10 things we learned from the 2022 United States Grand Prix

Formula 1's second trip to the United States in 2022 resulted in another win for Max Verstappen - but Lewis Hamilton gave him a run for his money in a thrilling Austin race. Here's a look at the 10 biggest talking points from the race

10 things we learned from the 2022 United States Grand Prix

The Formula 1 constructors' championship battle always plays second fiddle to the fight for the drivers' crown. Not helping the end-of-2022 show, Red Bull was all but certain to land its first teams' trophy since 2013 heading into the United States Grand Prix in Austin last weekend.

Nevertheless, during an event where the death of Red Bull co-founder Dietrich Mateschitz was announced, few can deny the added emotion that Max Verstappen's brilliant fightback to take victory and seal the deal for his team didn't make for a fitting tribute - even if the cloud of allegedly breaking the 2021 cost cap lingers over the recent success.

Meanwhile, any sniff of a Mercedes comeback will now surely roll over into 2023 given that Lewis Hamilton was unable to keep Verstappen at bay, despite his rival suffering a botched pitstop on a day when both Ferraris and the Red Bull of Sergio Perez had setbacks of their own.

With the FIA also taking some heat for its handling of the spectacular but thankfully anti-climatic clash between Lance Stroll and Fernando Alonso, there was no shortage of thrills and drama at the Circuit of The Americas. It surely had all the makings of a decent movie script...

As such, from the 56 laps that unfolded in front of Hollywood's elite, here are 10 things we learned from the 2022 United States Grand Prix.

Verstappen has three races left to break the most wins in an F1 season record

Verstappen has three races left to break the most wins in an F1 season record

Photo by: Glenn Dunbar / Motorsport Images

1. Winning the title hasn’t dampened Verstappen’s drive one bit

Max Verstappen is now tied for the record. With 13 wins this term, he is in the company of Michael Schumacher (2004) and Sebastian Vettel (2013) for having the most prosperous season in F1 history. And with three rounds still to play, he could climb his tally even further to make the record indisputably his.

His latest triumph was hard-fought. Verstappen had to overcome a failed front-left wheel gun that created a painful 11s stop before passing Charles Leclerc and Lewis Hamilton as the GP reached its climax. He did so by maintaining the fastest average speed of any one plus those deft manoeuvres on the Ferrari and Mercedes.

Verstappen has maintained that he only ever dreamed of one world championship. Everything else comes as a bonus. But despite wrapping up the 2022 crown in Japan and the Dutch ace conceding he can celebrate with the pressure off for the remaining rounds, his Sunday showing was still top drawer. His desire and composure in wheel-to-wheel combat, seemingly, hasn’t suffered in the slightest.

Driver Ratings: 2022 United States Grand Prix

By COTA, Red Bull being world constructors' champions was a formality

By COTA, Red Bull being world constructors' champions was a formality

Photo by: Steven Tee / Motorsport Images

2. Red Bull is now officially the 2022 constructors’ champion

Arriving at the Circuit of The Americas, matching Ferrari’s points score alone would have guaranteed Red Bull a first constructors’ crown since 2013. Definitively settling the teams’ trophy was very much a case of ‘when’. Not ‘if’. Still, Red Bull got the job done thanks to Max Verstappen’s victory and Sergio Perez clocking fourth.

With Charles Leclerc completing the podium and Carlos Sainz being punted out of the race at Turn 1 by George Russell, the Scuderia failed to overturn the extremely long odds for it to keep the title race alive for any longer. Both championships are now done.

Of course, many will question the success in view of the allegations that Red Bull breached the 2021 cost cap. They will ask whether any of that overspend contributed to its adaption to ground-effects or whether the team has strayed over again this season. Nevertheless, the maths now officially recognises what we have seen throughout much of the campaign. The RB18 has been the car of the season, the Milton Keynes strategists and mechanics generally sound and Verstappen has led the team with distinction to seal the deal.

Mateschitz passed away on Saturday aged 78

Mateschitz passed away on Saturday aged 78

Photo by: Zak Mauger / Motorsport Images

3. How respected Dietrich Mateschitz was across the paddock

And the timing of the constructors’ championship to end the drought for Red Bull was fitting. It worked as something of a tribute to Red Bull co-founder Dietrich Mateschitz, who passed away last Saturday at the age of 78 following a long illness.

To understand the extent of his contribution to motorsport (see his revival of the Spielberg circuit, funding of the Red Bull Junior programme, the main F1 team and AlphaTauri), read the full Autosport obituary here.

His impact on getting on for half the grid is clear and celebrated here, thanks to Sebastian Vettel, Daniel Ricciardo, Alex Albon and others. But it wasn’t just those who gained an F1 berth through Mateschitz’s backing that paid tribute. The respect from his rivals was clear as the paddock mourned. Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff called his compatriot: “one of the greatest and most visionary entrepreneurs in the world. What Dietrich Mateschitz did for Formula 1 was unprecedented.”

