It’s off to Austin Texas this weekend for the Round 18 of this year’s world championship, the United States Grand Prix. Lewis Hamilton sealed his third drivers title here last year, but after losing further ground on Nico Rosberg in Japan his destiny is no longer in his own hands – even winning all the remaining races will not guarantee Lewis the title. In order for Lewis to be able to claim a third consecutive drivers crown for Mercedes this year he will be relying on either mechanical trouble for Nico or getting a helping hand from someone else. Still, with Mercedes managing ‘only’ four 1-2 finishes this season, and Red Bull and Ferrari showing the ability to challenge, all is not lost for Lewis. It promises to be another intense US Grand Prix, and the climb into Turn 1 on the opening lap could well prove decisive yet again.
Michael Schumacher holds the record for the most United States Grand Prix victories, his five wins all coming at Indianapolis. Ayrton Senna also won five Grand Prix staged in America, with 2 wins at Phoenix designated the United States Grand Prix to add to his three victories in the Detroit Grand Prix. Of the active drivers, Lewis Hamilton has been dominant in the US, taking three victories at the Circuit of the America’s to add to his victory at Indianapolis in his rookie season in 2007. Of the current field Sebastian Vettel is the only other driver to have won here, taking the chequered flag in his dominant 2013 campaign with Red Bull.
Last year’ race was heavily affected by rain, with qualifying moved to Sunday as Saturday was washed out. Mercedes Nico Rosberg secured pole position based on Q2 times after Q3 was scrapped due to worsening weather conditions. When the race started the track was still damp and the field started on the intermediate tyre. Lewis Hamilton was second on the grid, but aggressively forced Rosberg wide at the first corner to take the lead. The slippy conditions led for an entertaining race, with Daniel Ricciardo enjoying a stint in front after getting the better of Hamilton, the Red Bull working better in the damp conditions. Having lost ground at the start after yet again coming off the worse in a battle with his team-mate, Rosberg put in a determined drive to move back through the field and regain the lead of the race as the track dried. Rosberg managed to built up a lead of 10 seconds back to Lewis Hamilton, but a pair of safety car periods in the middle of the race caused by incidents involving Marcus Ericcson’s Sauber and Daniel Kvyat’s Red Bull saw the field bunched up for a short sprint to the finish, with Rosberg leading at the restart just ahead of team-mate Hamilton. Looking set for victory Nico undid all his earlier good work when he ran wide off the track and allowed Lewis through to seal his third world championship with a victory– a gust of wind being blamed by Rosberg for the error. Sebastian Vettel chased Rosberg all the way to finish in third after an excellent drive from the Ferrari pilot, with Max Verstappen an impressive fourth for Toro Rosso.
Formula One and the United States have had a strange relationship over the years, with neither one ever seeming to fully embrace the other, for a variety of reasons. The Indianapolis 500 was a part of the F1 World Championship from its inaugural season in 1950 (a race won incidentally by America’s Johnnie Parsons – who would never enter a ‘proper’ Grand Prix but who by virtue of this victory would tie for the lead of the F1 World Championship with Juan Manuel Fangio and Giuseppe Farina after 3 rounds in 1950, after winning an F1 World Championship race at his first attempt!). Indy stayed part of the calendar until 1960, although the race was by and large ignored by the F1 community and as such had no impact on the F1 championship, with the 40 laps managed by Alberto Ascari in a rare attempt by Ferrari in 1952 being the most significant attempt by one of the ‘real’ F1 teams. Ascari entered the race in a modified Ferrari 375 (the car having been raced in the 1950 and 1951 F1 championships). Despite a host of problems for Ferrari in adapting to the unfamiliar conditions of oval racing, Ascari, who qualified 19th, had even managed to get as high as 8th position on the track before spinning off into retirement after 40 laps.
