Austin GP Review

In no particular order, here are the post race threads to be gathered together…

The track and the race: Hat’s off to Mr. Tilke, it seems like he’s finally getting to grips with how to design a track. The topography makes the circuit visually really interesting and the combination of the 3 sectors made for an excellent race. “Turn 2 to turn 9 is probably the best sector I’ve driven in F1”, commented Jenson.

The race itself was tremendous with battles up and down the grid. There were concerns about overtaking but this was clearly not a problem, in fact at times we were back to the same old problem of the FOM TV director not really sure what to show.

If you didn’t notice, the lap times of the leaders at the beginning of the race were over 10 secs a lap slower than in qualifying. The difference is not so marked, but the Pirelli tyres were only giving low grip and this was exacerbated when cars are on full fuel.

We don’t necessarily need high degradation tyres to create a spectacle, but tyres that reduce grip and take time to come into their operating zone.

Interestingly, we didn’t have the usual ‘undercut’ scenario where new tyres would immediately give a faster lap – in fact the reverse was true. The tyres were taking as many as 5-7 laps to get fully up to temperature and this meant cars coming out of the pits were being overtaken easily by those on hotter more worn tyres.

Attendance: Race day 117,000 and an amazing 265,000 people over the 3 days – more than Silverstone 2012 (they did turn 30,000 away on Saturday due to rain). Awesome crowds – the only unknown is the first year factor. India saw a 1/3rd reduction in year 2 attendance over the inaugural year.

The winner: Hamilton told SKY that for the last 10 laps, he was managing his tyres and was very tight on fuel. He also suggested that Vettel double moved on him during the overtake which is why the cars were so close for a split second.

But it was a genuinely happy and relaxed Lewis on show today. His pit stop was an amazing 2.39s stop which included a wing adjustment. Jenson interestingly said that “Lewis has made the wrong decision, but its his decision”, to leave McLaren.

Button admitted he was looking forward to being the lead driver in 2013, and described the role as a being ‘a mini team boss, a bit like Martin’. The pressure will really be on Jenson though next year as the lead driver he will be given less slack for complaining about a less than perfect car.

Lewis commented that the trophy is one of the best. “Many of the places we go the trophies are quite cheap to be honest – this is more like those in the McLaren trophy cabinet from back in the day. I’m going to ask Martin if I can keep this one”. Sorry Lewis, 46 years of McLaren F1 racing and Prost, Piquet and Senna didn’t get one – so…

Podium: I have a lot of time for Mario Andretti – and it was great to see him with the top 3 drivers, Pirelli stetson on his head for the photograph’s. However, for me this year the professional interviewers do a better job at getting some kind of sense out of the drivers for the crowd at the circuit.

Loved the stetsons – brilliant from Pirelli and there wasn’t the electronic podium backdrop today. In fact the flags were strange cardboard type fold down versions of the flag. Still Webber wasn’t there to notice.

Championship: So 4th in Brazil for Vettel will win him the title. 7 day forecast is 40% chance of rain in Sau Paulo. Bring on Interlagos.

Red Bull and Newey: Talking to Damon Hill admits he’s ‘very concerned’ over the alternator issue and it could strike at any moment in time. They had a batch of the 2011 units left following the failures in the summer, but not enough to get to the end of the season.

I can’t believe that they didn’t keep back enough old alternators for Sebastian and get Webber on the newer and dodgy ones before Vettel. Whilst Newey is never going to be seen ranting and raving, but he was fairly dismissive and frustrated over the alternator matter – “We had this problem first 2005 so you can see how long it’s taking Renault to deal with it”. By Newey standards, this is scathing.

Considering they have just become the first team to win their 1st 3 constructors titles consecutively, Horner and Newey were not exactly jubilant. Whilst they mentioned points lost today, the reality is they have had the most dominant car since the summer break, yet in the last 2 outings, they have made no net gain over Alonso who in the words of Alain Prost is driving ‘a truck’.

Brazil is a strange event and for a circuit with such a short lap there have been many surprises there over the years. It could be it rains, Vettel has a failure, Alonso is 3rd or higher and the title goes to Alonso. Sebastian has looked under pressure behind the wheel in the last 2 outings and the pressure will be even higher in Interlagos.

Vettel: For me, Seb has demonstrated a more erratic driving style than usual the last twice out. We saw his travails in Abu Dhabi and today lap after lap when Lewis was hunting him down he looked to be more ragged than the usual ‘on rails demonstration’ he gives us.

Even Vettel’s engineer had to calm Sebastian down when Lewis passed him telling him to ‘focus on the job in hand’.

Later Sebastian said in several interviews, “Lewis only had one chance and he took it. It was the shame a back marker slowed me up and let him get close – I tried to overtake him back but couldn’t get close enough”. In fact it was good to see back markers today. In the old days when the difference between the best and worst cars, they were in play after a few laps every week. This doesn’t happen so much now.

Backmarker’s are part of racing, and catching them at the wrong place on any track regardless of blue flags will compromise a lap. In Austin through turns 3 to 7 there is nowhere for the backmarkers to go and so a faster car just has to take its medicine I’m afraid.

I think when Newy, Horner and Vettel watch back the lap before the overtake they may feel a little silly complaining about Karthikeyan. Lewis had managed his KERS well and had a final boost coming out of the final corner which meant he was already closer to Vettel in turn 1 than previously. Kart or no kart, he was consistently quicker through sector 1 than Vettel and would have been in position to make the pass on the back straight.

