|Lewis Hamilton claimed a brilliant and unexpected win today|
Credit: Alex Comerford / CC
All in, F1's overdue and much-vaunted return to the US couldn't have gone much better. The Circuit of the Americas is a fantastic facility with a challenging and undulating layout, popular with drivers and fans. And today some 120,000 were in attendance to watch all of the action. You feel that if F1 doesn't get it right in America with this starting point then it will never get it right.
|Sebastian Vettel played his part in a great race, |
and retains the aces in the title fight
Credit: Morio / CC
And for Lewis it is all a continuation of a season that has witnessed him very much back to his mighty best after a trying 2011. Without unreliability, team logistical errors and other doses of bad luck, Lewis could well be heading the drivers' table rather than being a distant fourth. Let's just hope that next year's Mercedes does him some justice.
And completing the podium was one Fernando Alonso, who not for the first time this year conjured up a podium finish out of thin air it seemed. Of course, he was given a massive helping hand by Ferrari breaking the seal of Felipe Massa's gearbox, so Felipe would get a five-place grid drop and, crucially, putting Alonso on the grippier racing line for the start. And we were shown exactly why it did this within seconds of the red light going out, with Alonso up to P4 at the second turn after starting seventh, which set him up for his good day. It was tough on Felipe of course, but F1's a tough business and I'd be surprised if there's a single team principal in the paddock who wouldn't have done the same thing in the same circumstances (or at least been tempted to). Indeed, one probably wouldn't have to dig too deep to find similar done by each of them. That may go some way to explaining why the reaction to Ferrari's move was in the main grudging acceptance rather than outrage. Mark Webber's alternator failed today, which put Alonso third, where he stayed. If Nando second and Seb third in Abu Dhabi represented a major save by Seb, then surely the reverse result in Austin is also a save for Nando.
|Fernando Alonso again conjured up a podium, |
and remains in title contention
Credit: Ryan Bayona / CC
Thus Seb and Nando head to Interlagos next week 13 points apart, where everything will be decided. On the face of it, Seb holds all the aces, only requiring fourth place to guarantee the title for himself, which you think the RB8 in its current spec is well capable of. Then again, Interlagos is the sort of place where things happen (one can think of ample examples), and moreover rain is forecast for all three days (not only providing an unwelcome variable but also providing Alonso with a leg up). And alternators are providing a worry to the Bulls, having caused unreliability earlier in the season 2011 alternators had been used recently, but apparently they have now run out so this year's model with all of the associated concern over it had to be brought back here, and indeed ended Webber's race early. Adrian Newey afterwards today described the alternators as a 'ticking time bomb'. Even though Red Bull claimed the constructors' title today, its third in a row, most in the team looked rather flat post-race.
So, not an ideal situation for the Bulls heading into Interlagos, but sight should not be lost of the fact that Vettel remains firm favourite to claim title honours. Barring freak occurrences it's hard to imagine how he can not finish at least fourth in Brazil, even if it does rain. But there seems something appropriate that the amazing F1 year of 2012 goes down to the last race, and the major prize will be decided in the intense Interlagos melting point. Do make sure you're near a television next Sunday.