The first United States Grand Prix was held at Sebring in Florida in 1959, and with the Indy 500 still counting towards championship points this meant 2 out of 9 races on the calendar that year were in the US – statistically significant even though the main players ignoring Indy. The US Grand Prix marked the final round of the F1 World Championship, and saw Bruce McLaren win his first Grand Prix for Cooper while Jack Brabham secured the world drivers crown, pushing his Cooper across the line to take fourth after it ran out of fuel while leading on the last lap. Despite the title being on the line the Grand Prix wasn’t a commercial success, and so for 1960 Sebring was ditched in favour of a race at Riverside in California, which would again hold the season finale. This time around the championship was already decided in Jack Brabham’s favour, and the race (won by Stirling Moss for Cooper) again struggled to attract local attention. The Indy 500 was dropped as a points scoring race from 1961 on, but for F1 in the United States things were actually looking up, as the US Grand Prix would be staged for the first time in Watkins Glen, a wonderful track in New York that would become the home of the United States Grand Prix from 1961 through to 1980, before losing it’s place on the calendar, money being the motivating factor for abandoning this wonderful Grand Prix venue. The initial race in 1961 would be won by Innes Ireland in a Lotus Climax, the first win for Lotus and Ireland’s only career Grand Prix victory.
In addition to the US Grand Prix at ‘The Glen’, a second Grand Prix, called the US Grand Prix West, would be staged around the streets of Long Beach, California from 1976. The first US Grand Prix West was won by Clay Regazzoni for Ferrari, and the track would continue to host the Grand Prix until 1983 (a wonderful victory for John Watson from 22nd on the grid, leading home his McLaren team-mate Niki Lauda, who started 23rd!).This was a wonderful street circuit which sadly passed from Formula One to CART in 1984 (as CART offered better financial terms)– a great loss for F1 (although we could still cast a sneaky glance at the fortunes of ex and future F1 drivers over the years – the pick of the bunch for me being the wonderful Alex Zanardi’s amazing drive to snatch victory here in 1998 after falling a lap behind early on after a traffic jam at the hairpin reduced it to an expensive car park).
While there was now a US Grand Prix West, the race at Watkins Glen was referred to as the US Grand Prix East. This would host it’s last Grand Prix in 1980 (a race won by already crowned world champion Alan Jones for Williams). For 1981, ‘The Glen’ would be (and I use the word very loosely) replaced on the F1 calendar by the Las Vegas Grand Prix. A Grand Prix in the car park of Caesars Palace Casino…you just can’t make this stuff up! Alan Jones won the first Las Vegas Grand Prix with Nelson Piquet securing his first world championship title with a fifth place finish for Brabham, as his rivals faltered. Las Vegas would return to the calendar again in 1982 (won by Michele Alboreto for Tyrrell, with Keke Rosberg clinching the driver’s title by coming home in fifth) before the race was thankfully taken over by CART (going someway to make up for the theft of Long Beach the following year!).
If driving Formula One cars around a car park wasn’t enough to put American’s off Formula One they were given an added incentive in 1982, when the Detroit Grand Prix was added to the calendar. In 1982 then the United States had 3 Grand Prix (Detroit, Las Vegas and Long Beach) all actively contested by the Formula One Grid in a championship of only 16 races. Detroit was a slow, bumpy street circuit that was very unpopular with the drivers and fans alike. John Watson took the first victory in 1982 for McLaren (another storming drive from Watson on US streets, this time starting from 17th on the grid!), with Ayrton Senna taking the final three Detroit Grand Prix from 1986-1988, before Detroit went the way of Las Vegas and Long Beach, and swapped over to CART, with lack of funding to upgrade the facilities to a level demanded by Formula One being ultimately responsible for the demise of the event.
With Las Vegas demise the next port of call in America was the Dallas Grand Prix of 1984. The race had plenty of drama, a breaking up track surface, plenty of crashes (Ayrton Senna retired his Toleman after crashing into a wall – a wall which Senna claimed had to have moved during the race – something Toleman chief engineer Pat Symonds would later be forced to concede was true after having walked to the wall after the race to placate Senna!) and searing temperatures (the race made famous for Nigel Mansell passing out as he attempted to push his car across the finish line in the searing heat). Keke Rosberg kept his cool (courtesy of a water-cooled skull cap) that day to win the race for Williams – his only win of the season, but the Dallas Grand Prix was to be one and done, consigned to the history books after this one eventful race.
