USA Grand Prix 18 November 2012
What a stunning, opulent track the Yas Marina circuit in Abu Dhabi is….often called the ‘safest track’, and once described by Mark Webber as “a car park” it finished as probably the most thrilling race of the season.
Starting with Qualifying, Vettel qualified in 3rd place, but due to the amount of fuel left in his tank at the end, he was penalised and had to start the race at the back of the grid. Red Bull, however, through some clever tactics, decided to start him from the pit lane. Hamilton qualified in pole and started the race very strongly, even managing to pull ahead after the first deployment of the safety car during laps 9 through to 14. Unfortunately the McLaren lost power and he was forced to retire on lap 20.
A slight collision at the first corner forced Hulkenberg to retire his Force India, and Di Resta and Grosjean to make early pit stops. During lap 7 Rosberg spectacularly flew over Karhikeyan when the HRT slowed suddenly with hydraulic problems, leading to the safety car coming out. Both drivers were unharmed. While behind the safety car for the first time Vettel had a brush with Senna and also hit a board at the side of the track forcing him to make an early pit stop for a new nose, and leaving him at the back end of the pack again.
Webber, who lost position during the race was trying to overtake Maldonado when he lost control, spun and lost place to Button, Massa and Perez. Whilst trying to regain position he then almost collided with Massa, forcing the Ferrari to spin and lose out. When Perez tried to pass Di Resta and Grosjean he hit the Lotus and left Webber with no-where to go, except off the track. The safety car came out for a second time while the Red Bull and Lotus cars were removed. Perez received a Stop/Go penalty.
While all this was going on up front, Vettel steadily made his way forward, took a late pit stop behind the 2nd safety car and came out in fourth place. On new, fresh tyres, he flew around the track, got fastest lap and over took Button to finish the race in an astonishing 3rd place.
After Hamilton’s retirement Raikkonen found himself in first place and managed to take the Victory, despite being hounded by Alonso who finished less than 1 second behind the race leader.
Now, onto the new track that is, Circuit of the Americas, in Austin, Texas. None of the drivers have been on this track prior to practice 1 on Friday, and only a handful of drivers have the benefit of the simulator, giving them a slight feel for the layout of the track. Obviously this, in no way, gives them any advantage because they have no idea of track temperature, tyre degradation, how the car handles the steep incline going into turn 1, or the high/low speed corners and kerb heights and locations.
As this is a brand new track I cannot really predict a pole, winner or fastest lap. The teams and drivers will spend a long time practicing pit lane entry and exit because this is vital during the race and is a massive part of the strategies employed by the constructors. Having seen the track during first practice it is going to be an exciting race, the track is awesome, the turns tricky, especially the flat left to rights between turns 3 – 10. The start of the race will be a challenge to all the drivers, and I’m convinced that starting in P2 may be more beneficial on entering the first turn on the inside line. I believe the Red Bulls’ have an advantage in that their cars are more suited to this type of circuit, but the fight is on. Alonso is going to put up a huge fight, Hamilton is going to want to leave McLaren on a high, Raikkonen has had his first win of the season, Webber will want to better his disastrous last race, and then there are the Force India’s, Torro Rosso and Williams cars, all the drivers are new to this track, it could be anybody’s race.
I hope this, the penultimate race of the season, gives the drivers, constructors and us the spectators a truly enjoyable experience, and place F1 firmly back on the US map.