Formula One Returns to the United States with the World Championship on the Line [US Grand Prix Live Thread]
You wouldn't think the wine and cheese atmosphere of F1 would fit with rough and tumble Texas, but so far this debut weekend has been a smashing success, which huge crowds both Friday and Saturday to watch practice and qualifying. It hasn't a fully smooth meeting, as this tweet from Mark Webber can attest, but overall, not much to complain about. The track itself looks amazing, and the drivers and teams have been very complimentary.
F1 this year started with near record parody, featuring seven different winners in the first seven races. Since then, things have turned mostly back to normal, with the big three teams of Red Bull, McLaren, and Ferrari winning most of the races. As such, a tight championship battle has turned into a two man race. Two time defending World Champion Sebastien Vettel has the lead right now as he looks for three in a row. He got the lead on the strength of four straight victories, only broken two weeks ago by Kimi Raikkonen at Abu Dhabi. Vettel leads Ferrari's Fernando Alonso by 10 points coming into today's race. The Ferrari hasn't been as fast as Vettel's Red Bull, but Alonso has been able to hang in there. Today's race is the penultimate of the season, and thus will determine if it will truly be a title race going to the finale at Brazil, or if Vettel will cruise to a third straight championship.
So far this weekend, it's advantage Vettel. He's been P1 in almost every session so far, and will start on pole. Alonso hasn't been nearly as quick, and will start 7th, and that's only aided by two grid penalties, including one for his teammate Felipe Massa for changing a gearbox. The speculation is this is yet another show of team orders by Ferrari. On pure pace, it's looking like the only one who can challenge Vettel is the man who will start alongside him, Lewis Hamilton. However, there is an important variable in play. Pirelli decided to bring their two hardest tire compounds to Austin, playing it conservative to the new track. The result has been a lack of grip for everyone, exacerbated by a track that only recently was completed and is still shiny and slippery. At the same time, the tires in practice were showing almost no wear. It could make pit strategy very interesting, while giving everyone spots on the track, particularly turn 19, where the lack of grip could end the day.
It's been five years, but Formula One is back in the United States. What we'll see today will look very different from what's happening at Homestead, but there should still be some great action. Q it up here throughout the race.