Every car, driver was all over the pace on the track. It was quite slippery even on a Sunday and cars were sliding like anything. Though we cannot frown on that because this made the race far more interesting. The track itself is nice one, a certain driver’s favourite new track along with BIC. A brilliant wheel to wheel racing saw Hamilton winning it from Vettel and Alonso completing the podium. Hulkenberg gathered more points for SFI as Di Resta failed to get into points. Karthikeyan and HRT were relieved to finish off the race.
Detailed review of the weekend right below:
Practice Sessions, FP1:
It was beautiful day in Austin as the car rolled out for the first time on the track. I was watching the session on TV, rare moment for us to watch practice sessions. The track looked great but it was too slippery and the commentators were right, they were driving as if they are driving on ice. With an extra set of tyres, every team ran lot of laps and also tried to get some rubber on track. Vettel ended P1 with Hamilton at P2 and Alonso at P3. SFI had a good start with Hulkenberg at P7 and Di Resta at P11. Karthikeyan sat out again for Ma, it’s very much evident that it is contractual agreement here.
It was still sunny all the way in Austin, perfect weather for racing. Once again all the teams opted to run more in the new track as they did as much as 40 laps during the session. The track was still slippery with Turn 19 proving the toughest. Vettel did the least number of laps among top teams but it was enough for him to post P1 time, Webber at P2 and Alonso at P3. Though times suggested SFI had a poor time but it was actually long runs on high fuels and thus Hulkenberg ended P17 & Di Resta P18. Karthikeyan ended at P24 which was outside the 107% times as the HRT struggled a lot.
The last session before the teams and drivers get the idea as to how to approach the new track with the slippery conditions. Here the teams did fair number of laps, pretty normal to what they do in FP3’s. Vettel continued to dominate as he finished at P1, Hamilton at P2 and a surprise entrant Maldonado at P3. SFI looked better than yesterday at least with the times as Hulkenberg ended P9 and Di Resta P16, still they had some work to do. Karthikeyan ended P24, once again out of 107%, a nervous time for them before qualifying.
Vettel was flying over COTA, sweeping off all the practice sessions. It was safe to say, he looked the best to clinch pole but only one who could have stopped him was Hamilton who equally looked good. SFI had tough task in their hands but I believed that we will have at least one car in Q3. Things looked downward for HRT but I felt that they will make the 107% cut and race.
First ever qualifying session at COTA as cars took centerstage during Q1. Marussia & HRT were on their medium tyres straightaway while other went on hards though soon most of the teams changed to mediums quickly. Vettel topped the session with Hamilton at P2 & Webber at P3. The usual suspects along with Ricciardo bowed out with Rosberg just making the cut. And for the first time both Marussia’s out qualified both the Caterham’s. Both the SFI made it through. It was a good session for both HRT’s as they made it under the 107% time and qualified for the race. Karthikeyan ended P24.
A serious session this as choosing tyres were important and choosing the right time to set the lap was more important. The track was improving by every lap and so the late runners did get that crucial extra seconds. Vettel topped again with Webber at P2 and Massa popping to P3. Hulkenberg made it through to Q3 with a good lap but Di Resta had to settle with P13 after his tyres somewhat went off by the end, he did some 5-6 laps on it.
The final shootout and boy it was so close in the end between the two pole sitter contenders. Only 0.109 s separated Vettel & Hamilton but it was indeed Vettel to take pole. Webber ended at P3 and the championship contender pushed down to P9, not the ideal place to start. Hulkenberg qualified a well deserved P8 though he felt, he could have gone a touch faster.
Qualifying battle went on expected turns as Vettel clinched a close pole from Hamilton. Alonso stands to gain a position due to Grosjean’s penalty but was still far off from Vettel. Hulkenberg too gained a place to be P7. I was expecting one car in Q3 though once it looked like Di Resta will make the cut. It was a good turnaround in fortunes of HRT & Karthikeyan as they managed to qualify under the 107% time.
A beautiful day and an early start for the F1 teams from the normal times they do in other places. The crowd was already in and it was huge. There was drama already before the race as Ferrari broke the seal on Massa’s gearbox so that he gets a penalty and Alonso moves up one place starting on the clean side. It also moved Hulkenberg one place up. The start was hugely anticipated as all wanted to see how they would go into Turn 1 with steep elevation. In reality it was a smooth start for most as we didn’t any major incidents. Alonso made a good start as did Vettel who stayed in the lead. Hulkenberg jumped a place to be P5 after tussling his way with Kimi while Di Resta made a super start, jumping to P8. Karthikeyan too made a good start as he was running P21 after first lap.
Vettel maintained a good gap but Hamilton was fast catching up Webber eventually passing him and pushing Vettel like anything. Behind them towards the end of the top, it was all level playing field as at one point almost 8 cars were stacked together which made it quite interesting. On top of that a slippery track meant that a crash was around the corner anytime. After losing the qualifying battle, Caterham’s got ahead of Marussia’s during the race but it was close still as they battle it out for P10 in CC.
Hulkenberg made a steady start as he battled it out there with the Lotus of Grosjean at his back. He was at constant attack from both the Lotuses but he held on P5 for most part of the race until he had to pit and then lost places to both the Lotuses, Button & Massa. Di Resta meanwhile having got a good start was hanging on as he overtook Schumacher to move to P7 at one time. He did a routine pit stop and still was running in points but an unscheduled pit stop cost him time and point finish eventually damaging his race. Karthikeyan after having a good start fell behind but was lapping faster than his teammate though he didn’t manage to close the gap enough.
Vettel was under constant pressure towards the end from Hamilton and it eventually happened as Hamilton made the DRS move and got ahead of Vettel to take P1 and win the race. For next 12 laps or so it was all Vettel chasing but he had to settle in with P2 with Alonso ending at a distant P3 but this at least took the fight to Brazil as Vettel got 13 points lead over Alonso. Hulkenberg was under a huge pressure from Maldonado in the end as his tyres were going off but he managed to finish at P8 and bring some points home. Di Resta ended P15 fending off Schumi’s late surge, his second pitstop clearly ended his points chances. Karthikeyan finished at P21 but it was good to see him finishing the race and also Pedro after a difficult weekend they had.
With Austin over, we have come down to the last race of the season Brazil. The title battle still rages on with Vettel having got an upper hand but anything can happen. RBR clinched the CC championship trophy but Ferrari & McLaren still fighting for P2 while Sauber & Mercedes fight for P5. SFI will in all probability end at P7, they need 25 points (a win) to equal Sauber’s point (if they don’t finish in points) which a tough task. One stat to look, with Austin’s point finish they stretch their point scoring finishes to 8 races on the trot after the summer break. Brazil should be cracker with lots to play still, YOU HAVE TO WATCH IT.