United States GP Paddock Notebook – Sunday

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AUSTIN, Texas – What. A. Day.

If Saturday was a day to remember for all the wrong reasons, or seek to forget as quickly as possible, then Sunday, October 25, 2015, at Circuit of The Americas was a day that will live on in Formula 1 lore for days, months and/or years to come.

A World Champion has been crowned, as Lewis Hamilton has taken a dramatic, emotional victory in the United States Grand Prix to claim his third title – the tenth driver in history to reach that threshold.

Furthermore, Hamilton won it after one of the crazier, more exciting and entertaining Grands Prix in recent memory.

And it happened on a day when both qualifying and the race took place in the same day, adding to the intensity up and down the paddock all day today.

Here’s the roundup from the track:




Hamilton 2, Rosberg 0

When World Championships have been there for the taking, Lewis Hamilton has seized the opportunity ahead of his Mercedes AMG Petronas teammate Nico Rosberg. That sentence crystallizes matters and makes it simpler than it really is. But when it has come to crunch time, Hamilton has delivered while Rosberg has wilted. The moments are too many to count in the last two years, but Hamilton has a clear mental, psychological edge on his teammate… even if recently, Rosberg’s held the upper hand in qualifying. My MotorSportsTalk colleague Luke Smith will undoubtedly have more on Hamilton’s latest World Championship, and the magnitude of what it means.

Hamilton vs. Rosberg…

In a standard, not ridiculously crazy as all-get-out Grand Prix, Hamilton’s forceful pass of Rosberg into Turn 1 off the start might have stood as the sole pass for the lead. But four Safety Cars (two Actual, two Virtual), varying tire strategies and various weather conditions later, it wasn’t the form book-type Grand Prix as you’d come to expect. Rosberg, as you might expect, was pissed at how it all went down. Again, more on this to come in the coming days, too.

…and Rosberg vs. Rosberg

Still, despite all the changing elements of this race, it still shaped up as Rosberg’s to win, and he didn’t pull it off. Rosberg’s rare moment of wheel spin exiting Turn 15, on entry into Turn 16 – the first of the triple-apex right-hand sweeper around the COTA Observation Tower – removed a near-certain victory from his grasp after losing near-three second lead.

The subplot was too sweet to ignore. Here was Rosberg, son of 1982 World Champion Keke, losing his own latest shot at a championship in the same country where his dad won his only title. Thirty-three years later, it’s Rosberg’s teammate who has clinched the title on U.S. soil, the first driver to do so since.

Vettel’s proper post-race decorum

While Rosberg was miffed, Sebastian Vettel had also lost out on the World Championship, and he’d entered the race in second place in points. Yet his demeanor, body language and expression was so much better… even despite being mad at himself for not finishing higher than third.

Yes, it’s easier to be less outwardly pissed when you’ve overachieved expectations in your first year in a new team, and you’ve won four World Championships previously. Or when you haven’t been beaten – again – by your teammate.

But Vettel didn’t have to be as diplomatic, congratulatory or as jovial as he was in the post-race press conference, where he and Hamilton joked about how long they wanted to make their championship-clinching presser. Vettel made several efforts to properly note it was Hamilton’s day. The two were almost bonding as if to troll Rosberg – they have seven championships between them and there was Rosberg, sitting to Hamilton’s right, looking less than thrilled.

We can only hope for a proper Hamilton vs. Vettel World Championship duel next season, provided Ferrari continue to improve.

Mad Max the 18-year-old superstar-in-waiting

Max Verstappen is 18. He is also ridiculously good.

Having had the opportunity now to have seen him on site and in person for the first time, I was simply awed by his racecraft, his poise, and… this will seem strange to say for an 18-year-old, but his maturity. His post-race interview with NBC’s Will Buxton sounded of someone at least three or four years older, and considering how effortless he was in moving through the field while others made some daft, questionable moves, the sky is the limit.

Rossi’s dramatic, glorious, almost-points P12 day

You remember when we wrote in IndyCar that Conor Daly recorded the best 17th place finish in recent memory at Long Beach earlier this year? Probably not.

But was Alexander Rossi’s 12th place in Austin, in his Manor, the best 12th place finish in recent memory in F1? You betcha.

It was ohsoclose to an elusive and incredible point for the team, but it was a near-perfect reward for the hard work, dedication and incredible effort put in by the American on home soil ahead of his home Grand Prix. Credit not just to Rossi, but to the Manor team and all of Rossi’s own personal PR/media team for their efforts during this week.

