2012 United States Grand Prix 2012 United States Grand Prix 2012 United States Grand Prix

While next weekend’s Brazilian Grand Prix looks set to be the more likely venue at which the 2012 Formula 1 World Championship title will be decided, this weekend’s visit to the United States – the first for the sport in five years – could emerge as the title-clincher.

All Sebastian Vettel needs to do is win and have his sole championship rival, Fernando Alonso, finish fifth or lower. Sounds easy, doesn’t it?

Far from it. Without further ado, let’s take a look at the RichardsF1.com United States Grand Prix Preview…


The Circuit

2012 FORMULA 1 UNITED STATES GRAND PRIX
Circuit of the Americas
Date: 16-18 November 2012
Venue: Circuit of the Americas, Austin, Texas, United States of America
Lap Length: 5.513km
Race Lap Record: Circuit debuting on 2012 F1 calendar
Event Schedule: Free Practice Session 1 Fri 09:00-10:30
Free Practice Session 2 Fri 13:00-14:30
Free Practice Session 3 Sat 09:00-10:00
Qualifying Sat 12:00-13:00
Race (56 laps, 308.405km) Sun 13:00-15:00

Despite much uncertainty over whether the venue would be completed on time, the Circuit of the Americas is set to play host to its first ever motorsport event this weekend, which will also see the state of Texas welcome F1 back to the fold for the first time in almost thirty years.

This will be the tenth different venue on US soil to play host to Formula 1, but it’s the first time that a purpose-built circuit has been specifically developed to stage a Grand Prix.

It’s another ‘Tilkedrome’: five-point-something kilometres long, twenty-odd corners, fifty-ish laps.

You could be thinking that this is simply going to be a carbon copy of other Tilke designs, and in many instances you’d be right. There are a mix of high- and low-speed corners, a mega long straight, and the pit and spectator facilities are second-to-none.

But to leave your description at these basic points would probably do the venue a great disservice.

The opening sweeps are akin to the Suzuka EssesFirst impressions are good. For those who’ve been able to sample a few laps on the F1 2012 video game, it looks set to produce a serious challenge for all of the drivers.

Some wicked elevation changes aside, the circuit has three distinct parts – much like Tilke’s lauded layout at New Delhi.

The opening sector features some high-speed, flowing corners (pictured right) that are Tilke’s interpretation of the Maggotts/Becketts sweeps at Silverstone, and the Esses at Suzuka. This combination of corners will severely test a car’s high-speed handling, and the cars which showed well at either circuit earlier this year should be the strongest through here.

The second sector is very much a ‘Tilkedrome’: a wide expanse featuring a long straight, which funnels into a sequence of slow corners to make it the most pronounced overtaking point on the lap.

The final sector quickens again, with the highlight being the long multi-apex Turns 16-18 sweep, which has been likened to the daunting Turn 8 combination at Istanbul.

As we haven’t yet produced one of our own famous ‘Circuit Guide’ videos, let’s look at Jenson Button’s preview of the Circuit of the Americas:

 


Yas Marina Talking Points

So what do the RichardsF1.com readers and contributors think will happen this weekend?

 image
Geoff Burke, RichardsF1.com Journalist

“While F1 will be extremely keen to showcase itself this weekend, those in charge of the 2012 calendar haven’t made their lives any easier by scheduling the race alongside the final round of the NASCAR Sprint Cup at Miami’s Homestead Speedway.

“America’s premier tin-top series will kick its final race off midway through the running of the Grand Prix, and while F1 will be hoping local fans will be glued to the Vettel-Alonso battle in Texas, there will plenty of eyes watching the Chevrolet-Dodge stoush on the eastern seaboard.

“The US-based SPEED TV network is providing no less than 24 hours of coverage for the NASCAR finale over the next four days, while the same network can’t even be bothered to send its own F1 presenters to cover the event onsite. F1 still clearly has a long way to go crack the US.”

  Josh Kruse
Josh Kruse, RichardsF1.com Writer

The penultimate round of the 2012 championship is here already and it seems like only last month we were trying to wrap our heads around what we were witnessing, seven different winners from seven races. Vettel and Alonso are the only two left in contention with Vettel’s amazing Abu Dhabi drive from last to third, allowing him to minimise any damage Alonso threatened to cause and keep a ten-point advantage heading into the inaugural race in Texas.

“Turn 1 looks set to cause a bit of chaos on the first lap with a steep climb to a blind sharp left. The rest of the circuit offers similarities from other tracks on the roster, most notably, Maggotts and Becketts from Silverstone. I’m looking forward to America’s first race since 2007, but more so the dual between Alonso and Vettel. A battle that looks set to go down to the wire at Brazil.”

