Notes taken during the SPEED broadcast of the United States Grand Prix, Circuit of the Americas, Austin Texas on Nov. 18, 2012.
Welcome to the brand-spanking new Circuit of the Americas in Austin. Tons of scoffers thought this track would never happen, and I was all "believe-it-when-I-see-it." Well I'm seeing it, and the fans are packing it, so huge huge huge shout out to the fans who showed up for this race. Most of them dropped noticeable cash to come to the race, so massive respect from the pdog.
Starting lineup: Sebastian Vettel, Lewis Hamilton, Mark Webber, Kimi Räikkönen, Michael Schumacher, Nico Hulkenberg, Fernando Alonso, Roman Grosjean, Pastor Maldonado, Bruno Senna, Felipe Massa, Jenson Button, Paul di Resta, Jean-Eric Vergne, Sergio Perez, Kamui Kobayashi, Nico Rosberg, Timo Glock, Charles Pic, Vitaly Petrov, Heikki Kovalainen, Pedro de la Rosa, Narain Karthikeyan.
Bob Varsha, David Hobbs and Steve Matchett are in the booth. Will Buxton is on the grid.
Those Nutty Ferrari guys! F1 has a rule that if you change a gearbox too soon (I think it's five races) you have to take a five grid spot penalty. So, since Massa qualified ahead of Alonso, who is in a title fight with Vettel, Ferrari intentionally changed the gearbox (actually just broke the seal on the gearbox) so Massa had to take a penalty and that moved Alonso up a spot AND put him on the "clean" line at the start. Always working the rules!
Story lines: Bob: Start to finish attrition, Steve: championship battle. Dave: Spoilers in the field.
Gridded. Let's light this candle. Lights are red ... four, three, two, one GREEN.
Into turn 1 ... clear. No circus music into one. Everyone clear. Alonso got a HUGE start. Leaps to P4 on the start. Webber got around Hamilton for P2 on the start. Festival of wide running through an early corner here. Everyone continues.
Lap 3 -- Replay. Hamilton goes wide and Webber gets P2.
Lap 4 -- Hamilton retakes P2 around Webber, the goes purple (fastest lap of all so far).
Lap 7 -- Grosjean ass-around in turn 19, which has been trouble for a lot of drivers. Driver say the track is slick and Pirelli brought two hard tires to the race, so it's a festival of low grip out there.
Lap 8 -- Vettel, Hamilton, Webber, Alonso, Hulkenberg, Räikkönen, di Resta, Massa, Perez, Schumacher.
Hamilton is 2.2 back from Vettel and goes purple again.
Grosjean may have four flat spots for going ass around in turn 19. Hobbs says it must be "vibrating like a fruit mixer."
Replay of Senna overtaking Schumacher. Hamilton is now 1.6 seconds back from Vettel.
Replay of Button inhaling Schumacher, but not before Schumacher pushes him waaaaaay over to pit out. Dude. Welcome to the attempted block party! Button gets the position though.
Lap 11 -- Hamilton is now within 1.5 seconds of Vettel. Replay of Massa overtaking di Resta.
Lap 12 -- Vettel responds to Hamilton by going purple (fastest lap so far). Replay of Kimi inhaling Hulkenberg with a Large Attachments move. Räikkönen moves into P5.
15 -- Hamilton is on top of Vettel. Close enough to use his DRS which flaps open menacingly. (Note: F1 cars have a Drag Reduction System or DRS which essentially is the ability to flap the back wing slats open eliminating most downforce and drag. The result is the car can go a lot faster in a straight line. Every track has a DRS zone in which the driver can flap the back wing open. BUT, you can only do it in the zone AND you have to be within one second of a car in front of you for position before it will work. It was installed to encourage overtaking, and it has. Insert Artificial Abomination vs. Fabulous Innovation argument here.)
Lewis stays within 0.9 seconds of Vettel so he can continue to use the DRS in the zone.
Lap 17 -- Webber's pit radios him that his KERS is toast. (Note: Kinetic Energy Recovery System or KERS is a system on F1 cars that captures energy from the spinning crank shaft under breaking or coasting and charges a battery-like system with it. THEN, for a certain number of seconds each lap, the driver can hit the button and the energy in the KERS supplements the engine horsepower giving the car a boost. Insert Artificial Abomination vs. Fabulous Innovation argument here.)
