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Class of the Field
Adam Barton

A Formula One fan since he was six, back while Häkkinen and Schumacher were having many an epic battle, Adam has seen a great deal. From German domination (twice), to British determination (once) and a Spanish invasion. A near compulsive fan who one day hopes to write about the sport for a living, outside of F1 Adam also authors his own blog One Guy's Opinion.

Arise King Lewis of America - Brit beats Vettel at his own game to continue North American dominance


Lewis Hamilton highlights the American flag on his helmet (Austin, Texas)
Credit: VMM

After a Grand Prix that easily overcame expectations, we are left with a title fight and a disgruntled Lewis Hamilton showing that he can still deliver when he has a car half as good as his competitor. At the moment these drivers are in a class of their own, leaving the rest in their wake. Who knows how far ahead they’d be in a standard spec series? Austin provided a great insight into each of the three men’s great strengths.

Hamilton takes ‘one chance’ to beat Vettel in a straight fight

It was supposed to be a race where Sebastian Vettel rode off into the Texas sunset flanked by his reliable rear gunner Mark Webber, securing a third straight constructors’ title and all but guaranteeing Vettel’s own third title, even after Hamilton’s valiant qualifying effort got him within a tenth of the dominant German.

Even then it seemed an impossibility that Sebastian Vettel would be impeached at the top, with his success at breaking the DRS in the early laps and managing the gap. As well as that, the 'dirty side' of the grid that Lewis Hamilton was to start from, was seen as such a huge disadvantage that Ferrari decided to penalise their own driver to get them onto the clean side of the grid.

But Hamilton took it all in stride, accepted third place as he drove out of turn one and set about breaking down the Red Bull attack. He took two DRS assisted attempts to get past Webber and then began stalking the championship leader. He edged closer each lap but didn't make the rash move he occasionally has in his locker. Instead he waited until lap 42 when Vettel was held up in the high speed sweeps of the first sector allowing Hamilton to close right up and use his DRS to breeze past the Champion elect.

I have to say I keep falling out of love with Lewis with his moody attitude and dodgy decisions but then he comes out with a great underdog performance which makes you see what is so special about him. I'm writing an article about the best drivers in F1 at the moment, and there's no doubt that the top two are now competing for their third title. But Lewis Hamilton is undoubtedly the quickest driver in F1 at the moment. It will be interesting to see how much next year's Mercedes car holds his phenomenal speed back.

Jenson refuses to press panic button

L Hamilton2nd1st
J Button12th5th

When you consider Jenson Button’s weekend up against Lewis Hamilton, it seems like he was off colour but in actual fact, he may well have been the next best driver on the day. There were a lot of extraneous circumstances that cost Button’s weekend dearly. It would have been interesting to see where he would have qualified if his throttle pedal was working, and as a result, where he would have finished up.

As it was, he started twelfth, was one of those worst affected by the lack of grip on the left side of the grid, found himself boxed in on the inside of turn one and dropped to 16th. But then the fight back started. He showed Hamilton’s touch as he dived past the majority of the field. His move on Räikkönen showed immense class, as well as trust in his opponent as he stuck in around the outside of turn 12.

Lewis Hamilton may be out of reach for the man from Frome, but he has shown great skill when he has been at one with the car, and also showed on Sunday that he has an eye for an overtake.

Hülkenberg proves his worth

During the second half of the season I have become more and more impressed with the young German. Hülkenberg really does appear to be the hottest property in a midfield car at the moment, possibly even hotter than McLaren bound Sergio Pérez.

Nico gets the best from his Force India in Austin, Texas
Credit: Sahara Force India Formula One Team

He has shown great pace in the past (just look at his pole lap in Brazil 2010) but is now showing that he can get the most out of the car on a consistent basis. It was pretty clear that the Force India was one of the slower midfield cars in Austin, even the Toro Rosso was arguably quicker and yet Nico managed to qualify eighth on the grid. He was one of the few to be punished by Massa’s penalty and drove a very solid race to eighth, as the faster McLaren, Ferrari and Lotus were too much for his Force India.

Perhaps the most impressive part of his drive was his battle with Kimi Räikkönen. After holding him off for a number of laps, they had a great battle in turn one and two. While Räikkönen may have conquered, it was great driving from the Hulk, giving Kimi just enough room and not causing an accident when many would have.

Senna helps his cause

It’s not often that Bruno Senna has been able to go head to head with Pastor Maldonado but he gave the Venezuelan a good run for his money in America. He was marginally slower in qualifying, and outraced him until the late stages. Maybe his better hand-eye coordination was aiding him in a battle that may hold the key to whether he’s on the grid next year.

Were it not for a long queue of cars ahead of Senna, he would have likely pulled away and secured a well deserved ninth place. But, unable to show his pace, Maldonado held on and made a lunge late in the race. It was great clean racing between the two but I can’t help thinking that Senna may have been more aggressive up the hill into turn one if it wasn’t against teammate Maldonado. Nonetheless, it was a stellar drive from the Brazilian.

Massa vs Webber holds the key to Brazil

There’s no doubt. In Brazil, we are not on Red Bull turf. Or Ferrari turf. We are on Felipe Massa’s ground. Not only is it his backyard but he is also electric in São Paulo. With him back on form, I wouldn’t be surprised if he was on the front row.

If he does outqualify Alonso, which is absurdly likely in Brazil, will Ferrari use the Austin trick or will they use Le Mans tactics, using Massa as a hare to try and push Vettel to test the reliability of the alternator.

In a dry race, I’m fairly confident that Vettel will lead Alonso home, perhaps with a McLaren in there too, so the use of teammates will be crucial in the title chase. It may well come down to how well each team uses it assets best (and yes that includes Toro Rosso). Of course a wet race throws everything up in the air, but I ridicule the idea that Vettel will struggle in the wet. Remember what conditions his first win, and first Red Bull win, came in. Regardless of the circumstances, it is a tough challenge for Ferrari, but it is far from insurmountable, particularly as they are not above fighting dirty.