Matt
Matt Lennon, RichardsF1.com IndyCar Correspondent

So now we arrive in the US once again. It’s probably the only country that has rejected F1 on a number of occasions only for the circus to want to go back, or demand to go back. No other country would have the hide to tell Bernie Ecclestone it is bigger than the sport, but the US just might!

“But anyway, back to on-track predicting. On paper, the circuit looks fantastic, and the first corner probably has the potential for disaster as somebody is likely to dive down the inside into the left-hander, lock their brakes and cause an almighty pile-up. Judging on how much the Texans love their NASCAR and the propensity for sizeable accidents in that series, a first-corner wreck might not actually be a bad thing for the sport’s American fan-base. As for the winner… let’s wait and see who is still rolling at the end.”

Samuel 
Samuel McCrossen, 
‘The Qualifying Lap’ radio show host on Edge 99.3FM

“Another new Grand Prix circuit, and another designed by Hermann Tilke. We all know Bernie E loves Tilke, so much so that he wears Hermann Tilke pyjamas to bed, but I have to say that I am not so much of a fan. The problem isn’t so much what the F1 cars do on the circuit, it’s about how the cars look on the circuit – uninspiring. Tilke circuits such as Shanghi, Bahrain, Turkey, Buddh and Korea are about as aesthetically pleasing as apricot jam on a bit of toast. What I’ve seen of the Circuit of the Americas so far isn’t much better. It’s a ‘McRacetrack’. What is there about the circuit to suggest that F1 is racing in Texas this weekend? Probably nothing.

“In future, I think old Hermy-wermy and Bernie-wernie need to look back to the past for ideas for future F1 circuits. The great tracks such as Spa, Monza, Bathurst (although not an F1 track), and Monaco were all built around constraints such as public roads, buildings, hills, rivers and forests, leading the circuits to be visually interesting and unusual. Lets hope the Circuit of the Americas produces a good race this weekend, but unfortunately I am not expecting an aesthetically pleasing one (unless I see Fernando Alonso with an engine failure).”

Wojtek Paprota
Wojtek Paprota, 
RichardsF1.com Features Writer and webmaster of F1 Ultra

“The US Grand Prix will be a big question mark for all of us. We have a final phase of the season which sees the entire field hoping for some good results to cement or improve their championship position. Fernando Alonso and Sebastian Vettel are fighting for the title, while the likes of Kamui Kobayashi or Bruno Senna will be striving to keep their seats for 2013. However nothing can be taken for granted.

“I am sure that it will be really challenging weekend for the field. The circuit has a difficult corner configuration and despite numerous tests in simulators, factors such as tyre wear are still unknowns. It is really probable that this time it will be a key-factor to the victory.

“Looking at the problems which beset the circuit in its construction, the Grand Prix weekend will be the last task of the test. I hope that the US Grand Prix will come back to the F1 calendar for many years and circuit in Austin will down positively in the history of Formula 1.”

Jen
Jenifer Smith, RichardsF1.com Writer

There is a lot to be excited about going into this weekend, heading to the new Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas. With a 10-point difference between Sebastien Vettel and Fernando Alonso, Vettel could potentially secure the championship this weekend with a win if Alonso finishes fourth or below.  However, if Alonso wins and Vettel comes third, we will see them on an even standing in the last race, meaning that both have everything to fight for.

“Alongside this, everyone else will be fighting for the prestige of winning the inaugural race at this track.  This mix of motivations should have all the drivers pushing their cars to the limit.  With a long starting straight into a tight hairpin at Turn 1, there is the potential for a driver or two to overshoot and cause carnage at the start (hello, Romain Grosjean!).  Advantages will go to drivers who are strong at setting up their car and have an adaptable racing style given that the only racing hours put in on this track prior to the weekend will have been in a simulator.”

Ben Waterworth 
Ben Waterworth, RichardsF1.com Feature Writer & ‘The Qualifying Lap’ radio show host on Edge 99.3FM

“For the first time since 2007 we return to the US of A and I am thrilled to see F1 cars racing once again in America. There is no place on this earth that F1 needs to succeed more than it does in the USA, and once again it’s another new circuit that will try its luck in the land of the free and the home of the brave.

“Clearly as an expert on all circuits in the World Championship (due to my experience on the Playstation), I feel as though this is easily one of Herman Tilke’s best ‘drones’ from the last decade, and that daunting Turn 1 which has been more of a talking point than Romain Grosjean’s first lap accident magnetism will be exciting to see come Monday Australian time. All I know is that I’ll be up at 6am on the dot as we anticipate which driver will become the youngest three times World Champion in history with two rounds remaining!”

