Two rounds of the 2012 Formula One World Championship left. The Constructor’s Championship could be Red Bull Racing’s on Sunday if they can manage to score 4 points into the race. This would make the team achieve the title for the third consecutive time and the fourth team to do so in Formula One history. Raikkonen after his glorious win in Abu Dhabi is now mathematically is out of the Driver’s Championship fight.
There are two contenders left for the championship; Sebastian Vettel and Fernando Alonso. Vettel has a 10 point lead heading into the Grand Prix weekend. Vettel can become World Champion for the third time on Sunday if:-
- If Vettel wins and Alonso finishes no higher than 5th place
- If Vettel finishes 2nd and Alonso finishes no higher than 9th
- If Vettel finishes 3rd and Alonso does not finish at all.
Realistically, we know from looking at Alonso’s consistency this season, the third option does not look likely, unless Alonso encounters mechanical or technical unreliability. So we head into weekend with these statistics in mind, the first Grand Prix held in America since 2007 in Indianapolis and the tenth venue to host a Grand Prix in the country. It has been reported in the F1 paddock and the media that the Circuit of the Americans needs to put on a great show if it’s to stand a chance of holding the Grand Prix in the near future… the world is watching, the world is waiting…
Practices 1, 2 and 3
The main headline of the three practice sessions is that Sebastian Vettel tops the sheets for all of the sessions successfully. Practice 1 was fairly uneventful apart from a few drivers having problems getting to grips with the tyres brought by Pirelli and also Turn 19 that was proving to be a challenge. Vettel posted the fastest time of 1.38.125, with Hamilton in second with a 1.4 gap behind him, Alonso managed to get third with a 2.2 second gap, Button managed 4th with a 2.4 gap and Webber headed off the top 5 with a gap of 2.525 gap behind Vettel.
Practice 2 was a bit more eventful. Vettel lost nearly under a hour’s running with a water leak that needed to be fixed but still managed to post the fastest lap time of a 1.37.718 ahead of Hamilton with a gap of 0.757, Alonso in third with a gap of 0.765 behind Vettel, Hamilton managed fourth with a gap of 1.030 seconds and Jenson heads out the top 5 with a gap of 1.068 seconds.
Within this session, Kovalianen suffered from a left rear puncture from an incident on track with Jean-Eric Vergne and Pastor Maldonado was told by his team to the stop the car with suspected engine failure.
Practice 3 carried on the eventful nature of Practice 2. Charles Pic and Sergio Perez had an incident within the session that some fans felt was unnecessary. And I agree. The way Perez tried to overtake Pic was uncalled for and especially after receiving a prior warning from the stewards regarding an incident with Charles Pic’s teammate Timo Glock. Also, Vergne’s misfortune carried on with him suffering a front right tyre with him hitting something on the track.
But again, Vettel tops the timesheets with a blistering time of 1.36.790, with Hamilton second with a gap of 0.258 seconds behind, Maldonado put in a cracker of a time to get third place with a gap of 0.511 behind Vettel, Alonso managed fourth with a gap of 0.690 and Rosberg managed an astonishing fifth place on the timesheets with a gap of 0.757 seconds behind Vettel.
Looking at the end of the Practice sessions, it would be hard not to predict that Vettel would not achieve Pole Position in Qualifying. Vettel seems to have the car and the speed to keep his fight for the championship alive. As a McLaren fan, it is great to see Lewis behind Vettel and putting the pressure on. Lewis seems to be at peace with himself, no championship fight worries, wanting to end the year on the high with McLaren before leaving for Mercedes next year. Alonso is there in the background, trying to keep his hopes alive until the final race in Brazil next weekend, with a car that does not have the pace of Red Bull or McLaren in qualifying but may challenge in the race. Who can stop Vettel achieving the best position possible, claiming pole position? We shall see…
Heading into qualifying, Vettel looks set to achieve pole position. Can anyone stop him from doing this? Lewis looks to be on great form, not that far behind. Romain Grosjean will experience a 5 grid penalty for changing his gearbox and will want to qualify as high up the grid as possible.
The tyres that Pirelli have brought to the circuit this week don’t seem to be the right tyre and we have seen drivers caught out especially in Turn 19 finding the grip on the new racing surface. Let’s see what qualifying will bring!
In Q1, Vettel tops the timesheet with a time of 1.36.558, with Hamilton in second place with a 1.37.058, Webber takes third place with a time of 1.37.215, Grosjean manages fourth place with a time of 1.37.486 and Senna manages to get fifth place with a great lap of 1.37.520. Button could only manage 7th place with a time of 1.37.565 and seems to be suffering with problems with either the car or the tyres at the moment.
