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    INSIGHT: Austin Storylines You May Have Missed From the legacy of F1 legen...

From the legacy of F1 legends to the futures of the next generation and all in between, here's a few USGP tales you might not have read about...

A Fistful of Dollars

Kimi Räikkönen's Austin victory for Ferrari ended a run of four consecutive USGP wins for the team. It took Ferrari onto 13 wins in the USA - one ahead of McLaren. But guess who scored the Scuderia's first? None other than our own Niki Lauda, in 1975.

Actually, that '75 win for Niki at Watkins Glen was highly controversial in a manner we don't see any more - thankfully! Niki had already secured his first world title at Monza but in those days 'The Glen' was always 'the money race' with everyone chasing a fistful of dollars.

Niki and Emerson Fittipaldi led away from the front row but, further back, Niki's team mate, the late Clay Regazzoni, clattered the back of Fittipaldi's McLaren team mate Jochen Mass, necessitating a pit stop for a new nose.

When Niki and Emerson came up to lap 'Regga' just 18 laps in, Clay promptly moved over for Niki and proceeded to shamelessly block Emerson for the next six laps, ignoring continuously waved blue flags.

Niki's lead when they caught Regga was 2.2s. By the time Emerson got by some six laps later, it was more than 12s! Today's drivers get hot under the collar if they're trapped behind back markers for more than three corners!

Emerson was finally able to resume his fruitless pursuit (Niki won the 59-lap race by 4.9s) when clerk of the course Burdette 'Burdie' Martin ultimately black-flagged Regazzoni. The Ferrari team manager that day was Luca di Montezemolo, who took exception to that and hung a right hook on Burdie before withdrawing Regga 'in protest' - presumably before the official disqualification came into effect...

Martin, who estimates put at around 16 stone, did not appear to notice he'd been hit by the nine-stone Luca. But he did utter the immortal words: "Mr Montezemolo, please think what you're doing while you're doin' it..."

Fittipaldi was none too impressed either as Niki rode off into the sunset, his swag bags packed full of dollars!

The Young Ones

Mercedes young drivers Esteban Ocon and George Russell are part of an increasingly formidable generational shift in F1 - notwithstanding that Austin was won by a 39-year-old! Speaking in Texas, Claire Williams seemed genuinely excited by her recent multi-year deal with 20-year-old George.

"His racing pedigree speaks for itself," she said. "He's won the F4 championship, the GP3 championship and hopefully he'll win the F2 championship in Abu Dhabi. His on-track prowess speaks for itself but overall George is a very impressive individual. He's got a great personality and is truly determined. He knew exactly what he wanted going into 2019 and he's got it. We're really excited to start working with him."

Valtteri, of course, began his F1 career at Williams, of which Toto is a former shareholder, and said last weekend: "It's great for George. I've had a chat with him. In my first season at Williams it was hard to get through Q1, then they went upwards and hopefully that will be the same for George. There's always risks in a first season when you are fighting at the back and are less visible, but it's a great team and a great bunch of people."

Esteban, meanwhile, is also on the Williams short-list for the second seat alongside George, with current driver Sergey Sirotkin and reserve driver Robert Kubica also in the frame.

"My situation is slightly different," said the 22-year-old. "George has signed for multiple years and it's a good chance for him. I'm still in discussion and there are still possibilities for me. And, if not next year, there should be good opportunities for me the following year."

Esteban was also predicting great things from former karting rival and new Ferrari signing Charles Leclerc in 2019. Asked how he thought the 20-year-old Monegasque would fare alongside Sebastian Vettel, his response was immediate.

"I think Charles will challenge for the title in 2019. At least it wouldn't be a surprise to me. I know he has very good talent and is one of the quickest guys out there. I think both Charles - who turned 21 the Tuesday before Austin -- and Pierre (Gasly) will fight for wins and podiums in 2019."

Gasly, 22, joins Max Verstappen at Red Bull next year, the team switching from Renault to the Honda engine currently used by Toro Rosso. Although the Toro Rossos both started from the back after engine penalties in the USA, Gasly called the new specification Japanese Power Unit "a great step" and backed that up with seventh fastest time in Q1.

"We saw that," smiled Toto, "and it just proves that you cannot relax for a moment in this business. There are both new regulations and a talented new generation of drivers to consider."

Hard though it is to believe, once Fernando Alonso leaves the paddock, Lewis, at 34, will be the second oldest driver on the 2019 grid, after Räikkönen. It barely seems five minutes since a fresh-faced 22-year-old Lewis stood on a Melbourne beach discussing his impending F1 debut at the 2007 Australian GP...

The Complexities of COTA...

A combination of circumstances and prioritising a race win over points meant that Lewis' bid for a fifth World Championship goes on to Mexico City this coming weekend.

Beating Ferrari at Circuit of the Americas was never going to be a formality after a close pole battle on Saturday saw Lewis and the two Ferraris blanketed by just 0.07s.

On top of that, coming into the race it was a tough call whether a one-stop or two-stop race was strategically best. In 2017 two stops had won the race and this year's picture was complicated by rain on Friday limiting the teams' information. As a team strategist pointed out, "after FP3 we had six laps to extrapolate a 56-lap race and that was not enough."

Tyre supplier Pirelli also had a lack of data. If tyre usage is more severe than anticipated, the option exists for Pirelli to alter camber settings and tyre pressures but this is normally done on a Friday evening. In Austin, however, there was no dry running until Saturday morning and an increase in minimum rear tyre pressures from 20 to 21.5psi was not made until Saturday night, by which time the cars were in parc ferme.

