Carlos Sainz’s Pole Position for the US Grand Prix is anything but a surprise. The Spaniard demonstrated an impressive form throughout Free Practice, and a cleaner lap than that of his teammate helped him get his third career pole.
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We can use this infographic shared by Formula 1’s official Web site, to see that Ferrari had the upper hand in one lap pace. Red Bull was only one-tenth of a second behind, which would have punished every little mistake by the Ferrari drivers.
Looking further down the order, we can see that Mercedes, Alpine, and Aston Martin, completed the top 5. Furthermore, the rest of the cars roughly correspond to the pecking order in the qualifying session yesterday.
We say that because this gives the needed credibility to the analyses from the Free Practice sessions. And the next chart should provide some insight into the race pace form of each team.
Who was the fastest in race pace?
As you can see, the Red Bull RB18 is about 0.07 seconds faster than the Ferrari F1-75. The gap to Mercedes has further widened to 0.79 seconds a lap. However, there is one key characteristic of the Circuit of the Americas, that can change the status quo.
Tire degradation has been really tough in Austin, due to the high temperatures, abrasive track surface, and not in the last place – high-speed corners and low traction zones.
United States Grand Prix pole-sitter Carlos Sainz, is surely going to have a tough time keeping his lead. His Ferrari has been quick to warm up its tires over the course of one lap, but the Italian team has struggled with longevity throughout the season.
Mercedes with an advantage
Ultimately, this is where Mercedes and its leniency on the rubber may come into place. Due to the penalties of Charles Leclerc and Sergio Perez, Lewis Hamilton and George Russel will start third and fourth. Provided they get good starts in the upcoming race, they might be fighting for second and third, if not for the win, since they should get the upper hand in terms of strategy.
Speaking of strategy, Charles Leclerc and his team must be error-free to even think about getting on the podium. Indeed, the Monegasque will have the advantage of a fresh power unit and turbo, but starting in the middle of the field always has its risks.
Further down the grid
If we are to trust the knowledge gained in the practice sessions, Aston Martin will struggle to maintain its good position from qualifying. The team ranks second to last in terms of race pace. However, Lance Stroll, who is starting from an amazing fifth on the grid, is known to be a tough racer, while the experience of Sebastian Vettel will surely give the team something to look for.
Fernando Alonso showed good pace in both qualifying and the race pace, and now with a fresh engine unit, he should be able to fight for a good points haul. Of course, this would be essential for his team in the fight with McLaren for fourth place in the championship.
The obvious favorite
In our view, Max Verstappen is the true favorite for race victory in the US Grand Prix. Sainz should not be too far off in second place, but we think he will be challenged by both Mercedes, towards the end of the race. Charles Leclerc will eventually finish in P5 because he is going to spend a good amount of the race fighting with Checo Perez for a position on track.
With the Mexican finishing in sixth place, we expect to see Norris in P7, Alonso in P8, Stroll in P9, and P10 for Pierre Gasly. Of course, take our predictions with a huge pinch of salt. This is motor racing (according to Michael Massi), and you should always expect the unexpected.