 


The Form Guide

As we mentioned in our prologue, the Drivers’ Championship battle is nicely positioned between our main protagonists, Sebastian Vettel and Fernando Alonso, who lie just ten points apart after Alonso managed to finish ahead of the German last fortnight at Yas Marina.

Granted, Vettel’s charge to third place from a pit lane start had many critics praising his racecraft, but let’s not forget that he was helped enormously by several Safety Car interruptions that helped to compress the field and make his rise up the timing screens a little easier.

And with the mighty Red Bull RB8 at his disposal, he’s much better positioned to take the spoils than Alonso, who has had to – time and time again – drive the wheels off the inferior Ferrari F2012.

A ten-point marging means that Vettel can wrap things up this year by:

  • winning the race, with Alonso finishing fifth or worse
  • finishing in second place, with Alonso finishing ninth or worse
  • finish in third place, with Alonso finishing out of the points

Vettel and Alonso will resume their bid to become the sport's youngest three-time World Champion
Interestingly, Vettel and Alonso haven’t raced wheel-to-wheel since the Italian Grand Prix


The championship is effectively Vettel’s to lose over the remaining two weekends of F1 action. Blessed with a technically superior package, he’s unlikely to be beaten on sheer pace, unless Ferrari pulls a major update out of Maranello that gives the red machine a half-second per laps over its main rivals.

Alonso will again have to rely on a bit of bad luck to hit Vettel as it did in Abu Dhabi when he was punted to the back of the grid after the team short-fuelled his car in qualifying.

If Vettel doesn’t clinch the Drivers’ Championship crown, then Red Bull Racing will be a near certainty to secure its third successive Constructors’ Championship trophy this weekend.

The team narrowly missed out last time out at Abu Dhabi, and it’s a near impossibility that the team won’t wrap it all up this weekend. That will be bad news for Ferrari and McLaren – in particular. The latter has failed to claim the teams’ title since 1998, and all at Woking will be despondent to have thrown another chance away. The car has been very quick all season long, but reliability (and the odd accident) has cost the team dearly this year.

McLaren cannot continue to squander points through poor reliabilityThe final phase of the 2012 season has been embarrassing for the silver cars, who have lost a bucketload of championship points with some dreadful – by their standards, at least – reliability. The team lost a certain 68 points with retirements at Monza (Button), Singapore and Abu Dhabi (both Hamilton) while heading towards certain wins or one-two finishes, while they also only managed to get one car to the finish line in Germany, Hungary and Belgium.

The team’s only hope is to salvage some pride by snatching second place in the Constructors’ Championship from Ferrari – who lie 22 points ahead – but that can’t happen unless both cars can hold together in Texas.

Mercedes is another outfit whose form has dramatically tanked in the latter half of the season. The team has scored just 25 of its 136 points in the second half of the season, and it’s failed to finish in the points at all for the last four races while pursuing its Coanda exhaust and ‘Super DRS’ design concepts, which clearly aren’t working.

The team is dangerously under pressure to lose its fifth place in the Constructors’ Championship standings from Sauber, who are snapping at their heels just 12 points adrift.

Lotus will be looking to ensure their Abu Dhabi win isn't a one-offOne the back of a reliability assisted – but long overdue – win at Abu Dhabi, there’s no reason why Lotus can’t challenge at the front again this weekend. The team has arrived at Austin with an extra spring in their step, and will be looking for a solid points haul to have a hope of claiming third place in the Constructors’ Championship from McLaren. Lying 40 points behind will make the task a huge ask, but you can never say never.

The Force India vs Williams battle for seventh place in the points race will step up a notch this weekend. The former squandered any hopes of overhauling Sauber when their drivers took each other out of major points contention at the first corner in Abu Dhabi, while the Williams pairing of Maldonado and Senna both managed to secure the team’s first double-points finish since the Chinese Grand Prix.


Don’t forget to enter your F1 Predictions!

The penultimate round of the 2012 RichardsF1.com F1 Predictions Competition is now open, and you can enter your predictions for the race right here to be in the running for some great prizes throughout the season and at the end of the year!

The cut-off to submit your predictions is no later than five minutes before qualifying starts, so make sure you’re in it to win it!

You can view the latest Predictions Competition ranking right here.

There were more changes in the points table following the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix round, and the overall winner’s title still remains open to many people to claim. Again, we’ll be awarding a prize to this weekend’s highest points-scorer (before ‘double up). Will it be you?

To enter your predictions, click here.

 

As always, RichardsF1.com will be bringing you the best of the on- and off-track action this weekend, so make sure we’re your first port of call for your United States Grand Prix fix!

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Richard Bailey

Founder & Chief Editor at MotorsportM8
Hasn't missed a Grand Prix since 1989. Has a soft spot for Minardi. Tattooed with 35+ Grand Prix circuits.
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