Race Weekend Central

Slipstream Saturday: Formula 1 Racing Stateside

The weather looks to be one of the big stories surrounding the United States Grand Prix this weekend, which really isn’t surprising with Hurricane Patricia bringing a belting of rain to the area. More on Patricia to come, but it’s time to return to the continued soap opera that is the relationship between Red Bull, Renault, and F1.

When we last checked in with this story, Red Bull had become the equivalent of a bitchy, pretty, girl that no one wants to date. It’s kind of how so many teen films play out with that girl once being in a position of power but has acted with such animus toward everyone that they all turn on her at the end. That’s the reason that the cute girl wearing glasses on the sidelines gets to go to the prom with a date. See the Manor and Mercedes coupling for 2016, while Red Bull is still searching for a dance partner.

Red Bull got rebuffed by Mercedes, declined by Ferrari, and sent away by Honda. If the team is to stay in the sport, it looks like it might have to fix its broken marriage to Renault. At this point, such a move would be amazing! Not only has Red Bull continually chastised the French engine manufacturer but they have also done a good job of pushing them to look for other opportunities, specifically as Renault looks to take over Lotus.

As it stands now, Red Bull is still waffling about what they may do. With their engine supplier in limbo their threats to remove themselves from the sport grow in seriousness. However, that may not happen without a fight.

Bernie Ecclestone, continually showing his power, has now pushed forward the notion that if Red Bull do intend to leave, they can look forward to some sort of lawsuit. Such a move against lesser teams, like Manor, Williams or Lotus would be futile as they’re scraping by as it is. But Red Bull’s coffers are stacked, and Ecclestone’s latest threat may be one that goes after the thing the team holds quite dear.

Will anything happen? That’s the big question. Red Bull has had their way, well, had had their way until last year and only when their performance slipped did they start griping so vociferously. They also have shown a pattern of being a team that takes their ball and goes home when things aren’t going right, something best exemplified by their attempt in NASCAR.  

At this juncture, it wouldn’t be surprising to see them sidle up to Renault, give winky eyes, and look toward next year. That being noted, this story continues to make for high drama.  

Odds & Sods

  • Romain Grosjean, who recently signed with Haas F1, found his popularity jump when arriving in the U.S. ahead of the GP. Grosjean landed in Dallas and was met with a number of enthusiastic fans, something for which he had felt unprepared. He noted that he took a number of pictures with them and remarked how the American fans seem to be showing a keen level of interest. That the Frenchmen received such a warm welcome bodes well for the team that is likely to struggle next year. It should be noted that his teammate has yet to be announced, but the prevailing thought is that Esteban Gutierrez will be the second driver – something to be announced ahead of the Mexican driver’s home GP next week.
  • As mentioned above, the encroaching hurricane looks to be a factor regarding the race weekend. While the first practice was held in the rain, the second was cancelled because the rains worsened. Saturday is supposed to be worse and the likelihood that qualifying will be rained out is considerable. If such a thing occurs, there’s a good chance that qualifying will be pushed back to Sunday. There is also the chance that the grid could be set without qualifying, which is a rather rare occurrence.  
  • Jolyon Palmer, son of former British F1 driver Jonathan Palmer, has been confirmed to take over the seat at Lotus being vacated by Grosjean. Palmer has had success in GP2, battling with Sauber’s Felipe Nasr and McLaren’s reserve driver Stefan Vandoorne, but was previously unable to secure backing to move to F1.  
  • Jenson Button, secure in his seat for next year, hopes that his teammate, Fernando Alonso, “annihilates” him this weekend. The reason? Because Alonso will be sporting the latest upgrades to the woeful Honda-McLaren combination, something that both the team and the drivers feel will be significant. Alonso this week stated that the team picking up 2.5 seconds next season is not out of the realm of possibility. That sense of optimism might be a tad much. Rule of thumb in F1 is that it takes roughly a $1 million, or Euros, to gain a second and while money may not be a total issue for the two heavyweights, there’s still time associated with shaking down the car to get that increase performance. Those things being noted, it’s great that those at McLaren have a positive feeling after a rather dreadful year.

The Race

This year will be the fourth U.S. Grand Prix held at the Circuit of the Americas. Lewis Hamilton has won twice at the track and is also the defending race winner. Sebastian Vettel has the lone other victory at the track. Situated on the hills outside of Austin, Texas, the track is just over 3.4 miles in length and features 20 turns. The race has yet to be run in the rain so this weekend may prove interesting. The race can be found on NBC at 2:00 p.m. ET on Sunday.  

About the author

Ava Lader headshot photo

As a writer and editor, Ava anchors the Formula 1 coverage for the site, while working through many of its biggest columns. Ava earned a Masters in Sports Studies at UGA and a PhD in American Studies from UH-Mānoa. Her dissertation Chased Women, NASCAR Dads, and Southern Inhospitality: How NASCAR Exports The South is in the process of becoming a book.

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Red Bull hasn’t exactly acted like the ideal partner in their dealings with Renault this year has it? The news that they have had discussions with the VW group do somewhat explain how they managed to get themselves into the predicament they’re in. Yet the VW diesel fiasco will likely but an end to that effort.
If the rains come in Texas tomorrow the race should be quite entertaining to say the least.

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