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  • Writer's pictureBen Waterworth

The 5 US Grands Prix

Only five rounds remain in the 2023 Formula 1 season and we’re about to get into it thick and fast with three rounds in the next three weekends.

This weekend is a return stateside, as we head to the USA for the second time this season in Austin for the United States Grand Prix.

The US has a varied history with Formula 1, having seen many races in the country under a variety of different names. For the case of this list in my ‘Top 5 races’ series, we will be solely looking at the races that were officially called ‘The United States Grand Prix’, which also will be eliminating any of the Indianapolis 500 races that were part of the official World Championship in the 1950s.

With that in mind, there have been a total of 43 United States Grands Prix held at six different circuits: one each at Sebring and Riverside, three at Phoenix, eight at the Indianapolis road course, ten at Austin and 20 at Watkins Glen.

It was first held as an official World Championship round in 1959, won by Aussie legend Jack Brabham in his Cooper Climax. It was then held every year on the calendar right until 1980 in which, funnily enough, the last edition at Watkins Glen, and the last edition to appear until 1989, was also won by an Aussie: Alan Jones in his Williams Ford.

After a brief return between 1989 and 1991, the US Grand Prix wouldn’t be seen again until 2000 where it lasted until 2007, before securing its current place at the popular Circuit of the Americas since 2012.

So of the 43 races, which five are the best? Let’s find out.

5. 2015 – Winner: Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes)

Rain aplenty caused havoc in Texas in 2015, with qualifying being run on the Sunday morning in only two sessions. But it was the fight between then bitter teammate rivals Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg in the Silver Arrows that had everyone talking.

Famous for the opening corner in which Hamilton shoved his teammate off the track aggressively, Hamilton was able to maintain his dominance to win the race, with Rosberg fighting back from fifth at the first turn to second at the chequered flag.

Elsewhere Daniel Ricciardo showed his love for the Austin circuit in a tough battle with Hamilton for the lead early in the race, before ultimately dropping back and being taken out by the Force India of Nico Hulkenberg who retired, while Ricciardo limped home to tenth. A variety of safety cars occurred throughout the race with numerous incidents on a damp track, causiong quite the memorable race at COTA.

After the race was done in the cool-down room, a happy Hamilton threw his teammate his second-placed cap to put on his head. In one of the more bizarre incidents in recent F1 memory, Rosberg angrily flung the cap back at Hamilton, leaving the Brit incredibly confused. It was a very public showing of the animosity that existed between the two former friends after a very heated battle on the track.

4. 2001 – Winner: Mika Hakkinen (McLaren)

Mika Hakkinen had to fight for the victory in 2001; the last win in the esteemed career of the great Finish driver.It was a sombre weekend in Indianapolis, with the race taking part less than three weeks after the September 11 attacks. Several tributes to the US were emblazoned on the cars at the circuit in tribute, which was also the last-ever race commentated on by the legendary Murray Walker.

Michael Schumacher led off the line and it looked like it would be a battle between him and the Williams of Juan Pablo Montoya, who was coming off his first-ever win in the sport two weeks earlier in Italy. However, Montoya wasn’t to last, with a hydraulics issue on lap 38 putting an end to his race.

This then gave renewed hope to Hakkinen, who had started fourth on the grid. Two late stops to both Ferraris of Schumacher and Rubens Barrichello gave Hakkinen the lead, and while Barrichello looked likely to catch him as he caught the McLaren, a blown engine to the Brazilian soon stopped the charge and gave the two-time World Champion his 20th and last F1 win.

3. 2018 – Winner: Kimi Raikkonen (Ferrari)

From one Finn’s last race win to another, Kimi Raikkonen took a hugely popular win in Austin in 2018 which was also his first win in more than five years, setting the record for the longest gap between wins in Formula 1.

Raikkonen started second behind the Mercedes of Lewis Hamilton and stormed off the grid into the first corner to take the lead, while carnage behind the pair saw Fernando Alonso and Lance Stroll clash, Romain Grosjean and Charles Leclerc clash, and Sebastian Vettel and Daniel Ricciardo clash.

From there though it was all about the battle at the front between Raikkonen and Hamilton, with the British driver doing everything in his power to find a way past the fast Ferrari. Hamilton soon had another problem to deal with, that of the Red Bull of Max Verstappen, who found his way past Hamilton and then set his own sights on the red car in front.

But no matter what each of the challengers tried, they couldn’t make their way past Raikkonen, who crossed the chequered flag ahead of Verstappen and Hamilton for a famous win.

2. 2003 – Winner: Michael Schumacher (Ferrari)

With two races remaining in the 2003 season, there were three drivers in contention for the World Championship. Michael Schumacher, Kimi Raikkonen and Juan Pablo Montoya all held high hopes going into Indianapolis, in what turned out to be a dramatic and somewhat controversial race.

A damp start with most cars on dry tyres saw Montoya tangle with Schumacher’s teammate Rubens Barrichello into the first corner, resulting in a contentious drive-through penalty for the Colombian. By this stage, the rain had begun to pour and Montoya had to serve his penalty on his still dry tyres, giving him a whole other lap of lost time before pitting again to fit the wets. This dropped him back in the race to sixth and meant he would be out of contention for the World Championship heading into the season finale in Suzuka.

Through all the wet race chaos (which was even led at one point by Mark Webber in a Jaguar) it was Michael Schumacher who navigated through to a win ahead of title rival Raikkonen and the surprise packet of Heinz-Harald Frentzen for Sauber, setting up a two-way fight for the Championship in the last round.

The race was also notable for the heartbreak of Jenson Button, who at the time had yet to finish on the podium in F1. After looking likely to finally break his drought with a strong drive, his Honda engine blew up on lap 41, robbing him of his first taste of F1 champagne.

1. 1959 – Winner: Bruce McLaren (Cooper)

One of the most iconic races in Formula 1 history, this was the race that gave Sir Jack Brabham and Australia their first-ever Formula 1 World Champion in the most incredible circumstances.

Brabham entered the race in the lead of the Championship, with Stirling Moss and Tony Brooks chasing him down for the title at the Florida circuit. Brooks had his chances diminished on the opening lap as he came together with teammate Wolfgang von Trips, while Moss had his hopes ended by a broken gearbox during the race.

Brabham, meanwhile, stormed into what looked like an unassailable lead as he was set to cruise to his first Championship. However, with only 400m remaining to the chequered flag, his Cooper ran out of fuel. Brabham promptly got out of the car and amazingly pushed his car the remaining distance across the finishing line to finish the race in fourth and secure the title in an astonishing display of endurance and strength.

Kiwi Bruce McLaren, the founder of the McLaren Formula 1 team, crossed the line to win his first race and at the time became the youngest ever F1 race winner at the ripe old age of 22 years, 3 months and 12 days. It was a record that would stand for 44 years until the 2003 Hungarian Grand Prix when Fernando Alonso won for Renault.

It was also the last race until the 1994 Monaco Grand Prix in which no former World Champions had started the race.

That’s my list done and dusted – we can only hope the 2023 US GP serves up something equally as special. Which United States Grand Prix is your favourite?

This article was originally written for The Roar. You can read the published version here


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