Last weekend, the Formula 1 United States Grand Prix took place in Austin, Texas at the Circuit of the Americas. As the track celebrated its fifth anniversary of hosting the race, Longhorn Racing celebrated the occasion in their own ways.
Longhorn Racing kicked off the weekend on Thursday evening with an event hosted by Red Bull Racing and Puma at the Austin Speed Shop. Members of UT Austin's SAE International chapter were invited to enjoy a night of barbecue, live music, crazy karts, and appearances from Red Bull Racing drivers Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen. Students competed on crazy carts to put down the fastest lap time for a chance to win a pair of tickets for the USGP. Verstappen and Ricciardo also joined the fun and went head-to-head to see who was faster around the crazy kart track. After a mini race between the two drivers, they both joined the crowd to mingle with fans, sign autographs, and explore the Austin Speed Shop. The night ended on a high, as Daniel Ricciardo joined a few members of Longhorn Racing to check out the 2016 car. He spent several minutes with the team, checking out the details and asking questions about design, manufacturing, and aerodynamics of the 2016 car. It was an incredible experience and an incredible way to start the weekend!
As the Circuit of the Americas, the home of the Formula 1 USGP, is in Longhorn Racing’s backyard, many members of our team also attended the USGP. This year it was made possible by a generous donation of weekend tickets for our members by Circuit of the Americas. Those who attended were able to experience three days of non-stop action from the Formula 1 series, with the Masters Historic Racing and Porsche Mobil 1 Supercup series keeping things lively in between F1 sessions. In addition, there were autograph sessions with the F1 drivers, live music in the Grand Plaza during the day, and massive performances from renowned musicians Taylor Swift and Usher and the Roots after qualifying and the race.
The race itself took place on a sunny Sunday afternoon in front of a record-breaking crowd at COTA; 269,899 tickets were scanned at the gate that morning, a huge success after 2015's low attendance due to extreme weather conditions. And if they came expecting a wealth of on-track excitement, they were in for a treat when they lights went out at 2pm to signal the start of the race.
Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton of Mercedes have been locked in a championship battle all season, with the former entering the US GP weekend ahead in the championship but the latter qualifying on pole position. Hamilton held his position going into Turn 1 on the first lap, while Rosberg lost second position to Red Bull's Daniel Ricciardo. Contact between the Force India of Nico Hulkenberg and the Williams of Valtteri Bottas, resulting in a DNF for the former driver and a 16th place finish for Bottas.
A tire strategy gamble on Rosberg's part helped him reclaim his position; switching to the medium compound tires as opposed to the softs, Rosberg needed to pit only once, during the safety car brought out due to Verstappen's gearbox failure. This brought him out ahead of Ricciardo, who had needed to stop twice. From that point on, a Mercedes 1-2 looked to be guaranteed.
Pit lane trouble plagued the Ferrari team as well. After becoming notorious for slow stops this season, the team accidentally sent driver Kimi Raikkonen out of the pits with the tire gun still attached and the wheel not completely fastened to the car. He was forced to stop at the end of pit lane and retire the car.
As the US GP neared its end, Sainz and Massa were going head-to-head in a battle for fifth position when Fernando Alonso, on fresher tires, saw his opportunity to join in the mix. He surged forward to overtake Massa, subsequently running the Williams driver off the road after a brief clash that then enabled him to overtake Sainz just before the checkered flag. While it was rumored that Alonso would suffer a penalty for the move, no further action was taken, meaning he finished fifth, Sainz sixth, and Massa seventh. Sainz's sixth place meant he matched the best finish of his Formula 1 career.
As had seemed the case for much of the race, the podium consisted of Lewis Hamilton winning his 50th race, teammate Nico Rosberg in second, and Daniel Ricciardo third. As Formula 1 races in Mexico next weekend, it is expected that the championship battle will continue with Rosberg seeking to maintain his points lead as Hamilton fights to close the gap between them.
Overall, the United States Grand Prix was a success, both for Formula 1 and for Longhorn Racing. Our team enjoyed a weekend of the most prestigious form of motorsport in the world, and is gearing up to prepare for our own race in the summer of 2017!
Photos from the Red Bull Racing/Puma event can be found at UT SAE International's Facebook page! And for more details about Longhorn Racing, don't forget to keep track of us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.