The Daily Shift’s Jack Squibb reports on yet another busy weekend in the world of Formula One as Vettel had the chance to end the title race…
Formula One moved to Austin this weekend for the inaugural race at the Circuit of the Americas. The drivers championship could’ve been decided on Sunday providing Vettel gained a 14 point gap on the leader board over Alonso. It looked like fate was on Vettel’s side when he qualified on pole while Fernando Alonso slumped to ninth on the grid. In the build up to the race, Felipe Massa bit the bullet and changed his gearbox meaning he’d take a five place grid penalty moving his Ferrari teammate up to 8th and onto the “clean side” of the track.
The race got off to a rapid start with Mark Webber passing 2nd placed Lewis Hamilton on the outside coming up the steep hill on turn one while Alonso jumped up three places to move up to 4th position. Race leader, Sebastian Vettel was able to make a clean getaway and began to build a healthy lead ahead of his teammate Webber.
Lewis Hamilton wasted no time in trying to take back 2nd place by pressing hard to get ahead of Webber’s Red Bull. On the third lap Hamilton made his first attempt but went too wide and temporarily off the track giving the Australian a bit more space. On the next lap Hamilton got it right when he switched to the inside lane and passed Webber as he went around the corner to take back 2nd place and begin to chase down Vettel who wasn’t too far ahead.
A few laps later as the race started to take shape Romain Grosjean made a mistake and spun off the track after a hard battle with Michael Schumacher, by the time the Frenchman had returned to the track he had dropped down to 13th from 9th place. The Circuit of the Americas was clearly proving to be quite the fun course for overtaking and Kimi Raikkonen proved so by pulling off a great move when he pulled ahead of Nico Hulkenburg after being kept back at turn one but just found enough room on turn two to get past the Force India and cement fifth position reaching turn four.
The first retirement of the race came on the 15th lap when Jean Eric-Vergne pulled off the track and into the gravel out of harms way with what appeared to be a suspension failure. He wouldn’t be the only one to retire when Red Bull’s Mark Webber found out his KERS had failed. One lap later and the Aussie had pulled into the side of the track as his car came to a halt. Not for the first time this season it seemed the alternator had failed bringing Webber’s race to an end prematurely.
Hamilton appeared to be closing the gap on Vettel until his tyre’s had seemed to have peaked earlier than expected, as a result the McLaren driver pitted early for a new set of tyres, relieving the pressure on the race leader temporarily. Third placed Alonso entered the pits at the same time but his pit crew were slow to release him causing him to lose a precious four seconds out on the track. Due to the timings of their pits it meant Vettel was able to pit on the next lap with ease and was able to hold onto first place.
Alonso’s luck appeared to be running low when Jenson Button made a relatively easy pass with his DRS to get ahead of the Spaniard to take fifth place on the straight but it wouldn’t last long before the McLaren driver made his first pitstop of the race.
The second half of the race was all about the battle for first place as Hamilton continued to go faster than Vettel in each sector, narrowing the gap with every lap that passed. It wouldn’t be long before the Red Bull car was overtaken by the future Mercedes driver and the moment arrived on the 43rd lap. As the top two drivers approached Narain Karthikeyan who was at the back of the pack, it appeared that the HRT driver held up Vettel instead of letting him pass by with no trouble. As a result it gave Hamilton the perfect opportunity to activate his DRS and drive past the Red Bull car and then fend him off as they went round the corner.
In the closing stages of the race Button was able to move back up into fifth place when he overtook Kimi Raikkonen on turn one as he was squeezed into the corner but managed to pull through and get ahead of this year’s Abu Dhabi grand prix winner. On the final lap Maldonado passed teammate Senna narrowly when they went wheel to wheel making contact as they went around turn one to take ninth place.
The checkered flag waved for Lewis Hamilton to take victory meaning Sebastian Vettel would not win his third consecutive World Championship. Fernando Alonso closed out the top three narrowing the gap in the table to 13 points with one race remaining.
Vettel may have to wait a little longer for his third championship but Red Bull can celebrate after sealing their third constructor’s championship in as many years.
The top 10 from the Austin grand prix are as follows:
1. Lewis Hamilton
2. Sebastian Vettel
3. Fernando Alonso
4. Felipe Massa
5. Jenson Button
6. Kimi Raikkonen
7. Romain Grosjean
8. Nico Hulkenburg
9. Pastor Maldonado
The penultimate race of the 2012 Formula One season takes place in Sao Paolo, Brazil this Sunday.