A day for the midfielders

We haven’t touched on them much in the wake of the title, race and other drama that took place today, but great finishes for all of the runners from fifth through ninth: Sergio Perez, Carlos Sainz Jr., Jenson Button, Pastor Maldonado and Felipe Nasr. For Maldonado, eighth marks his third consecutive points-paying finish, a career first, and for Sainz, it was a nice bounce back after his crash in qualifying, just rewards for his Toro Rosso team.

A great day for the fans

I’ll touch on this more in a post-weekend column, but I was so impressed – and surprised – by the fan turnout today. Certainly more than I would have pegged to show up.

Lewis Hamilton is the undoubted driving star of the USGP weekend, 2015, but the fans are the overall stars.

The other contenders for “overall stars” awards: the corner marshals, the track workers, and the TV crews, who undoubtedly had hours to fill – or if you were a cameraman/woman, torrential conditions to deal with. All the unsung heroes must be the ones celebrated this weekend.


I’ll undoubtedly have more to come in the next day or two from COTA.  All told, what a day, what a weekend… and we’re thankful you were there to be a part of it on MotorSportsTalk on NBCSports.com.

Max Verstappen, Sergio Perez and Formula One embrace the United States

Verstappen Perez United States
Fatih Aktas/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Last week, Red Bull Racing revealed its new car, the RB19, and a new relationship with Ford Motor Co. in an event in New York City complete with drivers Max Verstappen, Sergio Perez and team principal Christian Horner.

It’s the first Formula 1 team to launch in the United States for 2023, but even that small move of the needle reflects a major shift in the attitude of both F1’s management and their teams – and the extent to which the American audience has fully embraced the sport.

“It’s something fantastic and unique, for the sport to be able to break it into the U.S,” Perez told NBC Sports. “The market is huge and it’s a huge opportunity for everyone involved, for the drivers, for the team. It’s always a huge market.”

Verstappen Perez United States
Sergio Perez finished fourth in the Unites States Grand Prix, but he was first with the fans.  – Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

In 2023, Formula 1 will race three times in the United States and five times in North America. The Circuit of the Americas will host their 11th consecutive race in October before heading south to Mexico City. Miami returns for a second time in May on a temporary street course around the Hard Rock cafe and the third addition is in downtown Las Vegas in November.

With the Canadian Grand Prix on the schedule for June and the Brazilian Grand Prix in November, American fans are now in the ballpark of Europeans, who have eight events on the continent and one in England.

In 2022, Verstappen won every race in North America. He was kept from sweeping the hemisphere only by George Russell, who won in Brazil. That fact is less remarkable when one considers that Verstappen won 15 times in the season – nearly two-thirds of the races on the schedule.

By the time Formula arrived in Austin, Texas, for Round 20 of 23, Verstappen already had wrapped up his second consecutive championship.

“Sometimes it can be hard to replicate the season, but I think it’s the same as with the car, right? You always try to improve it,” Verstappen told NBC Sports. “And I always look at the little details that even when you have had a good race, you could have done better. And then of course you also learn from the bad races. So we always try to look for these little improvements and general experience you gain year after year.

“You try to do better, but of course it also depends a lot on the package you have.”

Verstappen Perez United States
Max Verstappen United States Grand Prix win was one of 15 for the drivers and 17 for Red Bull.
(Gongora / NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Now Verstappen’s thoughts inevitably will turn to establishing a dynasty, and America will again play a pivotal role.

“I just enjoy what I’m doing,” Verstappen said.  “After the years in Formula One, when you have to be on top of your game and you gain a lot on your experience – in that sense nothing really can get to you anymore. Every year you just try to do the best you can. But a lot depends on the material around you. It’s always a bit of a guess. Start the season as fit as you can be and be well prepared. But if you don’t have the car, you’re not going to win the championship.”

Perez added two wins to Red Bull’s total, at Monaco and the Marina Bay Street course. With two of the US 2023 races on street courses, Perez hopes to close the gap on Verstappen and potentially be his chief rival for the championship.

“The strategy is clear; it is to maximize the potential of the car – and we believe we have a good car, but how good?,” Perez said “We don’t know what the competition is doing. We just give our best in building this car and we hope that it’s good enough to get us to win races.

“I think we have to work together as a team. At the same time. We both want to win the championship. It’s just having good compromise. The competition will be really strong out there, so we really need everything we possibly can get from each other.”

Formula One returns to the United States for Round 6 and the Miami Grand Prix on May 7.