After a three-week break following the Russian Grand Prix, Formula 1 heads to Austin this weekend for one of the biggest race weekends of the season: the United States Grand Prix.
Since returning to the calendar in 2012, the event has been an unmitigated success, welcoming huge crowds and becoming one of the most popular races on the calendar among the F1 community and the paddock faithful.
This year’s race will be run under a cloud following Jules Bianchi’s accident and the recent demise of both Caterham and Marussia, but the show must go on. Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg will continue to fight for this year’s world championship, with a 17-point gap making the race for the title quite one-sided at the moment. Of course, that could all change this weekend in Austin.
Here’s our complete preview of the United States Grand Prix in Austin, Texas.
2014 United States Grand Prix – Talking Points
Lewis chases a high-five in the USA
America has been a very happy hunting ground for Lewis Hamilton in the past. The Briton has lost just once, winning the final race at Indy in 2007 and the first event at COTA in 2012. This year, he has the best car on the grid underneath him, and appears to be in the form of his life, winning the past four grands prix. With Rosberg rattled, Lewis can seek a knock-out blow in Austin that could give him a healthy breathing room of 24 points at the top of the championship.
The grid may be two light, yet the show must continue
Caterham and Marussia will both not be racing in the United States this weekend after encountering economic difficulties since the last race in Russia. As a result, just 18 cars will line up on the grid in Austin. Will it be a repeat of Indy ’05? No. However, one similarity is there: once again, this is a problem that is a result of the selfish interests of the teams in Formula 1.
The FIA interestingly issued a statement earlier today saying that it felt its fears about cost control made public at the beginning of the year were truer than ever, and that it would be “in favor of any initiative that will help reduce costs in order to ensure the survival of the existing grid and attract potential new entrants” – basically, ‘we told you so’.
Vettel and Alonso remain coy
If you were hoping that either Sebastian Vettel or Fernando Alonso would make their futures known in Austin, prepare to be disappointed. Both drivers look to be on the move for 2015, and their moves appear to be simple: Vettel to Ferrari, Alonso to McLaren, right?
One would imagine that this is how things will end up, but across the United States GP weekend, the intrigue is set to continue. Both drivers will be gunning to complete the podium behind the Mercedes drivers, but with Williams looking in particularly good stead, they may be left fighting over fifth and sixth place – hardly the stuff of champions.
The race for points at Sauber
With Marussia and Caterham out of the equation, Sauber will be breathing a sigh of relief as it has no chance of being upstaged this weekend by the backmarkers as we saw in Monaco earlier this year. Scoring in Austin would be particularly timely for the team given the fact that it ranks behind Marussia with not a single point to its name. It would be all the more timely given that Esteban Gutierrez will be racing in front of many of his home fans who have made the trip over from Mexico for the weekend. As pressure builds on the Swiss team, breaking its duck in Austin would be a huge result.
Cracking the US market
For the first time, the V6 turbos will be racing in the United States in front of the American audience, meaning that many will be hearing the new sound of the cars in person for the very first time. Like many, they could end up disappointed and compare the sound to that of a vacuum cleaner, but this is unlikely to be much of a dent on the booming growth that the sport is enjoying in the United States at the moment.
United States GP – Facts and Figures
Track: Circuit of The Americas
Lap Record: Sebastian Vettel 1:39.347 (2012)
Tire Compounds: Soft (Option); Medium (Prime)
2013 Winner: Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull)
2013 Pole Position: Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull) 1:36.338
2013 Fastest Lap: Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull) 1:39.856
DRS Zones: Main Straight (T20 to T1); T11 to T12