F1 2013 United States Grand Prix Qualifying Preview
The championship has been well and truly wrapped up, but the excitement is still in the air as some new faces are put through their paces.
Local Time: 12 PM (Austin)
Top Three Qualifying Finish: Lewis Hamilton @ 1.65 See the Latest Odds
TV: Sky F1 (UK), NBC (USA)
Formula 1 heads to Austin, Texas as the circus’s penultimate show starts up at the second United States Grand Prix at the Circuit of the Americas. There was little surprise to see the name Sebastian Vettel next to the P1 time position at the end of Friday’s running, with the German showing no signs of taking the metaphorical foot of the pedal in the twilight of his historic 2013 campaign.
Mark Webber, in his second last Friday in F1, completed his running in P2, ensuring that Red Bull once again cemented themselves as the team to beat in Austin. The RB9’s development over the course of the 2013 season is nothing short of remarkable.
Having started the year of with a competitive car that wasn’t quite the fastest, they’ve progressively built the package before beginning their period of dominance at the resumption of the season after the summer break. In doing that they’ve left their rivals for dead.
What’s been interesting over the last two weeks since the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix has been the tremendous movement in the so called ‘driver market’. Formula 1 is unlike most other sports. There are only ever 22 F1 drivers active at any given point in time. Therefore, if a team is looking for a new driver, it usually has only three options. Steal someone else’s, hire a rookie, or sign an ex-driver hacking it in another category.
Surprisingly, Lotus attempted to do a fourth when it attempted to convince a retired legend back into the sport for the first time, but the second time. Michael Schumacher’s rejection of Lotus brought about an end to an incredibly audacious plan to dramatically raise the profile of a team that has lost its box office in Kimi Raikkonen for the last two races of this season and for 2014 and beyond. Had the administrators at Enstone managed to pull of the sensational signing of the 7-time World Champion for two, effectively exhibition races, it would have been a massive coup as much about off-track performance as on-track. However, now that we know it has failed, it speaks volumes about the desperation that is rife at the team that has been so promising over the last couple of seasons.
The other major shock was the booting of Sergio Perez form McLaren after just one season. This year has been a tragedy for McLaren, made all the more worse by their decision to ditch a successful 2012 car in favour of a completely different design to take them that one step further. Instead it has landed up with them suffering their worst season in years and the incredibly likely outcome of failing to achieve a single podium over the duration of 2013. Perez hasn’t exactly lit the world on fire, but nor has he had the means to. There have been times when his performances have made us all sit up and take notice, while at other times it has become evident that the Mexican was under severe pressure to make results happen. All in all, his seasons could not possible be classified as a failure. The fact that McLaren have decided to replace him with Kevin Magnussen, an unknown rookie whose highest category of racing is the Formula Renault 3.5 series certainly raises eyebrows. It certainly reflects some desperation in itself from McLaren who are desperate to sell hope to sponsors and fans alike.
Back to immediate matters, and Mercedes remain just shy of the Red Bull benchmark. Both Rosberg and Hamilton appear to be firing well and have plenty of promise of a podium finish, but as long as Vettel remains on the track, a win is simply out of reach.
Lotus and Ferrari are the next step down, and Lotus’s eventual recruit, ex-Caterham and McLaren driver Heikki Kovalainen, has shown good promise that he’ll be able to take the fight to Romain Grosjean in these last two races.
At last year’s inaugural race at Austin we saw Lewis Hamilton take the win after a solid weekend where he was able to get the better of Vettel in an inferior car. Don’t be surprised if this happens again. The Brit has been quiet for a while now, and he’s due for a big race and a big qualifying performance.
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