Hamilton came the closest he has been all season to a first F1 win in 2022

Hamilton came the closest he has been all season to a first F1 win in 2022

Photo by: Zak Mauger / Motorsport Images

4. Mercedes requires a miracle, not just maladies for rivals, to win

It was already abundantly clear that the Mercedes W13 is no match for the Ferrari F1-75, let alone the 2022 yardstick that is the Red Bull RB18. But the key figures at the team - Toto Wolff, George Russell, Lewis Hamilton - have long since maintained that despite the downturn, Mercedes can win a race this season.

We knew that if that was to happen, it would take some cocktail of unlikely circumstances to hinder both Ferrari and Red Bull and give the Silver Arrows an easier run to the spoils. But it has now become clear that the scale of the misfortune those teams would have to suffer for Russell and Hamilton to win this year is greater than the team was publicly admitting to.

PLUS: The pre-race call that hurt Hamilton's chance to stop Verstappen's US GP charge

Despite the W13 debuting its final major upgrade package of the season, the grid penalties for Sergio Perez and Charles Leclerc, plus Carlos Sainz being eliminated from Turn 1 and a scuffed 11s pitstop for Max Verstappen that left Hamilton leading, he was powerless to resist the champion.

After Sebastian Vettel pitted, Verstappen had approaching 4.5s to close to Hamilton in the final 14 laps. But he was passed the Brit and back on course for victory with seven laps to spare. Hamilton’s lack of straight-line performance in the draggy W13 was most brutally exposed when he lost the lead to a DRS pass and then when he gained the overtaking aid, the Briton barely closed to the RB18 on the straights.

With three races left to play, it seems unlikely that in the limited window that Mercedes will enjoy such favourable circumstances again. As such, a first win-less season since 2011 surely beckons.

Leclerc has Ferrari focused on 2023 already

Leclerc has Ferrari focused on 2023 already

Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images

5. Ferrari has started its 2023 dress-rehearsal reliably enough

After congratulating Max Verstappen on his second coronation in Japan, Charles Leclerc said: “On our side, we’ll try to push for the last four races this season to improve as a team and to hopefully put in more of a challenge next year.” While the Maranello design department will have its work cut out developing the F1-75 into a machine that has the legs and improved tyre behaviour to keep pace with the forthcoming RB19, the task for the Scuderia strategy and pitstop department was more obvious: stop making mistakes.

PLUS: The 10 steps Ferrari needs to take for the Prancing Horse to be stable

While a win eluded Leclerc and he dropped out of a potential three-way fight for the win at an alarming pace late on, plus Carlos Sainz was bashed out of contention at Turn 1, there were nevertheless signs to be cautiously optimistic.

With the pressure of both drivers’ and teams’ titles off, Ferrari enjoyed soundly executed pitstops with no major sticking wheel nuts or obvious delays. Meanwhile, the timing of said pitstops was much more conventional compared to some of the more radical and harder to justify calls that has dogged it in 2022 at Silverstone and the Hungaroring.

While the ultimate result was less than Ferrari would have been expecting given its driver nailed pole, the blunders were not of its own making for this soft 2023 preview.

Alonso and Stroll were lucky to escape unscathed in their dramatic back straight crash

Alonso and Stroll were lucky to escape unscathed in their dramatic back straight crash

Photo by: Carl Bingham / Aston Martin

6. Weaving in a straight line must be stamped out at the top

Ex-F1 drivers, IndyCar champions and sportscar title winners were all seemingly singing from the same hymn sheet when it came to their reactions to Lance Stroll and Fernando Alonso’s fairly terrifying coming together on the COTA back straight on lap 21 of the 56. The consensus from the pros on social media was that the Aston Martin driver was wholly in the wrong for weaving on the straight in his defence of seventh place, and that this unwelcome habit has filtered down the single-seater ladder, so it’s time for the FIA to send a message.

Stroll does carry a three-place grid drop into the Mexican Grand Prix as a result of his change of direction, and the shunt an awful lot less serious than it appeared to be initially when the Alpine’s front axle popped into the air.

The typically outspoken Alonso wrote the shunt off as a racing incident, but that might be in some small part related to the Spaniard switching to Aston Martin for 2023, where his salary will be paid by Stroll Sr. However, the potential consequences were clear and an opportunity from the stewards to set a stricter precedent arguably missed.