The next track to try its luck with the American public was another street race, this time in Phoenix, Arizona. This would stage the US Grand Prix from 1989 to 1991, with Alain Prost winning in 1989 for McLaren and Ayrton Senna taking the other two editions for McLaren. This was the scene of a great tussle between a young Jean Alesi for Tyrrell and Senna in 1990, with Senna emerging victories but a stirring second place for Alesi cementing his status as a rising star. The race was very poorly attended however, and was cancelled after 1991, leaving no Grand Prix in America until 2000, when the Unite States Grand Prix would be held at Indianapolis, a new road course built in the infield of the famous track, and using part of the famous speedway. The first race at Indianapolis was won by Michael Schumacher for Ferrari, and he would go on to dominate at the track, winning five times in total, including a farcical ‘race’ in 2005 when the Michelin runners were unable to compete due to their tyres failing on the track, the tyres unable to cope with the banking, leaving a six car field of Bridgestone runners to fight each other, Schumacher leading Ferrari team mate Rubens Barichello home for a 1-2 with Tiago Monteiro recording his only career podium for Jordan! Indianapolis would continue to stage a US Grand Prix until 2007 (a race won by rookie Lewis Hamilton for McLaren), but the race dropped from the calendar amid a commercial dispute (yet again, the asking price for the honour of holding an F1Grand Prix was too much). So the United States was left without a Grand Prix again. While there was some talk of getting a Grand Prix to be staged in New York, the Circuit of Americas came to the rescue, the site of a brand new Hermann Tilke designed track in Austin Texas winning the rights to stage the US Grand Prix from 2012 onwards. The track itself has been a huge success, even if the venue has struggled to attract the crowds it will require to remain viable (the return of the Mexican Grand Prix to the calendar last year certainly not helping matters). Lewis Hamilton (McLaren) won the first Grand Prix a COTA after a wonderful race long duel with Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull). Hopefully the track will manage to remain on the calendar in the years to come.
The track runs anti-clockwise, with 30.8 m elevation change and 20 turns.
Off the grid the cars are climbing immediately steeply into Turn 1, a blind left hander at the highest point of the track. The wide run in to the corner should see a lively opening lap, with contact almost inevitable here at the start. The pit exit feeds into the corner on the inside, and with the start/finish straight being the site if the second DRS activation zone, we should see plenty of late braking action at Turn 1 during the race. If the cars get through Turn 1 they then start downhill, a short burst into the right hander Turn 2, winding around at full throttle leading into a jinky little section, the track lifting slightly before dipping into a quick left right left through Turns 3,4 and 5 that is sure to test the balance of the cars as well as their tolerance of the kerbs. Exiting Turn 5 leads straight into a longer right hander Turn 6, the cars hugging the inside to set up a line for the next Turn 7, a 90 degree left hander with a sudden drop. These leads into a long winding right hander Turn 8, which exits into another 90 degree left hander Turn 9. Cresting the hill the cars now have a run downhill through a gentle right hand bend (Turn 10), flat out all the way past the first DRS detection point and into the tight left hand hairpin Turn 11.Running out wide on the kerbs the cars launch down a long straight the track rising up and winding gently to the right with the first DRS activation zone, setting them up for an attempt to overtake under braking into Turn 12, with the track dipping gain on entry into the left hand corner. Running wide over the kerbs the cars cut across the track to prepare for the rapidly approaching Turns 13 and 14, a double right hander that leads into a slow looping left hander Turn 15. The cars can now get on the throttle and keep the foot down as they wind through Turns 16,17 and 18, a series of right hand curves that lead them into a 90 degree left hander Turn 19, with the 2nd DRS detection point coming on the entry to Turn 19. Out of T19 there is a short burst past the put entry to a final 90 degree left hander Turn 20, which winds back onto the start finish straight, with the hope of DRS and a move into Turn 1.
TYRES WITH PIRELLI:
After a couple of races with the hard compound nominated, P Zero White medium, P Zero Yellow soft and P Zero Red supersoft is the choice for the Circuit of the Americas. Last year, torrential rain meant that many sessions were cancelled and the slicks were not used until race day. This year, the teams will be hoping for a more conventional weekend with enough dry running to form a full picture of how the three nominated compounds interact with the Texan circuit. However, past experience has certainly shown that a wide range of conditions is always possible: another factor that the teams will have to contend with at this technically varied and universally popular grand prix.
