Following the success of the first United States Grand Prix to be held at the Circuit of the Americas in Austin last year, the Formula One world has been itching to return to the heart of Texas. Not only is the city itself one of the most vibrant and entertaining on the calendar, but the track – the first permanent circuit in the US built for Formula One – was a major hit with fans, drivers and teams.
Ever since that initial success, there has been a longing to return to the United States, and the time has finally arrived. Following a crazy week of driver rumors, announcements and back injuries, the race at COTA is poised to be one of the most entertaining and intriguing of the season. The championships may be all wrapped up, but there is perhaps more to play for than ever at the penultimate round of the season. (Watch it live on NBC Sports Live Extra.)
United States Grand Prix Talking Points
Can Seb make it eight?
Sebastian Vettel is chasing a rather remarkable record in Austin. The quadruple world champion is – as he has been since the end of August – looking to extend his winning streak this weekend, only this time it is to eight races. In the history of Formula One, no many has won eight races in a row in the same season. Alberto Ascari holds the record for the most consecutive wins (nine) spread across two seasons. Also, COTA is just one of two tracks on the calendar that Seb has not won at. He’ll be keen on claiming another ‘funny hat’ this year.
Lewis Hamilton may have only won once in 2013, but he is looking to extend his 100% record in the US this weekend. Having debuted in 2007 and won that year’s United States GP at Indianapolis, Hamilton won last season’s race at COTA, meaning that he has never lost in the US. Therefore, he will be hoping to make it three from three this weekend relying the Mercedes W04 car improves from Abu Dhabi, where he suffered a number of problems before struggling home in seventh place.
Alonso back in action
Fernando Alonso has been given the all clear to race after a high-speed run over the kerbing in Abu Dhabi left him with a back injury. However, the Spaniard will be keen on returning to the podium this weekend and getting Ferrari’s bid for second place in the constructors’ back on track before Mercedes disappear out of site.
Following Kimi Raikkonen’s own back injury, Heikki Kovalainen has been drafted in to replace his fellow Finn for the final two rounds of the season. With one grand prix victory under his belt, Kovalainen will be keen on impressing with Lotus as he looks to revive his Formula One career following a year out as Caterham’s test driver. It will be interesting to see just how quickly he gets up to speed in a car that he has never driven before.
Pastor and Checo on show
Both Pastor Maldonado and Sergio Perez have had rough weeks, finding out that they will be without seats for 2014 with Williams and McLaren respectively. However, the final two rounds of the season act as a stage upon which the drivers must sell themselves and prove themselves worthy of a seat on next year’s grid. Like compatriot Esteban Gutierrez, Perez will be cheered on by the large contingency of Mexican fans that will be in Austin, and hopefully this will spur him on to a good result.
Track: Circuit of the Americas
Lap Record: Sebastian Vettel 1:39.347 (2012)
Tire Compounds: Medium (option); Hard (prime)
2012 Winner: Lewis Hamilton (McLaren)
2012 Pole Position: Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull) 1:35.657
2012 Fastest Lap: Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull) 1:39.347
DRS Zones: T20 to T1; T11 to T12
Friday – Free Practice 1: 10 am ET
Friday – Free Practice 2: 2 pm ET (LIVE on NBCSN and on NBC Sports Live extra)
Saturday – Free Practice 3: 10 am ET
Saturday – Qualifying: 1 pm ET (LIVE on CNBC and on NBC Sports Live extra)
Sunday – Race: 2 pm ET (LIVE on NBC, pre-race show starts at 1 pm ET and on NBC Sports Live extra)