We lose ‘The Usual Suspects’ in Qualifying 1 losing Riccardo, Glock, Pic, Petrov, Kovalianen, De La Rosa and Karitheynan (who had to retire his car on the race track) and Rosberg manages to get through to Q2 by the skin of his teeth.
In Q2, Vettel tops the timesheet with a time of 1.35.796, with Webber taking second place with a time of 1.36.298, Massa takes third place with a great lap of 1.36.549, Hamilton takes fourth place with a time of 1.36.795 and Grosjean manages a great lap to get fifth with a time of 1.36.906. Jenson Button is the shock of the session by qualifying 11th place and suffering from a throttle problem that affected his performance within this session. We also lose Di Resta, Vergne, Perez, Kobayashi and Rosberg from the session.
In Q3, Vettel takes the first Pole Position at the Circuit of the Americans with a time of 1.35.657, Hamilton takes second place with a time of 1.35.766, Webber takes third place with a 1.36.174, Grosjean takes fourth place with a time of 1.36.587 (but drops 5 places to ninth after changing his gearbox which then promotes everyone a place) and Raikkonen takes 5th place with a time of 1.36.708. Schumacher did a cracking job to take 6th place for Mercedes, Massa took an amazing 7th place as did Hulkenberg in 8th, Alonso did in 9th and Maldonado in 10th place.
Looking back at the end of qualifying, Vettel seems to be in the best position possible to extend his advantage in the championship. Alonso seems to be in a position that does provide him with a challenge to get a decent result on Sunday. I’m very happy with Lewis, he seems to be the only one who can take the fight to Vettel at the moment. I was quite shocked that Jenson lost out in qualifying due to a throttle problem but he will have a good battle through the field on Sunday.
Another problem that could affect drivers on Sunday apart from the wrong tyres being selected is that people who have an even grid slot for the Grand Prix will maybe be at a disadvantage as it seems that the racing line and the grip is on the left hand side. This would then according to the teams and their engineers leave the drivers on the left hand side of the grid losing grid positions at the start due to this. The race looks set to be a cracker…
Before the race, the F1 world and paddock was not shocked to hear that Ferrari have broken a seal on the gearbox of Felipe Massa’s car in a tactical move to help keep Fernando Alonso’s chance of fighting for the Driver’s Championship alive. Fernando Alonso qualified in ninth place for the Grand Prix and Massa qualified in 6th place after Grosjean’s penalty. By Ferrari doing this, Alonso would not only gain a better grid position, but also a start on the gripper side of the track, thereby forcing his teammate Massa and Hulkenberg (who had a great qualifying session for Force India) onto the dirty and less grippy side of the grid. Should this have happened? Well it’s not illegal in the FIA regulations, but it could be seen as unsportsman like (More of my thoughts in the Conclusion on this subject). Will this also force Red Bull to make a tactical decision regarding Mark Webber? We got our answer before the race and the answer was no.
Regardless of the decision made by Ferrari, the race looks to be promising. Vettel wants to keep his advantage in the title fight, Lewis wants to end his McLaren career on a high, Alonso wants to see of the decision made by the Ferrari team before the race will give him the advantage that he needs to keep his hopes alive, will Jenson and Felipe be able to achieve good results from a qualifying session that didn’t benefit them both and will Grosjean cause an accident at the start? Get ready for a ride in the US of A….
Five red lights come on and its GO!!! Vettel gets a brilliant start, as does Schumacher who takes fourth position and as does Alonso who takes the fourth position off Schumacher which proved that the advantage Ferrari and Alonso wanted paid off. Lewis had not a great start and ended up losing a position to Mark Webber who had a reasonable start. Button had a dreadful start that sees him in 16th place and with a lot of work to do. Perez manages to pass Senna but Senna now finds Maldonado pushing behind him for position. Nico Hulkenberg manages to pass Kimi Raikkonen. Vettel at the end of lap 1 has a 0.737 gap to Webber.
Lap 2 sees a lot of action. The battle for 5th place between Hulkenberg, Schumacher and Raikkonen is building up. Hulkenberg passes Schumacher for fifth place, demoting Schumacher to sixth place. Then Raikkonen tries to make a move on Schumacher himself and fails which then lets his teammate Grosjean pass him for position. The next two laps sees Jenson try to pass Maldonado with no joy and Lewis trying two attempts to pass Webber for second place in the race and has no joy. Until Lewis tries again for the third time and succeeds!