THE CIRCUIT FROM A TYRE POINT OF VIEW:
- The anti-clockwise track has a unique design, borrowing elements of other famous F1 corners.
- Turn 1 is a tricky left-hand hairpin approached uphill, where it’s hard to judge the braking point.
- Turn 11 is another key hairpin, where the cars are braking and turning in at the same time.
- The asphalt is still quite new (from 2012) but has offered more grip recently as it matures.
- Cars tend to run medium downforce in Austin: overtaking is very possible – particularly in the sequence of corners after Turn 2 – which opens up a number of strategy options.
- There are three long and fast straights: these cool the tyres, making the braking areas tricky.
THE THREE NOMINATED COMPOUNDS:
- White medium: along with the soft, this is one of the two mandatory available race sets.
- Yellow soft: this was the only slick used by the winner in the race last year, on a drying track.
- Red supersoft: used for the first time in Austin and should be significantly fastest of the three.
HOW IT WAS A YEAR AGO:
- There was no dry running until the race, with the grid based on Q2 times. Lewis Hamilton won the 56-lap race: starting on intermediates then switching to soft on laps 18 and 43.
- Best alternative strategy: Sebastian Vettel was on the podium with a three-stop strategy from 13th on the grid, using the medium tyre as well, in a race that was affected by two safety cars.
PAUL HEMBERY, PIRELLI MOTORSPORT DIRECTOR:
“The significance of the United States both as a race and a market for us goes without saying, especially with the opening of our first P Zero World store in Los Angeles earlier this year. The 2015 grand prix was particularly challenging because of the weather, meaning that the teams are lacking recent data on the slick compounds at Austin. We’re also bringing the supersoft to the track for the very first time. As a result, the free practice sessions in particular will be extremely important this year, with the optimal strategy yet to be defined.”
- Damage caused by the hurricane that affected the circuit after last year’s race has been fixed. Apart from that, there are no changes to the circuit, surface or infrastructure this year.
- Nico Rosberg got to try Pirelli’s 2017 wide tyres for the first time at the test with a Mercedes mule car in Barcelona last week, which was seriously affected by rain and cool temperatures. Lewis Hamilton had to skip the test due to a foot injury.
- The testing programme then continued with Red Bull in Abu Dhabi, again using modified cars.
OTHER THINGS THAT HAVE CAUGHT OUR EYE RECENTLY:
- Pirelli won the FIA Hill Climb Masters at Sternberk in the Czech Republic – a competition that unites the best hill climb drivers in the world – with nine-time champion Simone Faggioli.
- Pirelli also supplied the winner of this year’s Junior European Rally Championship, Marijan Griebel, with an R5 car on Rally Cyprus. The german finished a stunning second on his debu
It will be interesting to see how the new championship dynamic affects the Mercedes drivers. Nico has taken pole here for the last two years, but has seen Lewis trump him in the races, with Lewis running Nico wide off the track when passing him at Turn 12 in 2014 on route to an easy win, and Nico losing first place after running wide due to a gust of wind last year, so Lewis will have the fonder memories of this track. The shackles are off for Lewis Hamilton now, who can race for victory without thinking about any championship mathematics, while Rosberg will have the weight of expectation on him. The tight and twisty sections of the track will be sure to show off the strengths of the Red Bull chassis, and any hint of rain should certainly see them able to mix it with the Mercedes. Max Verstappen enjoyed a tremendous result here last year, and the thought of falling behind his Red Bull at the start will certainly be a nightmare for the Mercedes duo. Ferrari continue to show a car with potential that is being held back by less than optimal performance of a ‘pressured’ team – can the Prancing Horse finally get their act together and prevent 2016 from going down as a winless season? The Force India/Williams battle rages on, and with Nico Hulkenberg confirmed to be moving on, he will be looking to sign off in style, with Force India certainly looking to finish the season stronger than Williams. McLaren were a huge disappointment in Japan, and will be hoping they can get back on track, while Haas will be hoping they can translate their great qualifying show in Japan into some meaningful points at their home race.
