As Lewis Hamilton achieved the inevitable and won the world title, the US race offered an insight into F1’s future, left Nico Rosberg’s career in the balance and set the champion a new un-mentioned target.
WHERE NEXT FOR HAMILTON?
After equalling his hero Ayrton Senna’s championship hat-trick haul, Lewis Hamilton declared his target achieved.
“There is no-one else I look to who I want to emulate,” he said.
Over and out? Don’t believe it.
He went on to talk of taking the baton for himself and Senna and seeing how far he can take it. So, maybe there is no-one he wants to emulate but there are some records he is surely still keen to claim.
None more so than Michael Schumacher’s tally of seven world titles – and believe it or not he is actually ahead of the curve on that one.
Hamilton was 22 when he made his debut. This is his ninth season and he has three world titles, with the momentum of back-to-back success.
FORMULA 1 world champion Lewis Hamilton at the 2008 FIA Prize Giving gala in Monaco with his family
Image credit: PA Photos
Schumacher was also 22 on his debut, and after his ninth season he had just two world titles. It was in that year he turned Ferrari into constructor’s champions and the following that began his five-in-a-row domination.
Hamilton still needs four more titles to match Schumacher’s tally and he only has one more season before the sport’s regulations are dramatically changed.
But if Mercedes manage that crossover in 2017, and his form can continue, it’s hard to see how an unthinkable total of titles would not actually become a realistic possibility.
Michael Schumacher celebrates at Spa Francorchamps in 2004 after winning his seventh F1 title
Image credit: Imago
A BIG OPPORTUNITY FOR NICO?
The title is lost, but it was the hat throwing moment in the ‘green room’ that was perhaps the most telling moment of Nico Rosberg’s year – because it was indicative of a broken man.
But there are still three races of the season left and the big question now is can Rosberg turn this situation into a positive?
The German was understandably infuriated with the wheel-spin moment that let Hamilton through for victory; so infuriated, he has demanded a thorough review to check whether it was actually his mistake.
That analysis aside, however, there was a bigger issue on his mind – that first lap encounter with Hamilton.
No messing, Hamilton pushed Rosberg off the track. Rosberg said it was “one step too far”.
Hamilton said he would “never intentionally do something like that” to a team-mate.
Line drawn? Don’t think so.
Team boss Toto Wolff said the move was “not pleasant” for the team and implied discussions would be had once the celebrations for Hamilton were over.
Asked if Rosberg might treat Hamilton in a different manner from now on, Wolff said: "That danger is, for sure, imminent."
Danger? No. Not danger; quite the opposite.
When Hamilton nonchalantly threw over the second-placed finishers cap to Rosberg in the green room, it could have been as much an innocent friendly gesture as a pointedly antagonistic one.
But from Rosberg’s reaction, he appeared to take it as the latter. Could that tiny incident finally fire him up? We can only hope so.
Nico Rosberg (Mercedes) - GP of United States of America 2015
Image credit: AFP
This is the perfect time for Rosberg to try to turn a new leaf. Three races remaining; no world titles and no worries; this is now about racing for pride - but it could have a massive bearing on next year’s title race.
To have any hope of challenging in 2016, Rosberg needs to channel this anger into beating Hamilton, and beating him well.
Otherwise, he might just as well move teams or retire for good.
SHOWCASE FOR A SHORTENED WEEKEND
Austin was, surely, the race of the year, with drama from start to finish, and while much of the excitement was down to unpredictability of rain and an abundance of safety car periods, there was one other factor at play: a lack of any valuable track time.
Could that perhaps have given F1 a pointer to its future?
A significant portion of F1’s much maligned predictability is generated through having four sessions of practice ahead of the race, in weather conditions that, usually, last all weekend.
On a regular Grand Prix weekend, teams can hone their pre-planned strategies and seek the ultimate set up for qualifying and the race, resulting in regimented races that run in predictable order.
Not so this weekend.
Lewis Hamilton drives in the rain at Austin
Image credit: Reuters
Tightening up the Grand Prix weekend has been an oft-mooted suggestion as teams seek a solution to reduce the burden from an ever-growing number of races on the F1 calendar.
It has been resisted due to the logistical costs of getting to a race circuit for just one day. Not to mention the commitments the sport has made to venues, to deliver a multi-day revenue-making opportunity.
But if more and more of the new races can be run back-to-back, that balances off a lot of the freight logistics costs, and ultimately this could be the way the sport is headed.