Lap 5 sees Vettel having a 2.5 second gap to Hamilton. Button seems to be struggling to get heat into his tyres even though a good battle between him and Maldonado is going on. The next lap sees Jenson pass Maldonado successfully. The battle for 5th place between Hulkenberg and Grosjean is heating up. Grosjean makes a move on Hulkenberg, locks up and Hulkenberg is able to take the place back from Grosjean. And the battle for 9th place between Schumacher, Massa, Perez, Senna and Button is building up.
Laps 7-9 are so eventful. Lap 7 sees Vettel hold a 2.399 gap to Hamilton in second place. Grosjean spins at Turn 19 (a turn that has caught out a variety of drivers out over the weekend) and loses him places to end up in thirteenth place. While this is taking place, Massa passes Schumacher for position, Grosjean is passed by Perez and also by Senna. The next lap sees Jenson gets past Grosjean. Towards the end of the 9th lap, Lewis is gaining on Vettel and the battle is on.
Lap 11 sees Vettel leading from Hamilton by 1.3 seconds. The battle between Raikkonen and Hulkenberg for 5th place is continuing. At this stage of the Grand Prix, Alonso is quicker than Webber and Massa passes the Force India of Di Resta to take 7th place.
By lap 13, the gap to Hamilton is 1.4 seconds. Raikkonen finally manages to pass Hulkenberg for 5th place. Lewis on Team Radio seems to be in the ‘window’ for his pit stop strategy. The window for the top teams this weekend seems to be between laps 20-35. Meanwhile on the track, Maldonado passes Schumacher for 13th place. The next lap sees Kobayashi pit for his next set of tyres and the battle for 8th place heating up between Di Resta, Perez and Senna.
By lap 15, the gap to Hamilton is 1.1 seconds. Vettel looks to be rattled, especially as Lewis towards the DRS zone may get a boost in performance to help him overtake him. This lap sees the retirement of Jean-Eric Vergne who has not had a really good weekend. Vergne tries to pass Schumacher for position in Turn 12, Rosberg then tries to also pass Vergne on the outside and does so successfully, Vergne then pulls out of his move with Schumacher, ends up in the gravel and pulls out of the race. Also on this lap, Massa takes Hulkenberg for 6th place. Lap 17 sees Mark Webber suffer yet another KERS failure and alternator failure on his Red Bull. Lap 18 sees Alonso move up to third position, which at this stage of the race keeps him in the hunt for the championship.
Lap 20, there is a 3.2 second gap between Vettel and Hamilton and an 11 second gap between them and Alonso. All this is taking place with Raikkonen also gaining on Alonso and Massa gaining on Raikkonen. Lewis makes his pitstop for new tyres with a time of 2.4 seconds which sees him come out in third place behind Raikkonen. Alonso also pits on this lap with a slow pitstop time of 6.3 seconds due to a problem with the right rear tyre and sees him come out in 5th place. The next few laps sees Jenson gaining on Alonso and then passing him, Raikkonen and Hamilton battling for second place and Hamilton passes him in Turn 12.
Lap 25 sees Raikkonen pit from third place with a pitstop time of 6.4 seconds which sees him come back onto the track in 6th place and into a battle with Riccardo which Riccardo wins. The gap between Vettel and Hamilton is now 2.1 seconds. Massa makes his pitstop on Lap 27 from third place that sees him come back onto the track in 5th place with a pitstop time of 3.3 seconds and passed by Riccardo later in the lap.
Lap 29, there is a 2.3 gap with Vettel and Hamilton. The battle for 8th place between Grosjean and Rosberg is still ongoing with Grosjean coming out on top. Massa is battling hard to get 6th place back from Lotus’s Kimi Raikkonen. The battle for 6th position between Raikkonen, Massa and Grosjean continues for the next few laps and Di Resta and Riccardo make their pitstops within these laps.
Between the laps of 32-35, Hamilton is still trying his best to get past Vettel. Both drivers seem to have hit the lapping of the backmarkers and this may lose the drivers time with Vettel trying to keep Hamilton at bay and with Hamilton trying to pass Vettel at the earliest opportunity. Hamilton tries a number of passes along the straight using the advantage of the DRS system and the extra horsepower but is not yet close enough to challenge Vettel fully.
