The record breaking continues. Sebastian Vettel has notched up his eighth consecutive Grand Prix victory, once again dominating proceedings to win from Romain Grosjean and Mark Webber.
While there was plenty of midfield action and overtaking, the second Grand Prix in the ‘Lone Star’ state was a bit of a one-star affair at the front of the field, with the German never threatened en route to more celebratory tyre-smoking donuts.
The only serious concern to Vettel’s chances came pre-race, with Red Bull Racing getting the go-ahead from the FIA to break his RB9’s gearbox seal to carry out precautionary checks on the gear ratios and dog rings. The only component replaced was a faulty oil shuttle valve, and despite there being a traditional grid penalty for opening up the ‘box, the activity did not fall foul of the Sporting Regulations.
The concerns brushed aside and the grid cleared of its Hollywood fly-in guests, Vettel blasted clear off the line, while Mark Webber made his now-customary poor getaway and dropped to fourth on the short sprint to Turn 1, falling behind Romain Grosjean and Lewis Hamilton.
Further down the field, Fernando Alonso lost a couple of places off the line for the first time in a thousand years, while Jenson Button – who was penalised three grid slots after overtaking under red flag conditions in FP1 – lost a piece of his front wing in the first corner compression. The Englishman was never in the picture thereafter, although he drove hard to snatch tenth place in the final laps of the race.
With the era of near-bulletproof reliability drawing to a close, Sunday’s only retirement came courtesy of Adrian Sutil. The German was side-by-side with Pastor Maldonado along the back straight and evidently didn’t see the Williams in his mirrors; the pair banged wheels and the hapless Force India driver slapped the Armco, triggering a brief Safety Car while the mess was cleaned up.
When racing resumed once again, Vettel set about building himself a handy lead ahead of his planned one-stop race, while Grosjean also started to pull clear of the Hamilton-Webber battle for third.
Webber ultimately managed to get by Hamilton with a neat pass at Turn 12 shortly before his trip through the pit lane, and once clear of the Englishman, his task was then to chase down Grosjean.
Ultimately Grosjean had enough in hand to keep Webber at bay, but not quite enough to reel in a cruising Vettel, who the in the odd fastest lap to keep himself entertained, ignoring the ongoing warnings from the pit bunker to look after his car.
Hamilton finished fourth, just managing to keep enough life in his tyres to stop a hard-charging Fernando Alonso and Nico Hülkenberg from overhauling him in the closing laps.
Alonso and Hülkenberg livened up the final stages of the race with an entertaining scrap for fifth place, with the Spaniard passing (and then re-passing) the Sauber driver on the final lap.
Sergio Pérez started finished where he started in seventh place, keeping his front wing intact and outscoring Jenson Button to perhaps question the wisdom of McLaren’s decision to sack him after outperforming Button all weekend. But the outcome is fixed, and it’s certainly a case of ‘too little, too late’ in the Mexican’s case.
The Finnish rookie finally delivered on the promise everyone in the Williams team has touted, with a sensational eighth-placed finish to earn his maiden points finish and increase the team’s points tally by 400%!
By contrast, a disinterested and paranoid Maldonado finished finished a lapped 17th, his race hampered by his first-lap contact with Sutil.
The final points went to Nico Rosberg and Jenson Button, who both recovered from their poor qualifying performances on Saturday to salvage some nominal pride.
Daniel Ricciardo finished just outside the points when his Toro Rosso’s tyres gave up the ghost in the final laps, while teammate Jean-Éric Vergne followed in his wheeltracks. However, the Frenchman was quickly hit with a twenty-second post-race time penalty for a clumsy lap-lap tangle with Esteban Gutiérrez, who was forced onto a two-stop strategy after pitting with damage on the opening lap.
Heikki Kovalainen’s return to the F1 racing scene did not deliver as Lotus has hoped. After a poor getaway off the line, the race-rusty Finn was forced into a front wing change in an earlier than planned sole pit stop, which left him vulnerable to his fresher-shod rivals later in the race. He finished fifteenth, which became fourteenth courtesy of Vergne’s penalty. It was hardly a convincing comeback.
2013 United States Formula 1 Grand Prix – Final Classification (56 laps):
|1.||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull Racing Renault RB9||56||1:39:17.148|
|2.||Romain Grosjean||Lotus F1 Renault E21||56||+ 6.284|
|3.||Mark Webber||Red Bull Racing Renault RB9||56||+ 8.396|
|4.||Lewis Hamilton||Mercedes AMG Petronas F1W04||56||+ 27.358|
|5.||Fernando Alonso||Scuderia Ferrari F138||56||+ 29.592|
|6.||Nico Hülkenberg||Sauber Ferrari C32||56||+ 30.400|
|7.||Sergio Pérez||McLaren Mercedes MP4-28||56||+ 46.692|
|8.||Valtteri Bottas||Williams Renault FW35||56||+ 54.509|
|9.||Nico Rosberg||Mercedes AMG Petronas F1W04||56||+ 59.141|
|10.||Jenson Button||McLaren Mercedes MP4-28||56||+ 1:17.278|
|11.||Daniel Ricciardo||Scuderia Toro Rosso Ferrari STR8||56||+ 1:21.004|
|12.||Felipe Massa||Scuderia Ferrari F138||56||+ 1:26.914|
|13.||Esteban Gutiérrez||Sauber Ferrari C32||56||+ 1:31.707|
|14.||Heikki Kovalainen||Lotus F1 Renault E21||56||+ 1:35.063|
|15.||Paul di Resta||Force India Mercedes VJM06||56||+ 1:36.853|
|16.||Jean-Éric Vergne*||Scuderia Toro Rosso Ferrari STR8||56||+ 1:44.574|
|17.||Pastor Maldonado||Williams Renault FW35||55||1 lap behind|
|18.||Jules Bianchi||Marussia Cosworth MR02||55||1 lap behind|
|19.||Giedo van der Garde||Caterham Renault CT03||55||1 lap behind|
|20.||Charles Pic||Caterham Renault CT03||55||1 lap behind|
|21.||Max Chilton||Marussia Cosworth MR02||54||2 laps behind|
|DNF.||Adrian Sutil||Force India Mercedes VJM06||0||Accident|
* Jean-Éric Vergne incurred a 20-second post-race time penalty for causing an avoidable collision with Esteban Gutiérrez.