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Verstappen wins entertaining US Grand Prix


In all honesty we really don't know what to expect today.

We're not talking Weather Gods or any of that nonsense, no, rather what lengths Liberty and its partners are going to go in order to further sell the sport.

At one point during yesterday's qualifying coverage the TV camera picked up on two young girls who were sitting there screaming as though at a BTS concert, or whatever the current flavour of the month might be in terms of pop music.

Indeed, as was the case in Miami, the TV director insisted on spending more time showing us what fun the fans were having that on what was actually happening on track.

In all honesty it's getting to the point where absolutely everything appears staged, and that's before we get to Las Vegas.

Yesterday, it was announced that F1 is extending its deal with ESPN and Disney - no jokes please - the press release helpfully advised that "after setting a record in 2021 for the most-viewed F1 season ever on US television with an average of 949,000 viewers per race, the average has moved into seven figures in 2022. Through 18 races, live F1 telecasts are averaging 1.2 million viewers on ESPN networks - with multiple events attracting race-record television audiences."

Indeed, it continued, "earlier this year, the telecast of the inaugural Miami Grand Prix on ABC generated an average viewership of 2.6 million, the largest U.S. audience on record for a live F1 race."

The pre-event press release from Ferrari however claims that 36 is the "number of millions of Formula 1 fans in the United States (based on a study by Liberty Media), a figure which has increased drastically in recent years".

"American fans have an average age between 16 and 24, which is younger than the overall average of 37 and 40% of the fan-base are women."

Now our maths skills are seemingly at about the same level as the Red Bull accounts team but an average of 1.2 million viewers from a 36 million strong fan-base seems a bit weak.

Anyway, expect more screaming girls today, along with cute kids wearing the latest team apparel, rap stars, movie stars and the rest as Liberty, with the aid of the likes of Sky and Disney, continues the big sell.

As for the race, despite Danika Patrick's claim that the winner "only ever comes from the front row here", seemingly having forgotten that Charles Leclerc's penalty puts Max Verstappen on the front row, we can expect an aggressive battle into the first corner between the Dutchman and Carlos Sainz.

The chasing pack will be all over them and it is quite possible that we could witness a shock elimination on the first lap... after all Sainz has history... as does Max.

Mercedes has looked strong all weekend, and Lewis Hamilton has a fabulous record here, however both drivers admitted to finding it hard going in qualifying and things are hardly likely to get better today.

The battle between Alpine and McLaren continues, the French team's hopes of a Suzuka repeat compromised by Ocon's poor qualifying and a subsequent penalty that sees him start from the pitlane.

Nonetheless, Fernando Alonso should be worth the price of admission alone.

Also looking good have been the Aston Martins, particularly Lance Stroll, while Sebastian Vettel will surely be fired up following the death of his mentor, Dietrich Mateschitz.

The bumps and the wind have caused problems all weekend and that is likely to continue today, a situation not helped by the lack of running on Friday due to the tyre test.

Starting from the sixth row, Leclerc will be worth a watch, the Monegasque, having lost out on the title, and not even having won a race since the summer break, keen to deprive Sergio Perez of the runner-up spot.

Then there's the battle for sixth, with Alfa Romeo trying hard to hold off Aston Martin, AlphaTauri and Haas.

There is so much promise in today's race - at a track that is among the best on the calendar - let's just hope that it isn't spoiled, either by the reckless over ambition of the drivers or Liberty's determination to convince the world that F1 is the most popular sport on the planet... especially with screaming girls, women and kids with way too much pocket money.

The best strategy for the 56-lap race is likely to be a two-stopper, using the medium and the hard tyres - owing to the high degree of degradation on the soft.

The fastest way seems set to be one medium stint followed by two stints on the hard: although medium-hard-medium could be a good way forward too. As always, the tyres that each driver has left in their individual allocations will influence the strategy.

A three-stopper is not to be excluded: especially because there is only a short pit lane time loss in Austin and plenty of possibilities to overtake.

Other than Leclerc and Ocon there are grid penalties for Perez, Alonso and Tsunoda, which leaves the starting grid looking like this.

Sainz starts ahead of Verstappen, Hamilton, Russell, Stroll, Norris, Bottas, Albon, Perez and Vettel.

While Gasly starts eleventh, ahead of Leclerc, Magnussen, Alonso, Ricciardo, Schumacher, Latifi, Zhou, Tsunoda and Ocon who starts from the pitlane.

The pitlane opens and the drivers begin to head out.

Air temperature is 29 degrees C, while the track temperature is 34 degrees. As was the case on Friday and Saturday it is bright and sunny, and quite windy... as shown by the gigantic flag at Turn 1 which is at full billow.

"Left brake is just not working," reports Hamilton, and ass he arrives on the grid mechanics swarm over his car.

Ahead of the national anthem there is a tribute to Dietrich Mateschitz as Start Me Up by The Rolling Stones blasts out of the speakers... now that's the sort of soundtrack we can listen to.

As the clock ticks down to the start, work continues on Hamilton's brakes.

In terms of tyres, all are starting on mediums bar Magnussen, Alonso, Schumacher and Ocon who are all on hards. Of the leading pack only Stroll is on used mediums.

They head off on the formation lap. Danke Didi, reads the sign above the start-line.

As they approach the final corners, Sainz backs the field right up. Last to take their places are Zhou and Tsunoda.

The grid forms.

They're away! Verstappen and Sainz both get away well, as do the Mercedes pair behind. The Dutchman has the inside line into Turn 1, while Sainz has Hamilton right behind and Russell coming through on the inside.

As Sainz covers the inside he is hit by Russell causing him to spin in a great cloud of smoke.

Norris, who is behind the spinning Ferrari is compromised, and it is amazing he doesn't go into the back of Russell , as Vettel, Bottas and Alonso, who had a massive lock-up heading into the corner, are forced to take avoiding action.

The stewards have noted Sainz for causing a collision, though it appeared to be Russell's fault. "What happened there," asks the Spaniard. "He cut across me," says Russell.

Verstappen leads Hamilton, Stroll, Russell, Vettel, Norris, Perez, Gasly, Albon and Leclerc.

Sainz heads back to the pits and retires.

The stewards now include Russell in their investigation.

Vettel has already made up 5 places and Perez 3, while Bottas has dropped 4.

Russell is handed a 5s time penalty for causing a collision.

Check out our Sunday gallery from COTA here.


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1. Posted by Chester, 24/10/2022 19:05

"I was at the race in Turn 12, as usual for me. So refreshing to watch without the TV commentary. You can watch backmarkers battling as well as the front runners.

Not sure who was responsible, Liberty or COTA, but I did enjoy eating COTA 10 year anniversary birthday cake, seeing Ricky-Bobby, and Smoky and the Bandit characters between sessions. If that is fake or off-putting to septuagenarians, I'll take it over being confined to a single boring section with next to nothing at InterLagos, watching fans sleep on cardboard at Barcelona, or staring at my feet at all the other F1 venues I have been to.
Forza Texas. A can-do place."

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