Lap 36, the gap to Hamilton has shrunk to 0.998 seconds. Button is the last man today to make his first pitstop for brand new tyres from third place. With a pitstop time of 2.9 seconds, he comes out in 6th place, drops a place behind Grosjean to 7th place. By lap 39, Jenson has gained on Grosjean, passed him and is now chasing down Massa who is 2.7 seconds in front of him. Massa finally manages to pass Raikkonen for fourth place and is 1.5 seconds ahead of Button after making this pass.
Lap 41, 0.6 seconds Vettel is in front of Hamilton now. Hamilton gives Vettel a reminder than he is still behind him. The next lap sees Lewis assisted by DRS get past Vettel in a dangerous, yet brave overtaking move to move into first place! And is now trying to build up a gap between the two drivers.
Lap 46, Jenson passes Raikkonen for fifth place after a few laps worth of battle with a move that showed off both of these drivers as world class and who respected the rules and the racing regulations greatly. Within these laps, Lewis is trying to build a gap between himself and Vettel, but it may seem that Lewis may have a problem with fuel management as his lap times are not as quick as previously in the race and also not as quick as Vettel.
Lap 50, Hamilton is still leading and there is a one second gap with Vettel. There is a battle for 8th place going on with Hulkenberg, Senna and Maldonado. At this stage in the race, Hulkenberg manages to have the pace, grip and determination to hold on to this point scoring position.
Lap 52, Hamilton leads Vettel by 1.3 seconds. Both of the Williams Renault drivers are battling for 9th and 10th place. Maldonado wins the battle with Senna with a fair and clean racing overtake and gets the 9th place. Lap 54 sees the gap between Hamilton and Vettel of 1.4 seconds.
Lap 55, Hamilton leads Vettel by 1.6 seconds. Further down the field, Jenson is experiencing KERS problems with his McLaren and seems to be trying his best to fix the problem with the engineers. Meanwhile, the battle for 8th place is heating up. Maldonado in the closing laps has closed the gap down to Hulkenberg and is trying his best to pass him… Will Maldonado do it? Final lap of the Grand Prix, Lewis has a 1.8 gap to Vettel. Maldonado cannot get past Hulkenberg and is trying everything he can to force Hulkenberg into a mistake.
And Lewis Hamilton wins the first US Grand Prix since his win at Indianapolis in 2007! Fantastic drive from Lewis. He has been on super form all weekend and he has given McLaren a much-needed win before moving to AMG Mercedes Team for 2013. Another interesting fact is the top 3 drivers have never shared a podium together during their years in the sport! Three world champions on the podium, what a treat for the fans!
The top 10 result are:- Hamilton, Vettel (0.675), Alonso (39.229), Massa (46.013), Button (56.432), Raikkonen (1.04.425), Grosjean (1.10.313), Hulkenberg (1.13.792), Maldonado (1.14.525) and Senna.
The Drivers Championship has not been sealed by Vettel today and everybody who watches or follows Formula One has got their wish to see it be decided next week in Brazil. But Vettel still leads the championship with 273 points, with Alonso 260 points (only 13 points behind Vettel with one race to go!), Raikkonen in third place with 206 and Hamilton in fourth with 190.
The Constructors title was taken by Red Bull Racing for the third consecutive time in Formula One History. Only three other teams in the sport’s history have managed to achieve this. And considering that the team a few years ago was Jaguar Racing, who struggled during their time in the sport, this is an achievement. Red Bull Racing took the title with 440 points, Ferrari are still in second place with 367 points, McLaren are still fighting for second place with Ferrari still with 353 points, Lotus are fourth with 302 points, the battle for the midfield between Mercedes (136 points), Sauber (124) and Force India (99 points) is still continuing.
I know I said Abu Dhabi was one of the best races of this year in my last review, but I really do think that the US Grand Prix at the Circuit of the Americas really did prove doubters wrong.
What a race we experienced. Firstly, the track is great. The first turn is one of the best in the sport. The elevation leading up to the first corner gave me such a thrill to watch, never mind what the drivers thought when driving the cars. The circuit gave us and the drivers such a challenge with a mixture of fast corners in the first sector and a mixture of medium and low speed corners in sectors 2 and 3. I personally think that the promoters and everyone associated with the Grand Prix deserves the credit for giving us a Grand Prix that gave us drama and excitement before, during and after the race which I will now discuss further as promised earlier on in the review.
Well, Ferrari have gone and done it again. Their tactical decision to break a seal on Felipe Massa’s car to make sure Alonso got to the clean side of the grid in order to keep his championship fight to Vettel alive. Now everyone will have an opinion on this.