Although the same for everyone, the effect of a rear pressure change, which effectively increases ride height, impacts car balance to different degrees. And once the cars are in parc ferme, the only tuning tools to tweak balance are front tyre pressures and front wing flap angle.

From its limited FP3 data, the team suspected that the race would be a tough one-stop. Achievable, but difficult. And although a fine lap had given Lewis his 81st pole, converting it into a first corner lead was tougher than usual.

While Lewis, Valtteri, Vettel's Ferrari and Daniel Ricciardo's Red Bull had cleared Q2 on the SuperSoft and thus started on the more durable red-walled tyre, Räikkönen's Ferrari was on the stickiest UltraSoft, which afforded it a better launch from the grid.

Worse, a three-place grid penalty for Vettel for a red flag infringement in FP1 meant that Räikkönen started from the front row, just 8m behind Lewis. There was every chance Lewis would be powerless to stop the Finn getting down the inside of Turn 1, which is how it played out.

A first lap spin for Vettel, dicing with Riccardo, took some of the pressure off. But Lewis, who was hoping to be able to pass Räikkönen when the Ferrari's less durable rubber started to go off, did not find things easy.

"The car was hard work from the start," he said. "It wasn't flowing as well as on Saturday and the rear tyre temperatures were running too high."

A lap 11 Virtual Safety Car (VSC) period when Ricciardo's Red Bull pulled off gave the team a conundrum: to stop or not? Lewis was told to do the opposite of leader Räikkönen. When the Finn dummied to go in but continued around, Lewis dived into the pits to go onto the yellow-walled Pirelli Soft.

To Pit or Not to Pit?

It was a tricky one. Pitting under VSC conditions meant a cheap stop - around 9.5s time loss versus 19.5s in normal conditions - and there was already a handy window for Lewis to drop into.

Vettel's first lap spin meant that he was down the field. Verstappen had started on the Soft from the back and had already scythed through into fourth place but, some 19s back at the end of the previous lap, would be comfortably cleared. The only track position Lewis would cede was to Valtteri, who could be relied upon to let him back past. The more robust Soft compound would then allow Lewis to attack Räikkönen harder.

The downside was that the VSC was earlier than ideal and would require 45 laps from a set of Softs estimated to be good for around 35-40 laps. It pushed the team's mindset more firmly towards a two-stop race.

By the end of lap 14 Lewis, attacking, and lapping more than 1.5s quicker than Räikkönen's Ferrari, was back to within 5.7s of the lead. He was within DRS range five laps later but then endured two slow laps as Räikkönen defended well while at the same time as eking his starting UltraSofts out to the end of lap 21, confirming that Ferrari was intending to stop just the once.

The decision to pit Lewis was made on the basis of there being little downside relative to Räikkönen, who Lewis could not pass on his worn SuperSofts. Had Lewis been leading, he would not have pitted, and had Räikkönen stopped, Lewis would not have pitted either.

Too Greedy in Texas?

We're not talking titanic Texas steaks or treble burgers with relish here, but rather the team's decision to chase the Austin race win rather than prioritise points in its bid to clinch Lewis' fifth world title.

To take that Fangio-equalling crown in Austin, Lewis needed to outscore Vettel by eight points, with points awarded 25-18-15-12-10-8-6-4-2-1. With Vettel running fifth behind Räikkönen, Lewis, Valtteri and Verstappen after his first-lap incident, the German was on course to score 10 points.

Second place and 18 points, therefore, would have got the job done for Lewis. But, if Vettel was able to pass Valtteri - which he ultimately did two laps before the end as he ran out of tyres - then Lewis needed to win.

The complication was Verstappen. Starting on the Soft tyre, he could have been expected to go longer into the race than the end of lap 22. But, as soon as Red Bull thought he was within undercut range of Valtteri, they pitted him to go onto the SuperSoft.

The team thought they had him covered - but Valtteri did not have enough left in his starting SuperSofts and when the team responded on the next lap, he pitted out behind the Red Bull. Still, the team thought it unlikely that Verstappen would get 34 laps out of a set of SuperSofts and would have to stop again.

Unexpectedly though, the SuperSoft turned out to be a better race tyre than the Soft, on the Red Bull particularly, and Verstappen became a major threat. The Dutchman crossed the line 21.6s behind Lewis at the end of lap 23 and the gap stayed remarkably consistent for the next seven laps, Lewis on his Softs and Verstappen managing his new SuperSofts. But, at the end of lap 32, the gap was down to 19.9s, with 19.5s needed for a pit stop. If the team was going to pit Lewis a second time and get him back out still ahead of Verstappen, they needed to have done it now.

But, rather than worry about the Red Bull, what the team were trying to do was off-set the tyre performance delta versus Räikkönen at the end by taking Lewis as deep as possible into the race before pitting him a second time.

Lewis though, found that the wake from cars in front was affecting his tyres from as far as 5s behind and he lost more time than anticipated in traffic. Pushing hard, his Softs also started to blister, and he was pitted for a second new set of the yellow-walled tyre on lap 37, after just a 26-lap stint.

Why the Soft again with the SuperSoft proving so effective for Verstappen? Simply because Lewis had only scrubbed rather than new sets of the UltraSoft and SuperSoft remaining.

Lewis was thus faced with chasing down a 12s deficit to the lead in the remaining 19 laps. Had Räikkönen and Verstappen not been running together, the team thought, he might have done it, but with the combined wake and DRS to overcome it proved just too big an ask for the performance of the W09 on the Soft Pirelli on the day.

Had the team not been quite so 'greedy' in trying to maximise the tyre offset, Lewis could have pitted earlier, covered off Verstappen and finished second. But in the final analysis it wouldn't have mattered as soon as Vettel passed Valtteri. Only the win would have been enough.

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