderia Toro Rosso 14 Lance Stroll (Can) Racing Point 15 Romain Grosjean (Fra) Haas 16 Antonio Giovinazzi (Ita) Alfa Romeo Racing 17 Kimi Raikkonen (Fin) Alfa Romeo Racing 18 George Russell (Gbr) Williams 19 Sergio Pérez (Mex) Racing Point 20 Robert Kubica (Pol) Williams
Evening/afternoon everyone. In some respects this race feels like the equivalent of turning up on the final day of a series-deciding Test match, with the batting side 63 for 1 and needing only another 35 for victory. You know who’s going to win, and probably how, but the the formalities, the celebrations and the sense of history still lure you through the gates.
And it’s quite the achievement Lewis Hamilton is on the cusp of: a sixth F1 world championship, which would put him second on the all-time list behind only Michael Schumacher, and a fifth in six years. His domination of this decade has been emphatic, backed by a champion team, and blessed by his adaptability, resilience and sheer talent.
All he needs to do today is finish in the top eight, and he can finish outside it and still seal the title should his teammate Valtteri Bottas not win. The Finn is in pole, so must fancy his chances in this particular race, but it would be a major shock if his senior Mercedes teammate isn’t celebrating tonight.
None of this means today’s race will lack spice. For one thing, the verbal jousting this week between Hamilton and Max Verstappen over the latter’s aggressive style, and another near miss between the pair in qualifying yesterday, will make the contest between those two well worth watching. Especially as Hamilton will want to make his way through the field from fifth on the grid; his sparring partner Verstappen starts in third.
These remaining races might also offer us into a glimpse into what the F1 world might look like whenever the Hamilton Supremacy finally ends. Charles Leclerc has had a lively first campaign, and the watchable Monagesque driver starts from fourth on the grid today, while another rookie, Alexander Albon, will also be one to watch. The Thai driver was sixth in qualifying yesterday.
So in summary then, don’t go anywhere. Lights out 7.10pm.
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