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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.

Spaniards show their flare in Texas showdown // Sainz stars but is beaten by his hero at the last

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The US Grand Prix was a slow burner that had the sting taken out of it by an unfortunately timed virtual safety car. It gifted Nico Rosberg an unchallenged second place to tighten his grip in the championship but it completely changed the midfield battles, and with a few casualties in the top order, surprising points were on offer for a few midfield runners.

Sainz stars as Toro Rosso hang on to him

Carlos Sainz, Scuderia Toro Rosso: Started 10th, Finished 6th

Sainz was on it all weekend
Credit: Fox/Getty

The Spaniard returned to his starring form in Texas, putting on a big display to let newly re-signed teammate Daniil Kvyat know who the team leader is. Sainz was on it all weekend, securing a shock spot in Q3 with a great lap three tenths faster than his teammate and leaving Alonso and Pérez on the outside looking in.

Carlos Sainz played the race perfectly from start to finish. With contact ahead going into turn one, Sainz stayed away from danger and played it sensibly, picking up places from Hülkenberg and Bottas as the two collided, ruining both of their races, leaving Sainz nowhere to go but the runoff area.

With teammate Daniil Kvyat spinning Sergio Pérez later in the lap, it left Sainz with a great platform to compete for points with little threat from competitive midfield runners behind. However, as Toro Rosso are the only team running a 2015 spec engine, there were still plenty of challenges ahead, especially if anyone got near the back of him. He was able to hold off his boyhood hero until the stops, running relatively long in his first stint to ensure a two stop strategy was possible. Sainz got as high as fifth during the stops but resumed in eighth on the soft tyres, five seconds ahead of Alonso.

It’s here that it’s fair to say that Toro Rosso did little to help their young charger, opting for soft tyres while Alonso behind would take medium tyres at both of his stops, giving the Toro Rosso a pace advantage, but leaving him vulnerable at the end of stints. It wasn’t a huge issue in the second stint as Sainz opened up his lead to nine seconds over the 19 laps. However, with a 26 lap final stint, it would prove far more of a problem. Sainz was left slip-sliding around for the final ten laps, with Felipe Massa joining the party behind. Sainz’s times fell off a cliff with a lack of grip and it looked for all the world like Massa and Alonso would skate by.

Sainz ploughed on manfully, showing experience beyond his years
Credit: Thompson/Getty

Sainz had other plans though, doing just enough in the twisty first sector and at the end of the lap to avoid Massa’s advances, despite the Brazilian benefitting from more durable tyres, an up-to-date, more powerful Mercedes engine and DRS. Somehow Sainz ploughed on manfully, showing experience beyond his years.

The bad news came on lap 51, when Alonso barged his way past Felipe Massa, knowing he needed to catch his former teammate by surprise. For the final five laps, Sainz Jr really was defenceless and after making up time in the battle with Massa, Alonso got past on the penultimate lap for fifth, with Sainz putting everything in on the final lap to stay within range in case of a penalty.

Toro Rosso thought that points were out of their reach in Austin but Carlos Sainz’s exemplary drive proved them wrong. If only Toro Rosso had found the medium tyres at the back of the garage, he would have easily secured a maiden top five finish. Okay, they had help from Verstappen and Räikkönen retiring, and the Bottas/Hülkenberg clash, but Sainz exhibited all his strengths in a display that typified why Red Bull insisted on keeping them in his stable. Toro Rosso in their current guise have no right fighting with McLaren, Williams and Force India but Sainz did, matching his best ever result with his best ever drive.

Alonso foils compatriot at the last

Fernando Alonso, McLaren Honda: Started 12th, Finished 5th

Alonso was by far the better McLaren driver all weekend
Credit: McLaren Honda

While Carlos Sainz was the star of the show, Fernando Alonso beat him to the punch, just. Alonso was by far the better McLaren driver all weekend. While teammate Jenson Button was mired in Q1, Fernando made it through and qualified 12th. That quickly became ninth with Force India's disastrous first lap, giving Alonso a chance to secure a big result for McLaren. In fact, it really was on, as Button was quickly behind him in tenth.

Alonso favoured a more conservative strategy during the race. He started on the soft tyres but pitted with the rest of the supersoft pack, allowing the Spaniard to push and attack throughout the race. Alonso ran ninth throughout the first two stints, but Felipe Massa snuck past at the second round of stops, as the trio pitted under the virtual safety car. Massa hampered Alonso’s progress, and the fact that McLaren was faster overall on the same tyres than Williams shows how much McLaren, and to be fair Honda, have developed their package.

Eventually a bit of testicular fortitude at the hairpin saw Alonso through with a late braking move that Massa never saw coming. With more durable tyres, Alonso was not done and eased past Sainz to secure a landmark result for McLaren as best of the midfield, aided by Räikkönen and Verstappen’s troubles.

Grosjean spares home crowd

Romain Grosjean, Haas F1 Team: Started 13th, Finished 10th

Haas looked like a team mired in the midfield at their home race but a bit of luck and a stunning drive from Romain Grosjean delivered a much needed point to aid F1’s appeal in America. The Frenchman climbed from 15th to 11th by lap seven. And after the slightly more local hero, Esteban Gutiérrez, was forced to retire with yet more brake issues, the attention turned to Grosjean.

Grosjean delivered a much needed point to aid F1’s appeal in America

On the soft tyres, Grosjean continued to push and jumped back up to 12th before pitting under the VSC, putting him in the prime position for a point when Verstappen and Räikkönen dropped out. That left Grosjean 10th, unable to attack Pérez and Button ahead, both of whom had good recovery drives from first lap contact and a poor Saturday respectively. With Marcus Ericsson 20 seconds and in a slower car behind, Grosjean could nurse the car home for a much needed point.