Questions were asked about why Alonso was allowed to continue with a damaged car

Questions were asked about why Alonso was allowed to continue with a damaged car

Photo by: Andy Hone / Motorsport Images

7. Not everyone appreciated Alonso’s car-preserving heroics

Further discontent was allowed to spread when Fernando Alonso was belatedly handed a 30-second penalty for heading back out on track in a car that was in an “unsafe condition”. That falls broadly in line with Kevin Magnussen being pinged for a damaged front-wing endplate again in Singapore, to go with his similar incidents in Canada and Hungary.

However, the chagrin comes from the FIA explanation that “a flapping mirror was dangerous and it could come loose and hit another driver causing injury. Therefore this was unsafe.” But Alonso was not flagged for the loose mirror for the rest of the race, the bodywork eventually working its way free in the wash of Kevin Magnussen on lap 48. In the words of IMSA SportsCar ace Filipe Albuquerque: “Let’s say you agree with this [decision], then why did you let him do the whole race? You risk the life of a racing driver and you had 34 attempts to change that”.

Given Alonso had nursed the once-airborne Alpine back to the pits for a new front wing and rubber, to cross the line in seventh was remarkable. But with the 30s penalty, it proved to be an ultimately point-less endeavour.

Brad Pitt headlined a star-filled US GP

Brad Pitt headlined a star-filled US GP

Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images

8. With Pitt in the pits, the F1 movie hype is building

The expressionless face of Tim Cook while waving the chequered flag might have said otherwise, but the excitement around the proposed F1 blockbuster kicked up a level at Austin. That was helped by the Silicon Valley giant being present alongside the movie’s producer Lewis Hamilton, with Apple Original Films obtaining the rights ahead of distributing the flick via Apple TV in the fullness of time.

As we know, Hollywood superstar (and Martin Brundle grid walk-snubber) Brad Pitt will lead as an over-the-hill F1 star showing the young pretenders how it’s done - Top Gun: Maverick style. He was also on hand in Texas to meet teams as discussions were held about how best to portray F1 on the silver screen to ensure the blend of CGI and real-world cinematography hits the spot.

Expectations are growing that genuine F1 cars will be used to capture a lot of the footage as principal filming is anticipated to run throughout race meetings in 2023, as per championship CEO Stefano Domenicali.

Red Bull's F1 cost cap breach from 2021 rumbles on

Red Bull's F1 cost cap breach from 2021 rumbles on

Photo by: Steven Tee / Motorsport Images

9. The FIA has a punishment in mind for Red Bull’s alleged overspending

While absolute transparency will have to wait, the governing body has at least opened talks with Red Bull regarding how it thinks the team should be punished for exceeding the circa $145 million cost cap in 2021.

Should Red Bull agree to the Accepted Breach Agreement proposed, it would necessarily entail admitting to breaking the rules. The “minor” overspend is rumoured to be in the region of $2m. But the team has always strenuously denied straying over the limit. As such, should Christian Horner and company stick to that stance, the process should in theory move to the next stage via the Cost Cap Adjudication Panel. Nevertheless, behind closed doors, progress has been made 10 months after the event.

However, given the death of Red Bull co-founder Dietrich Mateschitz, those talks have understandably been placed on hold for now. A brief statement from the team read: “The deadline for agreement has been extended and we expect talks to pick back up [in the] middle of the week.”

Rivals, fronted by Valtteri Bottas and Carlos Sainz, have called for a “strict and harsh” penalty that “really hurts” to ensure the sanctity of the cost cap is upheld for future seasons.

Can Sargeant join the F1 ranks in 2023?

Can Sargeant join the F1 ranks in 2023?

Photo by: Carl Bingham / Motorsport Images

10. Williams will quick march into 2023 with new recruit Sargeant

There’s now just the vacancy alongside Kevin Magnussen at Haas to be filled. Then, the most frenzied driver market silly season of recent times will finally be settled. This comes after Williams used the US GP weekend to announce its American junior driver Logan Sargeant will partner the incumbent Alex Albon for 2023.

As soon as talks between AlphaTauri and Monza super sub de Vries advanced, the odds rapidly fell on Sargeant earning his place in the top flight. Should he end the Formula 2 season sixth or higher, he will gain enough superlicence points to guarantee his promotion. Currently third with one round to go, it seems Nicholas Latifi’s replacement is all but nailed on. The team insists the commercial boon of an American driver is purely a bonus rather than the leading factor in Sargeant’s call up.

The announcement of Sargeant's new deal came after his FP1 debut, when he ran to 19th, and before he’ll return to the FW44’s cockpit in Mexico. Meanwhile, Latifi didn’t do much to revive his case. Spins, penalties, and lack of pace was his Austin outing in a nutshell.

F1's boom in America will be followed by a full-time native driver for the first time since Scott Speed in 2007

F1's boom in America will be followed by a full-time native driver for the first time since Scott Speed in 2007

Photo by: Zak Mauger / Motorsport Images

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