COTA in Austin may well be one of the best modern circuits in the world, yet the 2013 US Grand Prix was undoubtedly short of action. Regardless, there were some interesting battles up and down the field behind Sebastian Vettel, who waltzed to his eighth successive win. The victory sees him seal the record of the most consecutive wins within one calendar year. If Vettel can triumph in the season finale next week, he will equal two more records. Meanwhile, Romain Grosjean equalled his best result in Formula One by finishing in second after withstanding considerable pressure from Mark Webber throughout the final stint.
For Vettel, it was another Sunday afternoon drive. The German had to defend hard into Turn one as Romain Grosjean experienced another excellent launch which propelled himself into P2. For this point forward, Vettel controlled proceedings – he managed to conserve the tyres with the usual cautious guidance from Rocky and cruised to victory. He was once again in a different class. Winning in Formula One can never be easy, yet with the infrastructure of a clinical Red Bull team around him, coupled with his incredible gift for racing, Vettel’s only equal of recent times is Michael Schumacher. “We have to remember these days,” said Vettel over his team radio on his slow-down lap. “We have to enjoy them while they last.”
It was an unusually emotional Sebastian following the race. While fans see it as just another Vettel win, it seems that the German has evaded the trap of expectation – he is grounded; aware that the string of success could end at any moment. This view was supplemented after the race, as he stated; “People tend to forget how much work there is behind all these things and how special it is. I remember back in 2008 how happy I was to be once in my life on pole. I think should never lose the passion and the enjoy and remember the days when you were dreaming of these things to happen. Therefore it’s important for all of us just to enjoy these moments. There is more time later in our lives to realise what it meant.”
Meanwhile, my driver of the day was Romain Grosjean, who miraculously split the Red Bull’s who otherwise would have cruised to a 1-2 finish. The Frenchman commanded the first stint from a comfortable P2 as Webber was preoccupied with dispatching a troubled Lewis Hamilton. Following the first and only stop, Mark closed Romain down by 0.7 seconds a lap at one stage. However, the Aussie would close Romain down on several occasions over the course of the final stint yet was unable to pass. The Red Bull did not have a high enough seventh gear and rather than speed up the degradation of tyres behind the Frenchman, Webber decided to fall back. Despite his antics behind Grosjean, Webber eventually ran out of laps.
Following the race, an elated Grosjean stated; “The car worked well today, I’m very proud to represent Lotus. Everyone did a 100% job and I’m glad to be on the podium here in the United States – I like this country and I always look forward to this beautiful track. Maybe next year I will go one better.” Meanwhile, Webber was full of praise for the in-form Frenchman. “It was not easy to pass Romain who was very clean but a good job for the whole team and I’m happy to finish on the podium on what will be my last F1 race here in America.”
Elsewhere, Lewis Hamilton was surprisingly contented with his P4, despite portraying a frustrated figure over team radio. The Brit managed to jump to P3 off the line yet was swiftly demote by Webber. However, he managed to maintain his position throughout the remainder of the race; undeterred by the fast charging Fernando Alonso and Nico Hulkenberg immediately behind. “That felt good out there this afternoon and I’m really happy with fourth place,” Hamilton stated. “It was so nice to have a race where I could fight for position and make progress. The car felt much better today than recently so the change in chassis has definitely made a difference and a big thanks to my guys in the garage for their efforts there. We’ve had a few difficult races on my side of the garage and I’m so proud of the team for all the hard work they have put in. We’re all determined to maintain our second place at the final race in Brazil next weekend.”
Further down the top ten, Valtteri Bottas impressed by claiming the first points of his F1 career in P8. The four points could prove crucial to Williams as it defends against a fluke result from Caterham and Marussia which could have otherwise demoted them to P11 or even P12 in the constructors. “I’m very happy to get my first points in Formula One today,” the Finn announced. “The whole weekend has been good from setting up the car in practice through to the strategy and pitstops in the race. We managed the tyres well today and I had good feedback from my engineers on them throughout. We did have a bit of pressure from Rosberg at the end but I was able to keep pushing and hold the position. I want to say a big thanks to everyone in the team and at the factory as they have all been working so hard and really deserve this result.” Bottas ran within the points throughout the race and even mounted a challenge to Fernando Alonso during the first stint. The decision by Williams to ditch the coanda exhaust has proved to be a fantastic one, (despite what a certain Venezuelan would say), and will surly abet their 2014 preparations.
Elsewhere, results were relatively predictable. Nico Rosberg recovered to P9 eventually after spending the majority of the race in midfield obscurity. “I didn’t have a great weekend here in Austin unfortunately,” he stated. “It really started yesterday in Qualifying where I struggled with getting temperature into the tyres and starting from 12th place makes your race really difficult, especially in a one-stop race.”
Another disappointed driver was Adrian Sutil. The German retired on lap one after being tagged into the wall by current Mr.Aggresive himself, Pastor Maldonado. Adrian explained the incident immediately after; “For some reason he hit my left rear wheel and I immediately lost control of the car and crashed into the barriers. I don’t really understand why he was so close to me because the track is so wide there. I stayed on my line and there was a lot of space to the right and the left. So it was an early finish and a very disappointing day.”
The second US Grand Prix in Austin failed to live up to expectation. All we can hope is that the Sebastian Vettel stranglehold on P1 has not diminished the American perception of the sport we love.