- United States Grand Prix - The Final Stint
A round-up of the good, the bad and the downright ugly from the 2013 United States Grand Prix
- United States Grand Prix
Alonso needs a break
Fernando Alonso looked slightly drained after the race, but a question which started with "Fernando, you look tired" seemed a bit far. However, Alonso readily admitted that his back injury had made it a very taxing weekend for him and that he hadn't enjoyed the race as a result. Having fought to the wire and lost out on the title in 2012 - an effort which must have taken its toll mentally - the constant struggle against the dominance of Red Bull and Vettel looks to be getting to Alonso. As he explained his hopes of further recovery before another "stressful" weekend in Brazil, it became clear the end of the season can't come soon enough for him. 2014 could take Alonso out of his comfort zone and he needs to be on his best for to stamp his authority on the team again alongside Raikkonen, but on Sunday evening he appeared to be in need of some time away from Formula One.
The Story of the Weekend
- Shock: Valtteri Bottas - After Williams' season-long struggle for points, nobody expected him to score four points on merit
- Shocker: Pastor Maldonado - A bad weekend is excusable, but taking it out on your team is not
- Best overtake: Valtteri Bottas - His move around the outside of Esteban Gutierrez at Turn 2 displayed a huge amount of skill and bravery - especially with so much at stake
- Best lap: Romain Grosjean - On lap 53 he set the fastest lap of the race at that point just as he started to come under pressure from Mark Webber. It was a display in brilliant tyre management and speed
- Worst lap: Charles Pic - On lap 49 he didn't obey blue flags, earning him an unnecessary drive-through penalty
- Drive of the day: Romain Grosjean - Although Sebastian Vettel was dominant, Grosjean outperformed his car throughout the race under greater pressure from Webber's Red Bull
Williams heaven and Williams hell
There were both love and hate relationships at Williams this weekend. The team fell in love with Valtteri Bottas all over again as he reacted well to the scrapping of the tricky Coanda exhaust system and multiplied the team's points count by five. He barely put a wheel off line all weekend and showed that when he has a competitive car underneath him he is capable of scoring points. The relationship with Pastor Maldonado, however, imploded. The announcement that he would be leaving earlier in the week seemed to let him off the leash and he even accused the team of tampering with his car after a disappointing qualifying. He later said he "exploded" with the frustration of qualifying and claimed not to be "crazy". Nevertheless, the final race of their three season partnership cannot come a moment too soon.
Kovalainen's reality check
Heikki Kovalainen's return just proves how high a level the current crop of F1 drivers are operating up every race weekend. His outright pace was impressive and he was rightly proud of his top-10 grid position. However, when it came to making a clean start to the race and then managing the tyres he struggled. The Lotus is notoriously easy on its tyres, but jumping in it for the first time this weekend, Kovalainen couldn't match the 17 races of experience the drivers around him had. He had to pit after 17 laps but after that struggled with a lack of downforce and a KERS problem. He was struggling anyway, but throwing extra problems at him ruined any chance of a points finish. It was a rude awakening and makes Romain Grosjean's drive look all the more classy.
Driver market the centre of attention
When the drivers' championship is sewn up with three races still to run, inevitably attention shifts to off-track matters. That was certainly the case in Austin, with huge interest in Nico Hulkenberg at the start of the weekend and a focus on trying to decipher who could end up where in 2014. The situation was highlighted most clearly in the FIA press conferences post-qualifying and race, with Vettel, Webber and Grosjean - all with known futures - not a big enough draw to the media and only a handful of journalists attending. Much still depends on Lotus investment, but paddock whispers suggest Hulkenberg could be close to a return to Force India as time and patience runs out, leaving Lotus with a likely choice between Maldonado and Perez.
Another Austin success
Although race-day attendance figures were slightly down on 2012 - 113,162 compared to 117,429 a year ago - the second running of the United States Grand Prix at the Circuit of the Americas continued last season's success. Formula One doesn't need to win over US race fans to sell large amounts of tickets in Austin and shouldn't be overly fearful of any major drop-off in future years either because it's a hardcore following that again descended on the circuit. Appealing to the floating fans requires an experience far beyond the race itself and COTA certainly does that with entertainment at the track and the fan zone which has shut a street downtown. As Mario Andretti pointed out during our interview, what America needs is more F1-ready facilities like this one if it wants more races.