Infiniti Red Bull Racing claimed its 11th podium of the season thanks to Daniel Ricciardo’s third place at the United States Grand Prix this afternoon, while team-mate Sebastian Vettel battled back from starting in the pits to finish seventh. There were also points for both Lotus F1 Team’s Pastor Maldonado and Scuderia Toro Rosso’s Jean-Eric Vergne, who came home ninth and 10th, respectively.
An early Safety Car period saw several drivers dive in after just one lap to replace their option tyres in the hope of switching to a one-stop strategy. Degradation would prove too high throughout the afternoon though and all ultimately ended up having to pit at least once more for fresh rubber.
Ricciardo might have made a slow start to the afternoon but was quickly into his stride after initially losing two places and falling to seventh at Turn 1. Indeed, it took just half a lap for him to re-pass Kevin Magnussen before the collision between Sergio Perez and Adrian Sutil necessitated a Safety Car. The Australian then completed his comeback at the first opportunity by diving down the inside of Fernando Alonso at Turn 1 as soon as racing resumed. From there it was a case of tracking the two Williams drivers and undercutting both Valtteri Bottas and then Felipe Massa at consecutive pit-stops before managing the Red Bull’s pace behind the two Mercedes drivers.
Team-mate Vettel experienced a race of two halves before making the most of fresher tyres in his final stint to claim an excellent seventh. Consistent pace across his first two stints allowed the reigning World Champion to climb as high as seventh before pitting with only six laps remaining. Having re-joined 14th, he set about carving his way back through the field with a series of overtaking manoeuvres, culminating with a pass on Magnussen on the penultimate lap. Such was his pace that the German finished just half a second behind sixth-placed Alonso.
Toro Rosso rebounded from a difficult qualifying session to have both cars fighting for points finishes. In the end it was only Vergne who made the top-10 after a seesaw battle throughout the race with both Lotus drivers and Jenson Button’s McLaren. Indeed, a bold lunge down the inside of Romain Grosjean at Turn 1 late in the race – which later resulted in a five-second penalty – still offered an opportunity to make up for team-mate Daniil Kvyat’s disappointment at having to pit to remove debris from his front wing while on fresher tyres than those around him.
Austin saw a return to form for Lotus, who looked like contenders for points all afternoon. Not even two separate five-second penalties – one for speeding behind the Safety Car and the other for doing likewise in the pits – could deny Maldonado his first points of the season. However, team-mate Grosjean’s chances faded with a brake issue in the closing stages.
Red Bull’s double points finish helped them maintain their grip on second place in the constructors’ championship with only two races remaining. Ricciardo remains a comfortable third and Vettel tied-fifth with Alonso, albeit just six points behind Bottas.
Rémi Taffin, Head of Track Operations:
All three of our teams performed well today, with none of them suffering any Power Unit problems. I must congratulate Daniel on another fine drive and podium after slipping backwards at the start. It was fantastic to see him overhaul both Williams drivers after producing some great overtaking moves. Indeed, all of our drivers seemed to be passing cars throughout the race, which again proves the Renault-powered teams can fight hard and reliably.
Obviously Sebastian’s weekend was compromised by using a sixth PU, but his tenacious performance en route to seventh not only proved his fighting spirit but also that the install was completed without any issues as it ran faultlessly during the race.
I also really enjoyed the race-long scrap between Toro Rosso, Lotus and McLaren. This was Lotus’ best weekend for some time actually, and Pastor’s first points of the season prove that we haven’t stopped pushing hard to develop the partnership despite it coming to an end in just two races.
Our target now is to keep up the pressure for podiums at the end of the season and help Red Bull secure second place in the constructors’ championship.