There are so many things happening at the Formula One United States Grand Prix this year that we just had to go watch it for ourselves. So, let’s meet up, watch the cars, and try to determine if new series owners Liberty Media have really improved the show or not here in our home country. It’s F1 time!
We may see a championship decided right here in F1's 39th United States Grand Prix, provided that Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton does significantly better than Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel. Vettel would have to finish fifth or higher to stay in the championship if Hamilton wins, or higher than eighth if Hamilton finishes second.
While Ferrari has had a fast car all season long and Vettel would be the driver to go for it, they’ve struggled to finish races lately. A simple spark plug took Vettel out of the Japanese Grand Prix. If a similar issue happens again, Hamilton will be the 2017 world champion.
Vettel isn’t the only driver hoping for an excellent performance in Austin. Porsche 919 driver Brendon Hartley is filling in the Toro Rosso seat vacated by Carlos Sainz Jr. this weekend. Sainz was loaned to Renault for 2018 to make good for Toro Rosso getting let out of their engine contract early. Sainz no doubt wants to impress his new team for next year, but it opened up his seat at Toro Rosso for other drivers.
Even though Hartley has won the World Endurance Championship and Le Mans, this is the first time ever he will race in a Formula One car, and the first New Zealander to race in F1 since 1984. Hartley is out of a WEC drive after this year because Porsche is closing their 919 program, and he hasn’t announced his next move just yet. He’ll want to show off his skills outside of the Porsche right now.
And of course, there’s a few fun aesthetic tweaks for this race. Fernando Alonso has shoes and a helmet that are a tribute to his widely-watched Indianapolis 500 run. Pirelli turned its ultra-soft tires pink to honor the Susan G. Komen Foundation breast cancer charity. For the first time ever, F1 will have IndyCar-style driver introductions, where announcer Michael Buffer of “Let’s get ready to rumble!” fame will present each competitor to the crowd, reports WTF1.
Thing is, it’s simply impossible to stay in a foul mood whenever F1 is here. It’s so easy to get wrapped up in silly penalties, McLaren still doing bad and other minutiae when F1 is far away and broadcast too early in the morning. Then you see the cars up close in all their engineering porn glory and fall in love with the big show all over again. Some of the world’s best drivers are racing here right in front of your face—and bonus: it could be a wet race again this year.
Other F1 fans are one of the biggest joys on planet earth, too. This is the ultimate car party where everyone gets the automotive in-jokes on your shirt. That’s why we’ve got a meet-up planned after the track goes cold on Friday, at 8:00 p.m. at the Jackalope South Shore. It’s 21+, so sadly, underage Jalops will have to wait it out this time, but there is a giant rabbit with antlers and a pink drink the size of a fish bowl.
Check in here with updates throughout the weekend, plus our annual guide to making the most out of F1 weekend in Austin. In the meantime, here’s a few shots from the teams unloading this afternoon. We can’t wait to see the rest of their kit completely unpacked and on track.
UPDATE [5:54 p.m. ET]: We now know why there’s both No. 38 and No. 39 on Toro Rosso’s bodywork. Sean Gelael will be driving as No. 38 for Toro Rosso in Free Practice 1, per the official entry list posted this evening.