The Top 5 from Texas
Published 21st November 2012 - Written by Craig Norman
The very first race in anger at Austin has been and gone, and the Badgerometer needed an extra day to get its breath back and bring you the Top-5 from the Lone Star State. What did it pick? Buckle up cowboys and cowgirls, you’re about to find out…
A fantastic swansong for Lewis.
We were treated to, in our eyes, one of the greatest displays of driving ability in the first race at the Circuit of The Americas. It was absolutely absorbing to see Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton go at it like two heavyweight boxers, trading punches blow-for-blow. But what we think it showcased more than anything is the fact that Hamilton will be sorely missed from the top table from 2013 onwards.
With the transfer to Mercedes just around the corner it’s clear that the Brit won’t be performing to this level, or being in this position full stop, for the foreseeable future. While McLaren will produce a car that will be capable of challenging for race victories next season, Mercedes will have to overcome their recent slump which has seen no points since the big announcement. We’ll repeat that – not a single point since Lewis signed.
It was a perfect send-off for Lewis at McLaren, no matter what happens in Brazil, but you can’t help but feel that it foreshadows what’s going to happen in Australia next March.
Welcome to the party, Austin.
We’re in love with COTA. It’s just brilliant, and one of the best things to come out of this topsy-turvy F1 season. In one race it’s already surpassed any excitement that’s happened in China, India and Korea. Combined.
The track is an absolute gem. It’s undulating highs and lows give it a Spa-like quality, minus the trees, which is probably why it’s such a hit with drivers. It also gives the fans excellent view-points, and photographers great areas to work their magic, as demonstrated above. Add in a fanbase that’s been starved of F1 for way too long and you are on to a winner in everyone’s eyes, not just ours.
One of the other things that made Austin that little bit more special was whoever was in charge of the race coverage. Every barnstorming overtake was complemented by a shot of either a random celebrity (Gordon Ramsey and Matt LeBlanc to name a couple) or of some inebriated cheering hospitality guests.
When Lewis overtook Sebastian for the lead, we were treated to two McLaren guests attempting a high five. And failing.
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Spare a thought for Felipe.
When the news broke on Sunday afternoon that Felipe Massa was going to take a gearbox penalty, our first thoughts turned to the fact that his bad luck was rearing it’s head again. Then the full details emerged, and it tunred out the gearbox was completely fine – it was a tactical ploy by Ferrari.
Was there outrage in the Sett? A bit. Was there a small flicker of admiration at the attempt by Ferrari to a fast one? A bit. Because, let’s face it, it’s all legal, unfortunately.
The big loser in it all was poor old Felipe Massa. His body language while being interviewed before the race said it all – shoulder shrugging with a “what can you do” attitude – and you just knew that he had absolutely no say in the matter.
It’s a necessary given, and one that might happen again at Austin. Had the track not been such an issue, with the dirty side hindering all the cars that started there, having Felipe move aside before the race began instead of 30 laps in when he would have been in front and got the usual radio call from Rob Smedley ultimately just saved time.
Hats off to Pirelli.
The tyre company have to get a round of applause for breaking away from normal podium protocol. Instead of the usual baseball caps for the top three drivers, they were presented with black cowboy hats decorated with the usual Pirelli logos, wreaths and positions.
It just added some more shine to the magic Austin brought this weekend. All the drivers loved it, and we did too.
If only we could get our hands on them!
The title goes down to the wire. Kind of.
So there we have it – Brazil is the scene for the climax to this year’s championship. Sebastian Vettel eked out a few more points to edge ahead of Fernando Alonso, making it 13 between them, but it all boils down to who has the better race in Sao Paulo.
The form book doesn’t look as even as everyone’s making out. Barring mechanical failure or some rain – which is forecast for on Sunday afternoon – the Red Bull doesn’t look like missing a step in Sebastian’s hands. Not that the Ferrari isn’t bulletproof, but you can’t help but feel that the Italian team’s kevlar is slowing them down.
The Red Bull is the faster car out of the two, Sebastian is putting together some scintillating laps in qualifying and is getting the luck in the races (just look at Abu Dhabi). While Ferrari are pulling out all of the stops to get something in Fernando’s favour, like with Felipe’s gearbox, to the point where they’re not afraid to alienate fans and foes alike, it just feels like they’re clutching at straws to keep Alonso happy.
But what have Ferrari have actually achieved in comparison to Fernando? They haven’t produced the fastest car in a season (yet again, we should add) and have only tasted success to a mix of the sheer force of nature that is Alonso, coupled with rain levelling the field. While Red Bull have pulled together, worked hard, developed the car and reaped the rewards, Fernando has been left geeing his group on each and and every chance he gets.
How long can that last? One more race to go, and all the cards are in Seb’s favour. But, that’s one of the joys of Formula One isn’t it: you just never know…