Webber's slowing. Webber's car is toast. Car is coasting to a stop. We stay green, but Webber is getting out. Matchett, the resident techno geek, goes into some kind of voltage babble here. (Turns out it was an alternator deal.)
Lap 21 -- Hamilton pits for tires from P2. (Note: no refueling in F1. They carry all the fuel they need for the entire race onboard at the stop.) Alonso pits also but has a slow stop due to a left rear issue. A "slow stop" in F1 is 6 seconds. A fast stop is sub 3-seconds since all they do is change tires and you can have 293 people in an F1 pit team.
Lap 22 -- Senna hipcheck Perez out of the way and CLEAR.
Hamilton and Alonso are now in a knife fight after the pit stops. Alonso is ahead, but Hamilton overtakes him in the DRS zone. Räikkönen is P2 but Hamilton overtakes him for P2 as Räikkönen pits. Räikkönen also has a long stop for some rear tire issue. Räikkönen comes out in back of Alonso who he was hoping to pass in the pits, but NO.
Pretty sure that Vettel pitted from the lead and came back out in the lead. I must have missed it.
Lap 29 -- Grosjean passes Rosberg.
Lap 31 -- Hamilton goes purple and is freaking out in P2 chasing Vettel.
Alonso radio .. in Italian. Hobbs: "Aren't they supposed to speak English?" I think they are, actually.
Hamilton is now 1.6 seconds back of Vettel again ... and Hamilton goes purple, again.
Lap 34 -- Hamilton and Vettel are the class of this field. They're up 20+ on P3. Hamilton closes to within a second of Vettel. Insert menacing DRS flap flapping here. Matchett said a flapped open DRS gives Hamilton's Mercedes a TWELVE MPH advantage on the non DRS opened Red Bull of Vettel.
Lap 35 -- Hamilton is 0.7 seconds back.
Lap 36 -- Vettel responds by going purple. This is a major knife fight. Hamilton is relentless and Vettel keeps responding with purple laps. Like two heavyweights landing haymakers on each other.
Lap 40 -- Alonson is THIRTY second back in P3.
Lap 42 -- Hamilton hits the DRS zone and opens the gaping maw in the rear wing and ... he's .. CLEAR. Clear-clear, Hamilton overtakes Vettel for the lead. Replay. Vettel swerves a little bit, but there was nothing he could do. Vettel has to stay within a second in order to use his DRS the next time around.
Vettel radios that he thinks DRS sucks. Hard to blame him on that, but if he can stay within a second of Hamilton he can use it right back oh him.
Lap 43 -- Lewis is quickly up by 0.9 seconds.
Lap 46 -- Hamilton is more than a second ahead of Vettel so no DRS for him. Button overtakes Räikkönen for P5.
Lap 53 -- Announcers give turn 1 a lot of love. The whole show has been a Circuit of the Americas love fest.
Massa goes purple late! Hamilton and Vettel change purple laps, but Hamilton will win barring air strike.
White ... Hamilton wins by 0.6 seconds. Vettel, Alonso. Finishing order:
Lewis Hamilton, Sebastian Vettel, Felipe Massa, Jenson Button, Kimi Räikkönen, Romain Grosjean, Nico Hulkenberg, Pastor Maldonado, Bruno Senna, Sergio Perez, Daniel Ricciardo, Nico Rosberg, Kamui Kobayashi, Paul di Resta, Michael Schumacher, Vitaly Petrov, Heikki Kovalainen, Timo Glock, Charles Pic, Pedro de la Rosa, Narain Karthikeyan, Mark Webber, Jean-Eric Vergne.
The podium peeps get Pirelli-branded Stetson hats. Nice. Drivers thank the fans. There ya go. That's it from Austin. Highly entertaining watching Hamilton chase down Vettel who drove it as hard as possible to stay ahead. Also a lot of overtaking in the field and, wow, the fans turned out. Per my Twitter boy @FilipCleeren: 65,360 on Friday, 82,710 on Saturday and 117,429 fans for the race makes a total of 265,499 admissions to the COTA. Huge.
That's it from Texas. F1 finishes the season at Brazil Nov. 23 through 25. The championship will be settled in Brazil. Alonso is 13 back of Vettel. Red Bull clinched the constructor title for the second straight year at Texas.