1983– US Grand Prix West – All about tyres in back to front race for McLaren as Watson and Lauda take 1-2 finish
The last US Grand Prix West was held at Long Beach in 1983. The front row was locked out by the Goodyear shod Ferrari’s of Patrick Tambay (1st) and Rene Arnoux (2nd), with an all Williams second row, Keke Rosberg (3rd) and Jacques Laffite (4th) utilising their Goodyear’s to good effect. Pirelli had the honour of owning the third row, with Elio de Angelis (Lotus) 5th ahead of Derick Warwick (Toleman) 6th. The Michelin shod teams struggled in qualifying, with the best Michelin car being the Renault of Alain Prost in 8th position. Eddie Cheever in the second Renault was 15th, and while Brabham struggled to line up 11th (Riccardo Patrese) and 20th (Nelson Piquet) McLaren fared even worse, with John Watson 22nd and Niki Lauda 23rd on the grid. At the start Rosberg had a great getaway, slicing out from behind Tambay and bumping wheels with Arnoux as he charged off the line, but had to settle for second place behind Tambay into the first corner. Rosberg’s muscular move on Arnoux cost the Ferrari momentum, and the second Williams of Laffite benefitted to move up into third place. Roberg was all over the back of Tambay on the opening lap, but he lost it in spectacular fashion as he tried to pull off a move on him at the end of the long straight, spinning his Williams around through 360 degrees, his Goodyears painting a double helix on the track as he spun into the corner fortunate not to collect Tambay but allowing Laffite through into second place. Tambay was struggling after his tap from Rosberg, and lost out to Michele Alboreto’s Tyrrell before the end of the lap to drop down to fifth. Rosberg was certainly looking up for it, and he waltzed around the outside of Laffite to retake second position on the second lap. Tambay had a cushion now thanks to Rosbergs spin and recovery, but Keke set about closing the gap, and quickly latched onto the back of the lead Ferrari, the Williams looking quicker through the twists of the circuit but unable to get ahead. Rosberg was glued to Tambay’s tail but also had Laffite and Alboreto right behind him as was bottled up behind the Ferrari. .Arnoux was struggling with his car after the contact with Rosberg off the start, and started to slip down the field, as Patrese and the Ligier of Jean-Pierre Jarrier got by and closed up on the leading train. Jarrier was flying at this stage, and passed Patrese for fifth on lap 20, but his next move on Alboreto ended in tears, Jarrier coming late up the inside on Alboreto and nudging him deep off the track, with Patrese nipping by both. Alboreto was forced to pit to repair damage from the collision, and lost ground, while Jarrier was able to keep going, catching back up to Patrese and regaining what was now fourth position. Rosberg was still trying desperately to get by Tambay, but the Ferrari had an answer for everything the Williams could throw at it. Or did it? Rosberg finally made a decisive move on lap 26. Coming into the hairpin Rosberg shot up the inside and clobbered the Ferrari, sending it bounding into the air and retirement, with Tambay’s Ferrari stranded helplessly in the middle of the hairpin as the field passed by. Rosberg was able to continue, but had to go the long way around the stricken Ferrari and in so doing lost enough time to be passed once again by team mate Laffite as they accelerated down the straight. Jean-Pierre Jarrier was right behind Laffite, and he clashed with Rosberg as he tried to take advantage of Rosbergs delay, with Rosberg out on the spot and Jarrier retiring soon after with a broken suspension. So Laffite led now from Riccardo Patrese (Brabham), Danny Sullivan (Tyrrell), Marc Surer (Arrows) and incredibly Niki Lauda and John Watson for McLaren. The McLarens were on the move, and it wasn’t long before they had moved past Surer and Sullivan to move up to third and fourth. Watson had gambled on a different tyre compound than Lauda, and the gamble paid off, with Watson following Lauda through before making his move on lap 33, outbraking Lauda at the end of the straight and taking third position from him, with Lauda helpless to recover. The McLarens were some 20 seconds down on Laffite and Patrese and now set about bridging the gap to the leaders, with the McLarens now flying and bringing the gap down by around a second a lap. Patrese was pushing Laffite hard but unable to get by, and he ran wide on lap 43 which promoted the McLarens to second and third. With the pace differential there was no way Laffite could resist, and Watson breezed by into the lead on lap 45, outmuscling Laffite at the end of the straight, with Lauda following through soon after. The McLarens would sail into the distance to a magical 1-2 finish from their lowly grid positions, Lauda dropping back from Watson as the race progressed. There was still drama behind though, with Patrese recovering to pass Lafite for third only to suffer heartbreak as his engine blew, and forgotten man Rene Arnoux, who had earlier pitted for fresh tyres as his Ferrari dropped down the field, managed to come back through the field and recover to take third with a move on Laffite at the end of the race, the Williams Goodyears having long since passed their prime, and Laffite mistakenly been told by his pit crew that Arnoux was a lap down!
