2019 United States Grand Prix: The Rookie Report

by Sudha Sundararaj

At the United States Grand Prix, the nineteenth race of the 2019 FIA Formula 1 World Championship, Alexander Albon had another impressive outing as he finished in fifth position after early strife at the start.

Lando Norris qualified well and finished in seventh position after running as high up as fifth-place early in the race. The other two drivers in the rookie class, Antonio Giovinazzi and George Russell, endured through another non-scoring race.

LANDO NORRIS (MCLAREN F1 TEAM)

QUALIFYING: EIGHTH, RACE: SEVENTH

McLaren Media Center

Lando Norris qualified in eighth position at the Circuit of The Americas (COTA). The young British driver qualified in eighth position behind team-mate Carlos Sainz for the third race in a row.

As has become the norm for the McLaren drivers in recent races, Norris had a good start and was running in fifth position from the opening lap, but Daniel Ricciardo passed him on lap 7.

A good stint of nineteen laps on the soft compound tyres saw Norris rejoin in tenth place after his first pit stop for hard compound tyres. The Briton made a second pit stop for a set of medium compound tyres.

The two-stop strategy paid off for Norris in the end when he overtook team-mate Sainz with five laps to go. Sainz was on a one-stop strategy and was on worn out tyres at the end.

Norris on this day was satisfied with his performance and said: “A good race for the team and me! I had a really good launch off the line and was up to P5 after the first few corners. We’re doing a good job in this respect and it’s a good strength of ours. The rest of the race was tough, especially the first stint on the Softs. I struggled a lot compared to Daniel [Ricciardo] in the later laps with the tyres, which we kind of expected.

“We then did the Hard tyre stint and was close to getting Daniel after the stop. I tried to look after the tyres. He wasn’t pushing too much, so I was trying to push, and see if he made any mistake where I could get past him. But he didn’t and was just controlling the pace. We decided to box for Mediums and go for the two-stop – which turned out to be really good. A fun race, at least in the third stint, with some overtaking. Massive thanks to everyone back at the factory and at the circuit for their hard work.”

Norris is now in eleventh position in the drivers’ championship with forty-one points.

ALEXANDER ALBON (RED BULL RACING HONDA)

QUALIFYING: SIXTH, RACE: FIFTH

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Alexander Albon qualified well in sixth position. At the start, Albon came together with Sainz and suffered front-wing and floor damage. The early pit stop dropped the Anglo-Thai driver to the back of the field.

After another three pit stops and countless overtake moves, Albon recovered to fifth position. A mature recovery drive that earned Albon the “Driver Of The Day” honours.

Albon has finished no lower than sixth position in the seven races since his promotion to the Red Bull Racing team. The young rookie has been a model of consistency and has outscored his formidable team-mate Max Verstappen in his Red Bull stint so far.

Albon has exuded a quiet confidence since his promotion and he said: “I’ve enjoyed my first weekend in America and I think we did the best job we could with P5. The start was strong but I’m a bit frustrated with Turn 1. I need to watch it back but it felt like I got squeezed and obviously had nowhere to go as three into one is a bit difficult! I don’t think it was anyone’s fault, it was just racing, but I had to run over the kerb which damaged my floor and front wing.

“From there we had to pit and I lost a lot of time so our race was pretty compromised, otherwise I think maybe we could have fought Leclerc for P4. In the end it was a strange race but it was fun and I enjoyed some good overtakes to get back to the front. Considering we had no safety cars and had floor damage, I think we did well to make our way back through the field.”

Albon is now upto sixth position in the drivers’ championship with eighty-four points.

ANTONIO GIOVINAZZI (ALFA ROMEO RACING)

QUALIFYING: SIXTEENTH, RACE: FOURTEENTH

Credit: Alfa Romeo Racing Media

Antonio Giovinazzi qualified in sixteenth position. Once again Giovinazzi outqualified his team-mate Kimi Räikkönen and barely missed making the cut for the second qualification session.

The Italian driver started on the medium compound tyres unlike Räikkönen who started on the soft compound tyres and made up six places by lap 2. Giovinazzi was not able to make much progress through his first stint of seventeen laps. The next two stints on hard and soft compound tyres only saw him make marginal progress to fourteenth place.

This race extended the four race non-scoring streak for Giovinazzi. The Italian driver has become more competitive in recent races in his duels with his team-mate Räikkönen, but the Alfa Romeo team in general has struggled.

Giovinazzi’s improved performance in the second-half of the season has led to the Italian driver getting a contract extension for 2020.

Giovinazzi said: “As a team, we looked stronger this weekend so we can be optimistic for the future, even if we didn’t score today. We made a decision to go for a different strategy compared to Kimi and in the end it worked out better for him.

“I started on mediums but struggled for grip. It got a bit better when we switched to softs but by then it was too late to make a difference. We need to keep pushing, we are making steps forward and hopefully we will be even better in Brazil.”

Giovinazzi added about his contract extension: “I am very happy to be staying with the team for 2020. I am grateful for the incredible level of support I received in my first full season in Formula One: everyone in the team has stuck by my side since I joined and I am really looking forward to continuing our journey together.”

Giovinazzi is in eighteenth position in the drivers’ championship with four points.

GEORGE RUSSELL (WILLIAMS RACING)

QUALIFYING: EIGHTEENTH, RACE: SEVENTEENTH

Credit: Williams Media

George Russell outqualified his team-mate Robert Kubica again. The Williams F1 team after some progress has again fallen back in recent races and the team is struggling with spare parts for good measure as this unproductive season for the Grove-based team draws to a close.

Russell fell to last place at the start and then had to duel with Kubica to recover a few places. In windy conditions and on overheating tyres, the Williams drivers found the car undriveable.

Russell started on the medium compound tyres and after a steady stint of twenty-three laps pitted for the hard compound tyres. After another stint of the same length, the Briton pitted for the soft compound tyres.

Russell said: “This race was trickier than normal. I struggled with the tyres overheating before they dropped off, making the car difficult to drive. We decided to make a second stop and struggled with blue flags for the remainder of the race. Congratulations to Lewis Hamilton on his sixth Drivers’ World Championship.”

Russell sits in twentieth position at the bottom of the drivers’ championship, the only driver who has not opened his account this season.

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