Red Bull has ended an eight-year Mercedes streak by being crowned the 2022 F1 Constructors’ Champions.
Ferrari needed to outscore Red Bull by 19 points in order to keep the Constructors’ Championship alive. It became almost impossible when Carlos Sainz retired on the opening lap.
In a race that could have gone in a number of directions, World Champion Max Verstappen climbed back to victory. Safety cars and unscheduled pit-stops allowed for excitement up and down the order.
Red Bull dedicated the victory to the late Dietrich Mateschitz – the founder of Red Bull Racing – who passed away over the weekend.
The Year of the Bulls
As Max Verstappen crossed the line for Red Bull’s eighth consecutive win, Red Bull simultaneously began to celebrate its fifth Constructor’s title.
Its first four came in continuous fashion in the early 2010s, as Sebastian Vettel dominated the competition from 2010 to 2013.
For the first time in nine years, the trophy will return to Red Bull after an unmatchable 2022 performance. Verstappen went back-to-back in the Drivers’ Championship, while Sergio Perez continued in his consistent ways.
From the 19 completed Grand Prix, Red Bull has amassed 15 victories – two for Perez and 13 for Verstappen.
Verstappen’s 13 victories in an equal record, that of most victories in an F1 season. He is matched by Michael Schumacher in 2004 and Sebastian Vettel in 2013. With three races remaining, it would be expected that he breaks the record.
While celebrations continue, a decision over Red Bull’s potential 2021 cost-cap breach is still yet to be finalised. Though the outcome may sour the celebrations, the entire F1 community has to wait for the FIA’s final judgement.
The first time since 2015
Unbelievably, it had been seven years since the Circuit of the Americas had needed a safety car due to an incident. However, finally fans were treated to some action, at the expense of several drivers races.
On lap 17, Valtteri Bottas brought out the first safety car at COTA in seven years. He spun and became trapped in the sand on the penultimate corner.
Bottas became the second driver to retire from the race, joining Sainz in the pit-lane. The safety car lasted four laps, before returning to the pits.
Upon the restart, another incident occurred as the grid compacted, this time involving Lance Stroll and Fernando Alonso.
Alonso was seeking a move on the back straight, Stroll attempted to defend and the two collided. The contact sent Stroll into an uncontrollable spin, while the front of Alonso’s Alpine scarily lifted off the track.
Stroll had to retire due to the damage sustained, while Alonso returned to the pits for repairs in swift fashion.
The crash was reminiscent of Mark Webber’s 2010 crash in Valencia, when his Red Bull went airborne in a similar fashion, ending in a far worse result.
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Luckless Sainz endures sixth DNF
After securing pole position on the Saturday, it had seemed that Sainz’s luck may had turned.
His race essentially lasted one corner. Following a poor start – being overtaken by Verstappen immediately – Sainz was spun at the corner by George Russell.
Russell took the inside of turn one, however had locked his brakes, therefore carried more speed than expected. This resulted in Russell t-boning Sainz, ending his race.
Sainz took to the pits for what looked to be repairs, after he initially believed the damage to just be a puncture. Following closer examination, it was revealed that Sainz’s Ferrari suffered a water leak in the radiator.
Despite being fifth in the Drivers’ Championship, Sainz has suffered six retirements throughout 2022. His latest in Texas was his second back-to-back DNF. Retirements in Australia and Imola, Azerbaijan, Austria, Japan and now COTA have soured what could’ve been an underdog story for the ages.
Hamilton’s streak now on ice
Lewis Hamilton has won at least one race in every season since 2007, until now. His retention of a race win a year has now hit the brakes, with only three races remaining.
Hamilton potentially had his best chance of a race win at COTA, leading the race with just seven laps left.
Verstappen had endured an 11-second pit-stop, as mechanics failed to get the front left tyre on swiftly. The two-time World Champion dropped to P3, behind Charles Leclerc, leaving Hamilton in front by over six seconds.
The Dutchman made quick work of Leclerc – who didn’t let him go without a fight, but couldn’t hold on, leaving him charging towards Hamilton with over 10 laps left.
For a moment, it seemed as if Hamilton’s pace would be enough to withhold Verstappen. But, Verstappen was on the softer medium-compound tyre, compared to Hamilton’s hard-compound.
On lap 50, Verstappen finally made the pass that would give him the lead once again, before charging towards a record-equalling 13th race win of 2022.
Hamilton came home in P2. In turn, his seventh podium and third second-place finish of the season.
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