2012– Hamilton wins duel with Vettel in COTA opener
Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel arrived in Austin for the penultimate round of the 2012 World Championship with a slender 10 point lead over Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso. This was the first United States Grand Prix to be held on the brand new Circuit of the Americas, and after a gap of x years without a United States Grand Prix on the calendar the new track served up a wonderful duel – but not between the title contenders. While Fernando Alonso was working wonders with the Ferrari in 2012, the car was no match for the front runners. Vettel took pole position for Red Bull, with Lewis Hamilton alongside him on the front row for McLaren, just a tenth down. Alonso qualified down in 9th position, over a second and a half down on Vettel, but also behind his team mate Felipe Massa. With Romain Grosjean who qualified fourth place taking a 5 place penalty for a gearbox change, Alonso was up to 8th on the grid, which became seventh when Ferrari, desperate to keep Alonso in the title race, broke the seal on Massa’s gearbox to give him a 5 place grid penalty, to move Fernando a further place forward on the grid to 7th, but also crucially moving Alonso to the outside of the track where there would be more grip at the start. At the start Vettel got away cleanly to hold the lead into the first corner, with Hamilton losing out to the other Red Bull of Mark Webber who started third, the dirty side of the track certainly hindering his getaway. Alonso justified Ferrari’s strategy with an opportunistic start to get himself up into fourth at the first corner. Hamilton was on a mission, and he flew down the inside of Webber with the aid of DRS into Turn 12 on lap 4, and set about chipping away at Vettel’s lead. Mark Webber retired on lap 17, leaving Alonso in third, but the Ferrari was no match for the pace of the lead duo, and although there was plenty of action further down the field the race (including another example of the Schumacher chop as McLaren’s Jenson Button forced his way past Mercedes Michael Schumacher on the very inside of the track into Turn 1 on lap 10), the race was defined by the intense battle between Vettel and Hamilton. Hamilton was able to close up to Vettel, but after getting himself into DRS range, found himself struggling with his tyres, with Vettel able to push and extend a gap before their first and only pit stop. Hamilton came in on lap 20, and when Vettel came in on the next lap he was able to pit and rejoin in the lead. Hamilton started to slowly close up again, and by lap 34 was back within DRS range. Hamilton was shadowing Vettel, but it looked like Vettel would be able to resist and maintain the lead. But on lap 42, Vettel’s momentum was checked as he came up to lap the HRT of Narain Karthikeyan in Turn 8, allowing Hamilton to close right up on him and be on his tail as they exited Turn 11, and with DRS he was able to blast past Vettel down the straight, getting well ahead before they arrived at Turn 12. Vettel would stay on Hamilton’s tail for the remainder of the race, but unable to get close enough to make a move, and with the driver’s title to think about he had to settle for second behind Hamilton, a magnificent victory for the McLaren driver. Alonso managed to come third to keep the title fight alive heading into the season finale in Brazil, with Massa an impressive fourth after that gearbox penalty shuffled him down the grid, coming in ahead of Jenson Button in fifth, who had also had a great recovery drive after a difficult qualifying and poor start saw him drop towards the back of the field at the start of the race.
