Preview 10: US Grand Prix

Tuesday 12-November-2013 10:32

Andrew Davies looks at ten things that might grip our attention at the United States Grand Prix.

1. Look out for the Mexican wave.
The Lone Star State is very close to Mexico, and up until the Battle of San Jacinto in 1836, the land on which the Circuit of the Americas was built was a part of Mexico. This weekend the Mexican F1 fans will be back in force to support Sergio Perez and Esteban Gutierrez (who comes from Monterrey, just two hours away) both of whom have a precarious hold on their F1 careers. With Pastor Maldonado on the loose with his big bucks PDVSA backing, the music is soon going to stop in the game of musical drives. There's two Force India seats, one Sauber and one Lotus into which you have to fit: Paul DiResta, Adrian Sutil, Esteban Gutierrez, Sergio Perez, Nico Hulkenberg and Pastor Maldonado. And with his large backing, Maldonado is a given.

McLaren were trying to ease Kevin Magnusson into a Force India drive, but we suspect Bob Fearnley's team didn't want a rookie, so McLaren took the decision that will go down like a lead balloon this weekend. With no Mexican GP likely in 2014, deferred to 2015, it's hard to think the Mexicans will wave farewell to the sport. But five into three doesn't go.

2. The classiest grid girls on the calendar?
When Texans do something, they tend to do it properly. From a country where cheerleading has long been a part of the sporting scene, the Austin grid girls know a photo opportunity when they see one. If the grid girls were arranged in...well...grid order, the USGP would be vying with Canada and Italy for pole, with Spain and Monaco looking at a second row slot. (Please note: no home favouritism here). It would be unfair to pick out who were the Caterhams and Marussias of the Grid Girl Grid, and as they say, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Although a fairly good test is to look at the photo agencies' websites. The boys at Sutton are a bit of a weather vane and if there are just four pictures you know they weren't impressed. For the USA they have to get another two terrabytes of storage for their webserver.

3. Kimi Raikkonen will be absent...
... and there is more than one person in the paddock that thinks this is a tactical 'sickie'. This way, he doesn't have to score points against the team he's joining next year - for the best medical reasons. It will be a big blow for Kimi's American fans who will have been waiting all year to see him. And despite not going, Kimi's thoughts were already on the Lotus USGP press release: " I like the American atmosphere; it's just a relaxed environment. They know how to have fun, and most of all they love racing. It's a nice circuit."

4. We'll get our first look at Daniil Kvyat in Friday practice
With his super licence safely tucked into his romper suit, 19-year-old Daniil Kvyat will be the latest Toro Rosso driver to step off the Red Bull staircase of talent into a drive. Like Jamie Alguersuari before him, it's going to be sink or swim. He could be another prodigy or his best days might be behind him at 21.

5. Pirelli's Paul Hembery is expecting a two-stop race
"The hard and medium tyres are the best choice for the United States Grand Prix, because it's a circuit that places several high-energy demands on the tyres, so you need the most durable compounds in the range. There are some fast corners and many rapid elevation changes as well: in that respect it's a bit like Spa. When you have more energy going through the tyre, you have a bigger heat build-up - which is what increases wear and degradation. This year's compounds are softer, so we would expect around two pit stops in the race, depending also on the rate of track evolution."

Pirelli stetsons instead of caps for the podium places was also a great touch last year, even if the scenes of Lewis Hamilton kissing Martin Whitmarsh afterwards made it look a bit like F1 meets Brokeback Mountain.

6. Austin already has a lot of admirers.
Everyone was very impressed with the Circuit of the Americas and Austin first time round - the interesting track, the huge number of knowledgeable fans who came, and the way that the city hosted the race. Austin, like Montreal, became one big F1 party for the weekend. The drivers loved it:

Mark Webber: Austin is a great city, so I see no reason why F1 can't gain a true foothold in the US at this venue. It is an incredible race track, it looked good on paper and lived up to expectations.

Paul DiResta: I still remember the huge crowd that came to the race last year and the amazing atmosphere. The place was absolutely packed and the whole city was very enthusiastic about Formula One.

7. There are still key battles to be fought.
Mercedes have the upper hand in the race for P2 in the Constructors' Championship but you can discount nothing when you're racing against Fernando Alonso. Lotus look to be too far back to challenge now that they'll have a reserve driver in place of a World Champion.

Force India's great result in Abu Dhabi came on the back of good tyre wear and an inability for other cars to pass them. It won't be so easy to do that in Austin but they're still looming large in McLaren's mirrors.

And with only one point between them, you never know what might happen between Williams, Caterham and Marussia, should there be a freak result.

8. This is Davide Valsecchi's biggest ever chance.
Writing this on Tuesday the decision has yet to be taken as to who will replace Kimi in Austin, but it would be a massive gamble to bring someone in who wasn't familiar with the E21. Unless they have already settled for P4 in the Championship and are going to use the opportunity to generate cash. Should Valsecchi get the drop then it will be make or break.

9. McLaren will be the centre of attention...
...with everyone wanting to know the decision process in promoting Kevin Magnusson. Expect Martin Whitmarsh to refer to Kevin's Abu Dhabi test; "He has had two runs in an F1 car (then) in Abu Dhabi, on his third flying lap, he did a time that was good enough for sixth on the grid, which is pretty impressive"

This means we are guaranteed at least three rookies on the grid next year.

10.The weather should still be good.
Ferrari like it cold, but the ambient temperature for Sunday's race is projected at around 27C, although there might be a touch of rain on Saturday. A temperature of 27C in mid-November is pretty good and one of the reasons that Texas as a state is attracting huge numbers from across America to live and work. And now, watch F1 races.

Andrew Davies

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