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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.

Lotus revel in others’ misfortune // Maldonado secures first points for Lotus as Grosjean is barged aside

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The US GP helped to lift the gloom off of one of the darkest months in F1 history. But there were still reminders of the struggles the sport is going through. While Jules Bianchi’s injury is by far the worst of the struggles F1 has had, the starkest image was just seeing 17 cars on a threadbare grid. But even with just 18 cars in the race, there was still some entertainment on Sunday evening, with some cars appearing to use demolition derby techniques in their finely tuned F1 cars with varying degrees of success.

Maldonado scores at long last

Pastor Maldonado, Lotus F1 Team: Started 10th, Finished 9th

Ninth was a great performance for Maldonado, securing his first points of the season
Credit: Alastair Staley/Lotus F1

Despite a circuit layout that appeared to favour the grunt of a Mercedes power unit, Lotus had their most successful outing of the season in terms of pace, if not points. Maldonado was on the verge of cracking the top 10 for the first time in a Lotus before Adrian Sutil stole the final place in the shootout for Sauber.

Maldonado still did get to start tenth and then profited immensely as Pérez and Sutil came to blows, promoting him to eighth and best of the midfield, where he stayed until the first round of stops. Unfortunately a poor first stop dropped the Venezuelan to 13th but he worked his way back up the field, running seventh when he stopped a second time, speeding in the pitlane in his desperation to stay ahead of his rivals. The resultant five second penalty left Kevin Magnussen out of reach and despite a gutsy move on Jean-Éric Vergne for ninth, it looked like Maldonado was set for a solitary point until Vergne was given a post-race penalty for driving into Grosjean at turn one and forcing him off the road in a French-on-French crime.

Ninth was a great performance for Maldonado, securing his first points of the season where they were incredibly close to a double points finish.

Rotten luck destroys Sutil’s promise

Adrian Sutil, Sauber F1 Team: Started 9th, Retired

Sauber finally had a silver lining to a terrible season, though it was swiftly taken away by Sergio Pérez
Credit: Sauber Motorsport AG

Sauber finally had a silver lining to a terrible season, though it was swiftly taken away by Sergio Pérez. Sutil was on fire on Saturday with a performance that reminded you why he was once seen as a future star of the sport with pace to burn but a little crash prone. Sutil was eighth in third free practice in an appetiser for what was to come in qualifying. He was seven tenths faster than teammate Esteban Gutiérrez and comfortably into Q2, which in itself is a rarity for Sauber. But then he provided his pièce de résistance, going half a second quicker in Q2 to leap into the top 10 by more than a tenth over the faster Force India of Pérez and Lotus of Maldonado.

Sutil was on fire on Saturday with a performance that reminded you why he was once seen as a future star of the sport

Understandably, he was easily the slowest in Q3 but he had what he wanted and started ninth after Jenson Button’s penalty. The problem was he started alongside Sergio Pérez who was clearly desperate to get passed as early as possible. The Force India dived down the inside of Adrian Sutil in what was little more than a desperate ill-considered move near the end of lap one. The result: Pérez hit the back of Kimi Räikkönen’s Ferrari and bounced into the innocent Adrian Sutil, ending his own race with a broken front right suspension and pitching the German into a half spin. Unfortunately for Sutil, as he attempted to recover control of the car, he collected Pérez and broke his own front left suspension ruining a great chance of points for Sauber as the smaller field offered more of a chance for those further down to cash in.

Ricciardo punches above his weight

Daniel Ricciardo, Infiniti Red Bull Racing: Started 5th, Finished 3rd

Ricciardo’s stonking season continues. On a track where it looked like Mercedes power was unbeatable, Ricciardo thought little of the handicap and went toe to toe with the Williams and came out on top. The Aussie had qualified fifth, marginally slower than Valtteri Bottas and well clear of the chasing pack. But a poor start dropped him four places, though he gained two back through bravery on the brakes against Sutil and Räikkönen at turn one. All hope appeared lost of a battle with the Williams as Fernando Alonso and Kevin Magnussen stood in his way.

A great late move down the back straight on lap one took care of Magnussen and Alonso was dispatched even more impressively down the inside of turn one on the restart, nearly running into the back of Bottas he braked so late. Even with a clean run at Williams it looked a tough ask for Ricciardo to keep up.

Ricciardo’s stonking season continues
Credit: Mark Thompson/Getty Images

But he did more than that. Tactical trickery saw Ricciardo undercut Bottas as Williams were caught napping and pitted Massa first, hanging Bottas out to dry. And the trick was repeated at the second round of stops to leapfrog Massa and climb on to the podium. While strategy may have helped to gain track position, this result was all about Ricciardo’s sheer speed, not to mention racecraft to clear Alonso and Magnussen at the earliest possible opportunity. Is there anything the young Aussie can’t do?

While Ricciardo was all but perfect, Sebastian Vettel got what he could from a weekend of damage limitation. Vettel’s weekend seemed focused on proving a point to the FIA over the flaw in the new rules for engine usage throughout a season. Vettel set the car up for the race throughout practice, paying no attention to qualifying setup in the knowledge he would start from the pitlane anyway. Were it not for a threat from the FIA, the German wouldn’t have even set a lap time on Saturday.

Starting from the pitlane, Vettel pitted twice under the safety car to see if he could run to the end on prime tyres, Vettel was up to ninth by the natural first round of stops, pitting for fresh tyres soon after. The four hours of setup time didn’t look to have paid off during his third stint (Lap 3-26) as he struggled for any real pace but he came alive in his fourth stint, breezing past cars with a tea tray rear wing.

But the tyres were on the edge of the cliff with 10 laps to go and so Red Bull made the bold decision to pit for option tyres despite being in a battle for decent points from a good recovery drive. But with far more grip and genuine pace, he scythed past cars as if they weren’t there, jumping from 14th to 7th in the last six laps coming home just half a second behind Alonso after a great second half of the race. Let’s see if there’s more to come in Brazil and Abu Dhabi as Vettel’s Red Bull career winds down.