One year on: How different the 2014 USGP podium could look


A year ago, American fans were treated to the coronation of Sebastian Vettel, who captured what was his eighth consecutive victory and 12th (of 13) he’d take during his fourth straight World Championship season.

Vettel essentially had the race in the bag after Saturday’s qualifying session. Mark Webber made a mistake on his final flier while Vettel seized the moment for pole position.

In the race, Romain Grosjean made it up to second place, getting around Webber. But neither had anything for the German in the Red Bull on that day.

It’s funny how much things change in a year in F1 – note too even this podium in 2013 was sizably different from the Lewis Hamilton (McLaren), Vettel and Fernando Alonso (Ferrari) all-World Champion podium of 2012.

While Hamilton seeks a return to the podium in Austin this weekend, and a win would be his fifth consecutive (it would mark his first string of five in a row in his career), it’s going to be difficult for any of the 2013 podium finishers to maintain their record.

Vettel may be sitting out qualifying in Austin and in theory would be unlikely to recover to a podium position – top five perhaps.

Grosjean hasn’t come anywhere near close to the podium this season. The Frenchman has endured the campaign for Lotus, scoring all eight of its points courtesy of two eighth-place finishes, and is in the midst of a 10-race scoreless streak.

Webber, of course, is off to the FIA World Endurance Championship this year with Porsche. He raced in Austin with the Porsche 919 Hybrid a little more than a month ago.

The three or four odds-on favorites include the Mercedes AMG Petronas pair of Hamilton and Nico Rosberg, with Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo and Williams’ Valtteri Bottas the next two you’d figure have podium potential.

Rosberg is yet to finish better than ninth in Austin, which a year ago, was behind Bottas. The Finn scored his first World Championship points this race last year.

Ricciardo has just missed points on both occasions, coming 11th and 12th the last two years. But the two young chargers have been up to the task in 2014.

Alonso? The Ferrari hasn’t been the match of the field and who knows how much more Alonso will have in him this weekend as his future plans hang in the plans. But know he’s always giving it his all and tends to outperform his machinery level.

Felipe Massa’s also gone well at Austin the last two years with Ferrari, and should be good too with Williams this go-around.

The one thing we can pretty much say with certainty is that none of the 2013 podium finishers will be finishing in the same positions this year.