1990– Alesi makes his mark
The first race of the 1990 F1 world championship was held on the streets of Phoenix. At that point the qualifying format had two days of qualifying, but with rain on the Saturday the times from Friday would decide the grid order. Gerhard Berger took pole position in his first race for McLaren after replacing Alain Prost, who had departed the team after taking the 1989 championship. In 1990 there were two tyre suppliers, with the front runners using Goodyear (McLaren, Ferrari, Williams, Lotus, Benetton, Ligier, Arrows all lined up with Goodyear), while Pirelli supplied the likes of Tyrrell, Minardi, BMS and Osella. But it was Pirelli who surprised in qualifying in Phoenix, their soft qualifying tyres proving to be the better match for the conditions, resulting in a front row slot for Pierluigi Martini for Minardi, with Andrea de Cesaris lining up 3rd in his BMS-Dallara, with Jean Alesi’s Tyrrell in 4th ahead of the Goodyear runners Ayrton Senna 5th (McLaren), Nelson Piquet 6th (Benetton) and Prost 7th (Ferrari). At the start Berger criss-crossed down the straight on the long run down to the first corner to protect his lead, with a fast starting Alesi slotting in behind him, but as they approached the first turn Alesi was late on the brakes and dived down the inside of the McLaren to move the unfancied Tyrrell into a sensational lead! Pierluigi Martini was the big loser at the start, the Minardi being swallowed up on the drag down to the first corner, with Alesi and Senna moving by him on the outside while de Cesaris moved by on the inside to slot in in third, with Senna in fourth. Alesi scampered off into the distance, pulling ahead by over 2 seconds on the opening lap. The Goodyear runners were confident the Pirelli’s would not hold up for the duration of the race, but Alesi continued to pull away from Berger in the opening laps. Senna got past de Cesaris on lap four and set after Berger, but Berger slid off the track and into a tyre wall on lap 9. Berger would be able to get back to the pits for repairs, but he was already well down and would retire eventually with a broken clutch. Senna was over 8 seconds back on Alesi, and took his time working his way up to the Tyrrell. Further back Alain Prost’s first race for Ferrari was a struggle, the reigning world champion having dropped back at the start, and was then forced to retire after working his way back up as high as fourth place as his Ferrari started leaking oil. By lap 34 of 72 Senna was ready to pounce, and he dived up the inside of Alesi at the end of the straight into Turn 1. The right hand turn was followed after a short burst by a 90 degree left hander, and Alesi caught Senna completely by surprise, as Senna came back onto the usual racing line Alesi used his better exit from the first corner to burst past Senna, staying wide and throwing his Tyrrell up the inside into Turn 2, forcing Senna to yield or face the barriers! The Tyrrell had claimed the lead back immediately! It was a wonderful move that would help shape Alesi’s reputation as a fearless never say never racer, but the following lap Senna made the move stick, coming passed on the inside at the end of the straight again, only this time moving wider on the exit to ensure there was no way back up the inside into Turn 2 for the Tyrrell. Alesi wasn’t giving up though, and he again tried to cut back and ran side by side with Senna through Turn 3, but there was no room, and the Tyrrell had to tuck in behind the McLaren. He tried to hang on to Senna’s slipstream, but the lead was gone, and Senna started to pull clear, winning comfortably in the end from the impressive Alesi. Ferrari’s miserable start to the season was confirmed when Nigel Mansell retired, his Ferrari spitting flames as it span dramatically on the straight, a broken clutch the culprit. Behind the leading duo Thierry Boutsen would come through to take third for Williams to round out the podium places. So it was Senna who started the campaign with a win, but Alesi had very much announced himself as a driver to be reckoned with.
In the Porsche Supercup Matteo Cairoli has cut the gap to Sven Muller in the overall standings to just two points to set up a thrilling end of season shootout at the last race at the Circuit of the America’s after Cairoli won his home race at Monza from pole position. Muller saw his championship lead slip after coming home fourth, losing ground when he ran wide attempting to overtake Michael Ammermuller who finished second, with Mattia Drudi rounding out the podium. Mathieu Jaminet lies third in the overall standings 29 points back on Muller and out of contention for the title after coming home seventh in Monza, but the young Frenchman who was runner up in the Porsche Carrera Cup France last year, has secured victory in the Rookie Classification, following in the footsteps of last years Roookie Champion Cairoli.
|2013||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull-Renault||COTA|