Ferrari: ‘We did the maximum today’, Stefano. Too right. Qualifying 9th, starting 7th Alonso seriously gets out of jail this weekend. I liked that Stefano was honest about the gear box change being strategic and not trying to pretend there was a problem.

In fact Dominicali mentioned the word lying several times. He corrected himself when talking to Damon Hill about not speaking with integrity, “this is not our er my style’ Stefano”. Yes Stefano, we know Ferrari under Todt and Brawn was not always quite so honest.

Massa: 9th consecutive points finish. “Was my best race of the season – was like a victory – starting 11th I expected to gain more positions than the 1 – I had incredible pace all weekend”.

“I was not happy this morning – giving away 5 places for the team – I have been quicker than Fernando all weekend, and would have beaten him in the race – to be honest it was like a race win for me when you consider it all”. Felipe had talks with Sauber and maybe should have tried something else, because it will always be this way at Ferrari for him.

Lotus: Sorry, not heard anything from Kimi. Worthy of note is that Grosjean started where Alonso would have been without Massa the sacrificial lamb. He didn’t have a particularly bad start but ended up still in 8th after turn 1. Alonso of course made 3 places and was 4th going into turn 2.

Without the spin which cost Grosjean about 20 seconds, he would have been ahead of his team mate, who didn’t really sparkle today, and have been challenging Button for 5th. It did appear in the heat of battle he was making excessive head movements checking his mirrors.

Obviously he has taken to heart the incidents that he’s been involved in and is maybe a little cautious compared to his real capabilities. Hopefully Lotus will confirm him for 2013 and he’ll show us what he really can do then.

Kimi is the only driver this year to complete every racing lap of the 19 races.

Signs: I’ve seen giant sign this at a number of tracks, “Bernie says think before you drive”. What the hell does it mean?

Ron Dennis: For those of you without SKY, he did an exclusive interview with Brundle. Maybe its a McLaren thing, but just like Whitmarsh a few weeks ago he appeared to be protesting too much saying, “Contrary to reports about my emotional state, I am completely relaxed – not upset – there is no problem between Lewis and me”.

He made a coded observation (maybe humourous) about Lewis’ manager Simon Fuller who he observed “only turns up when we win”. On Lewis he pointed out, “he’s been nurtured well – if drivers leave for other teams that are not as demanding on them as we are, what can we do. No driver is bigger than the team”.

Mercedes: Truly a woeful car. They were the only team forced to do 2 stop due to excessive tyre overheating – 6 races with no points. I know Brawn said last week they were building a completely new car for 2013, but this has to surely be a worry when everyone else is modifying the current package.

Sauber: Again missing the boat. I did an article a few weeks back, “Why Sauber will fall back in 2013“. They’ve really missed a great opportunity to take advantage of the performance of the German works team – and the very reason I give in the piece above, is why this has happened.

12 points is not impossible for them to make up in the final race, but unlikely.

Force India: Pulled back 4 points on Sauber, but it looks too much for them to catch Sauber now. They will miss Hulkenberg next year as Di Resta is starting to look more one paced than ever.

Bottom 3 teams: Order was returned with Caterham finishing ahead of Marussia ahead of HRT – 2 by 2. It was reported today the Marussia lead over Caterham is worth $19m. They will have KERS next year and it could be they that are the first of these teams to push up towards the other more established outfits.

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11 responses to “Austin GP Review

  1. I do have a totally different opinion about Grosjean… Don’t forget that Boullier is Romains manager and that could be the main reason the french driver is still wearing the Lotus colours… Too many errors for Grosjean… Compare him with any other newbie and we will understand his mistakes bettet… Even Maldonado has a better approach and he was involved in some nasty incidents as well… I hope time will prove me wrong, but I doubt it…

  2. Grojean will be driving for Lotus in 2013 only if Genii Capital still owns the team. That’s why his name was not confirmed yet for next season. People at Genii are still trying to sell the team.

  3. More interesting than the sign “Bernie says think before you drive” are the signs that appeared in the city and in some highways leading to Austin reading “World class racing in Austin, Texas. Thank you Tavo Hellmund” and some others in the same fashion. As you might know Hellmund was the brain behind The Circuit of the Americas and its Formula 1 race until his partners took the project away from him. He still showed up at the race and was seen in company of Tilke, Carlos Slim, president of Mexico, Felipe Calderon and others at different points, with some reporting he now resides in Mexico (Fox Sports Latinoamerica). With 30% of the crowd attending from Mexico and Hellmund leading the project for a Mexican GP, should Austin promoters start to worry?

  4. Unrelated topic, but I just read that Daimler acquired the remaining 40% of Merc F1 that was owned by Aabar. So that makes the team 100% Daimler. That means full commitment to the F1 project now. An article on this would be appreciated. And a question. Were Sauber and BAR owned 100% by BMW and Honda in the past? Trying to gauge whether this move would make more successful or not than having shared ownership.

  5. Many Many people in Austin are fired up about this sport and the quest for more knowledge about F1 racing. I have been an Indy fan in the USA. Knowing the facts about the F1 cars and races now is much more intriguing. I think the USA following will grow especially in Austin. I know I will be there ! We do adore F1 ! – A female Texan

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