So let’s make plain what is at stake here; Sebastian Vettel could pass through US immigration on Monday a triple world champion. Fernando Alonso can’t, though he can stop Vettel from sealing it by finishing fourth or higher. That way even if Vettel does win on Sunday, the championship won’t be settled in the USA.
We’re liking the Circuit of The Americas, but as we all know, Americans don’t like F1 much. Of more interest to them is the Nascar which will be decided elsewhere in the US tomorrow. So, nothing against you Seb (*crosses fingers behind back*), but we’d like Brazil to crown the champ if that’s okay. It just seems right, and we’re nothing if not old fashioned at the Sunday Afternoon Club.
It will, if yesterday is anything to go by, all come down to grip. Grip is the issue at CotA. There isn’t any. And a little pits-to-car phone hacking suggested the teams aren’t expecting there to be much until after Sunday, when they’re all gone. Well that’s what Mercedes’ James Shovlin told Nico Rosberg anyhow. Kimi Raikkonen, although first out on to the track in FP1 yesterday, is on record as saying he doesn’t expect his Lotus will come good until Sunday, which to be fair is often the case. Kimi’s point, however, is that the E20 needs grip to work and there isn’t any right now. At the back of the grid, the rapidly atrophying and up-for-sale HRT team are worrying out loud they may not even qualify later this afternoon, its drivers just the right and just the wrong side of the 107% line.
If you haven’t caught any action from FP1 and FP2 yesterday, try and track some down. It may not have been elegant, it certainly wasn’t ‘the-finest-machines-and-the-finest-drivers’ brand F1 wants to present to the USA, but it was bloody exciting. Everyone went off the track at some stage, most of them at the penultimate turn, the charismatically named ‘Turn 19”. Many had lurid 360s and 720s and most of the angles in between. It reminded us a little of the Rally Cross from Brands Hatch that was on the BBC in the 1970s when the wrestling was on ITV.
As, frankly, did the track. If you haven’t seen it yet, you are in for a treat. The camera angle from the start of the main strait after Turn 20 appears to show the cars heading towards a wall of tarmac. A vast, wide, un-scalable wall. It’s the run up to the abrupt and tight Turn One, which is completely unsighted from driver’s eye level. The cars drop straight back down again and wind around a track that few seemed to truly learn or at least never stopped exploring. It wasn’t an easy day.
It didn’t stop Vettel rising to the top of the time sheets with an incredible time 1.4secs quicker than anyone in the morning, and an only marginally less perplexing 0.7secs margin in the afternoon. He looked fast, if lurid, and yesterday’s performance will do no harm when it comes to ‘Brand Seb’. He was mighty. As was Lewis, as was Alonso, who joined Vettel at the top of the sheets. Oddly their hot laps looked less slidey than Seb’s.
Maybe tail-out is the way to go when qualifying starts at 19.00 on Sky tonight (check your EPG for programme times — like Top Gear on Dave, Sky’s F1 schedules are relentless). The Beeb is showing highlights at 22.30, so drink up tonight and make it home on time.