It wasn’t the spectacularly unimaginative Indianapolis circuit, and it didn’t have a Ralf Schumacher-driven Williams pinging off the walls a decade ago. But the United States returned, after a long gap, to host a Formula One race with considerable style. Named ‘The Circuit of the Americas’, the brand new Hermann Tilke-designed circuit at Austin, Texas provided Formula One with one of the most important races of the 2012 season.
Return Of The Circuit Of The Americas
It was Lewis Hamilton, the unlucky outgoing Brit from McLaren, who went ‘hee haw’ in his polished British accent after he crossed the finish line after a hard-fought victory. The first-ever winner of the Austin Grand Prix, he broke his own streak of rotten luck, and unwittingly made sure that viewers all over the world will be treated to a fitting finale at Interlagos, Brazil. After F1 Championship leader Sebastian Vettel easily dominated the practice and qualifying sessions, Sunday raceday was a different story. Ferrari gave us yet another insight into their gamesmanship skills by finding a loophole in the regulations and demoting Massa 5 places down the order behind Alonso- this, just so that the 9th-placed Spaniard could start on the cleaner side of the track. Immediately, he gained 3 places- and remained behind the faster McLaren and Red Bull through the race. He never had a chance, of course, and would have cursed his luck when the wrong Red Bull car was retired with mechanical problems (Webber). But this wasn’t about Alonso, as much as he remains in contention for the F1 World Championship going into the last race- still 13 points adrift of a rampaging Vettel.
Horsing around with the Bulls
The young German may have expected a different race- a sort of pole to finish free ride that he is now well-known for. But as it turned out, the first chapter in Austin F1 racing was written when the Mclarens proved to be quicker than the Red Bulls at race speed- with Hamilton being kept behind for majority of the race only because of Vettel’s brilliant defensive skills. Finally, on lap 43, after being hounded by the Brit forever, it was Vettel’s old foe Narain Karthikeyan who came to the rescue of Hamilton- and, in turn, Alonso. He failed to spot Vettel behind him, and Hamilton took this opportunity to shoot past the slowing Red Bull- into first place, throwing the Championship back open. It is not often Vettel is passed as a leader, and Hamilton could be Alonso’s new best friend till the final weekend.
That the chasing Spaniard finished a good 40 seconds adrift of the leaders, showed that Ferrari are not even the second strongest team in the Formula One Grand Prix world, despite the Constructors standings- where they’re just ahead of the unreliable yet quicker McLarens. Red Bull also clinched the F1 constructors title for the third year in a row- the first time a team has done that since the Schumacher-dominated days of Ferrari, and look good to add a few more down the years. But they were in no mood to party yet, because a 25 point race was cut down to an 18 point race for them, with Vettel only gaining 3 points out of it when he could have very well ended it all at Texas.
Pardners in Crime
We head to Interlagos, Brazil- the scene of the final race of an exciting 2012 season. Felipe Massa’s home race, and with Ferrari’s increasingly intentional strategic moves, this could only mean one thing. Sebastian Vettel better watch out for a red blur, because Massa might not be racing to reach the finish line.