The Spanish Armada that Sailed to Strong Finishes in Austin

What a race for Fernando Alonso and Carlos Sainz. Alonso excelled with 5th in a McLaren that looked like a back-marker in Japan and Sainz defied the Toro Rosso power-deficit to finish 6th.

Max Verstappen got his obligatory driver of the day vote despite putting in a performance with a lot of bravado over team radio but little else. If the vote had any sense about it, Alonso or Sainz would have received it.

Alonso was a key benefactor of the virtual safety car that Verstappen’s broken Red Bull caused and his McLaren jumped to 8th after the Spanish driver had an episode early in the race over team radio that sounded like he wouldn’t finish strongly. An aggressive move on Massa’s Williams and winning a battle with Carlos Sainz was his own doing though, his 5th place finish matches his best performance in Monaco earlier in the year. Alonso also creeps into the top ten in the Driver Standings. After the race he said,

“It was good and interesting today, I enjoyed it, especially the final part of the race.

Our tyres were in better condition than the Toro Rosso’s and we took advantage of that. The last couple of laps were very intense, as we had some extra speed so we tried hard to overtake. It was quite easy to overtake the Toro Rosso as they’re slow on the straights, so you just need to open the DRS. I was following Carlos for 45 laps and he drove very well, very consistently, zero mistakes – so we had a great battle.

Our result today is nice for motivation, so I’m happy with fifth, but we gained a couple of positions because of other people going out, and our pace hasn’t been great all weekend here, so we need to understand the reasons for that.”

– Fernando Alonso

Carlos Sainz, who recently admitted to becoming impatient in his role as a Red Bull afterthought, highlighted yet again his talent and maturity with his drive to 6th. It was his first points finish since the summer break and the young Spaniard has outperformed the car beneath him yet again. He said,

“Today’s result is a very special one for myself and the team, it’s a top, top, TOP result!! What a boost and what a way to motivate the team and keep our heads up until the end of the season! I don’t know what this track has, but I just get such a good feeling every time I race here! It’s a weekend I will always remember!

To equal my best result in Formula 1 makes me very happy, but this P6 is a bit more special than the one in Barcelona because here we didn’t think we really had the car to do so – our simulations before the race said we would only finish in P11 or P12 and here we were, fighting for a P5! We were able to make the tyres last during the first stint, staying close to the Williams and then managed to create a good gap to Fernando on the Softs.

I’m so pleased, so happy, you just can’t imagine what’s going on inside me now, even if I’m not showing it on the outside, I’m delighted! I will definitely celebrate with champagne tonight, for me this feels like a win!”

– Carlos Sainz

Both drivers have been the standout performers at their respective teams all season and this is set to continue into 2017 with Alonso and Sainz staying put. Next year, both drivers will expect progression in one form or another. Alonso is banking on the 2017 McLaren feeling more aggressive, more attuned to the Formula he was winning a decade ago. Sainz on the other hand will be expecting a promotion to Red Bull for 2018. If nothing happens, he will look elsewhere for a team that can match his performances and who can blame him?


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