I can see why Ferrari did it as the dirty side of the grid was not grippy enough to make sure that Alonso got the best possible start to help his championship fight. Ferrari haven’t had the pace to challenge Red Bull consistently throughout the year and they want to make sure Alonso has every chance to fight for the championship. But this will put Ferrari under scrutiny especially with their decisions in races such as in Austria in 2002 where Rubens Barrichello gave up a win that was his to help Michael Schumacher achieve the title that year.
As I stated previously, there are no rules to stop Ferrari or any team doing this, the regulations have not specifically banned this. The Ferrari mentality is ‘Ferrari is a team and we will do what’s best for the team to win and be successful’. Yes, that is all well and good to achieve this motto and not to break the regulations (which the team have not!). And I believe that is why Felipe Massa has managed to stay in his Ferrari seat for next year. Felipe knows he is second fiddle to Alonso but he is a team player and will sacrifice opportunities for himself for the sake of the team. And I have respect for Felipe for doing this.
My own personal view is that this should not be happening anyway. The FIA have regulations to make sure that ALL teams race each other competitively and fairly. Usually, that does happen. But with Ferrari doing this, this could open the doors for other teams such as Red Bull or McLaren to deploy tactics like this be it this year or many years later to keep themselves in a championship fight with their rivals. The FIA need to deal with this issue and quickly, before the Grand Prix racing we have enjoyed this year ends up being a tactical ploy by teams to keep themselves and their advantage in a championship fight that should be won on track and not through diplomatic and tactical decisions.
Phew! And now that’s out of the way, let’s turn our attention back to a wonderful Grand Prix. I was absolutely delighted that Lewis won the Grand Prix. Lewis won it the hard way and worked hard to achieve it. And even though I am not happy that he is leaving the McLaren team, he has shown this spirit throughout his years at the team to achieve 21 wins and his world title in 2007 and it is these attributes that will make Mercedes stand up and listen and appreciate the talent that Lewis has for Grand Prix racing.
I am also pleased that Jenson achieved a positive result for the team as well. I think if Jenson did not achieve the throttle problem failure in Qualifying 2, who knows where Jenson would have ended up? Jenson throughout the race from 11th place battled to achieve 5th place in a car that when the tyres where in the window of opportunity, was fastest in the field. I really hope that Jenson, Lewis and the McLaren team are in a position next week to be challenging at the front and take a win from Brazil into the winter ready for next year’s season.
Throughout the race, I was also impressed with Hulkenberg. Hulkenberg as we know is driving for Sauber next season. But Hulkenberg this weekend drove a brilliant race to achieve points for Force India who are in a midfield battle in the Constructor’s championship with Mercedes and Sauber. Throughout the race, Hulkenberg was under threat for position from drivers such as Maldonado and Senna and keep his calm under pressure to bring the car home, which is the quality I believe Sauber recruited him for for next year.
Finally, the two drivers the F1 world are talking about, Alonso and Vettel. This weekend both drivers have shown to the world why they are both double world championships. Both drivers will be aware of what they needed from this weekend to keep their fights in the championship alive. Alonso (even after the whole Ferrari Gearbox saga) managed to drive into third place to keep the championship going to Brazil next weekend. Vettel battled with Hamilton throughout the Grand Prix to keep his advantage at the top of the table. But Hamilton was just quicker than Vettel and Vettel knows that taking the best possible position ahead of Alonso would take points of his advantage, but would crucially be in front heading into the Brazil.
The US Grand Prix achieved the objectives the promoters set out to achieve. This was to create a race that would bring the American people to the track (over 100,000 people turned up to watch the race), generate excitement and passion for Formula One (which it did), give the drivers a challenge (which it did with the track providing low grip in the practice and qualifying sessions) and provide a legacy for the American people.
And that my friends, they did do. This race will be remembered as the race in an unpredictable and exciting season of Formula One in recent years the third consecutive Constructor’s championship for Red Bull Racing was achieved, the 21st Grand Prix win of Lewis Hamilton (who has passed Mika Hakkinen’s record with the team of 20 Grand Prix wins) and the 2012 Driver’s title was taken to the final round in Brazil.
The big question everyone is talking about; will Brazil provide a Grand Prix in recent years have decided the Driver’s championship (such as Lewis Hamilton’s world title in 2007) in fantastic style? Will the weather affect who becomes champion? The final question, who will become a triple world championship on Sunday 25th November 2012, will it be Alonso winning his first world title out of three with the Ferrari team, or it will be three in a row with Vettel and Red Bull Racing? The world waits with anticipation.