United States GP – The Race

Will this be Hamilton’s last win for McLaren?

Well thank god I watched this race live as according to my Sky Plus, the coverage lasted a mammoth 5 hours and 3 minutes! Obviously I mean the Sky coverage and not the BBC who were only showing highlights. The penultimate race of the season, the title still hanging by a knife-edge, the likely conclusion of the constructors’ title battle and the return of F1 racing on American soil. Yet they chose not to show this race live but brought us live the televisual feast of the so-boring-I-can’t-even-remember-it Korean Grand Prix. Go figure. Or maybe the Beeb just lost out to Sky in the race-picking Russian Roulette. Still I got to bypass David Coulthard’s smug commentary and Schumacher-bitching for another race so everyone’s a winner.

The stunning climb to turn 1 at the Circuit of the Americas

And what a humdinger of a race it was way down in Austin, Texas! Yee-haaaaaaaaaaaah (sorry, I’m not sure what came over me there). Love love LOVED the brand new track at the Circuit of the Americas. Was it really truly designed by Herman Tilke? Did someone drop a few happy pills into his coffee on the day the final plans had to be submitted to Bernie? It has EVERYTHING! A bit of Silverstone (the Maggotts-Becketts-Chapel sequence), a bit of Hockenheim, a bit of Istanbul (the only good bit – Turn Eight), Interlagos (the Senna curve) and most fantabulously of all – the 1st corner pays homage to the awesome Turn One at the old Österreichring in Austria (or if you can’t remember that far back, it’s a bit like Eau Rouge). What’s not to love about a circuit that pays homage to all those tracks. Circuit of the Americas, we doff our stetsons to you. Actually the 5 year old has decided that he needs one of those Pirelli stetsons in his life. He has a point. They totally rock.
I had high hopes for #MartinsGridWalk. Surely in Texas, we could be guaranteed a Random Celebrity at a Race. Maybe Owen Wilson would grace the race with his customary urbane and charming presence or Lenny Kravitz would be headlining or (and quite clearly I was hoping for this more than anything else on Earth) the cast of Dallas would be there like some kind of Oil Barons Ball reunion in a pitlane. Except obviously for those who have changed their faces beyond all recognition (Victoria and Priscilla, why oh why?) who Martin wouldn’t be able to recognise anyway.

JR and Sue Ellen (ok they weren’t at the race but they are Texas!)

The camera zoomed in one of the best views (apparently) that Martin had ever seen on a Formula 1 grid and a huge In-Your-Face grid scoreboard showing us that Alonso was now starting SEVENTH (on the clean side of the grid) and not 8thdue to the terrible misfortune of the seal on Massa’s gearbox accidentally getting broken. Massa was demoted 5 places to 11th but he was at least still on the clean side. Every cloud and all that. Still Felipe this is what they pay you for…I mean you didn’t really think it was all about your tremendous racing. Martin got the camera to zoom in on the clean side of the grid and then the dirty side and they both looked exactly the same. But what do I know?
Martin inexplicably decided to interview Vettel’s pitboard girl who was “in the national state of undress from the looks of it”. Yes, he really said that on live TV. Its like the 1970s never went away. Martin then had an encounter with the Lovely Tanja (Martin’s own words) from German TV who propositioned our Martin with an offer to interview Sebastian Vettel together. You could almost feel the chemistry fizzing from the TV. Its like Tim and Dawn from The Office in a petrolhead universe.

Martin and the Lovely Tanja

As ever Mark Webber was up for a quick chat. Apparently the track felt pretty greasy, temperatures would be very important and we would definitely see some twitches and wobbles on the first few laps (my money’s on you, Mark).
Then Martin interviewed Eugene Cernan, the last man to walk on the moon. An all-American hero. Still beats Geri Halliwell at Silverstone. Would Martin ask Eugene if this was better than the moon. Oh good god, he did. Bless Eugene, he clearly hadn’t heard of either Vettel or Alonso when asked to choose one driver and ended up saying “Lotus”. Next up, it was JOEY FROM FRIENDS and Martin was straight in with  a sly “how you doin’?”. Martin is a Friends fan? Who knew? And even more bizarrely, him and Joey/Matt Le Blanc appeared to be best buds gassing away about some Moto GP they’d both been to. Still all power to Matt who commented very knowledgably on Alonso’s ‘Cinderella’ season but that it was hard to bet against Vettel. You know what Matt, you can come again. And the old silver fox look is totally working for me as well.

Matt hanging out at Lotus (good man)

Lewis Hamilton told us it was going to be difficult and slippery. He also was probably the ONLY person on the planet unaware of Ferrari’s dastardly scheme to bump Alonso up the grid. When informed by Martin that Alonso had moved up, Lewis grinned and said “well good for him” *Applauds Lewis*. Martin asked Lewis what he was going to do up at the first corner and Lewis said dead-pan “I’ve got Grosjean behind me so…” Has Hermann been sharing his happy pills around. Everyone was really feeling the love at the Austin GP.
Martin went back to find Vettel again who told Martin he’d just out-qualified David. Just as I thinking who the heck is David…is this Vettel-code for Alonso or Massa, I then spotted David Coulthard about 5mm away who Martin had clearly barged ahead of to get the interview. This is how Sky changes you. Your former colleagues are Dead To You. If I was Christian Horner, I’d have been slightly worried how Vettel seemed more perturbed at interview etiquette being breached than the actual title battle. Martin then informed Vettel that DC was ‘not live at the moment’ (oh get you Martin). Vettel was having none of it and they ended up interviewing him together. Cringeface. Eventually Vettel told us precisely nothing of interest. He was starting on the right side and then ‘we will see’. He didn’t feel much about Alonso moving up and randomly started to speak about the weather ‘because he is German’. Now hang on here mate. Talking about the weather is OUR thing. Since when did Germany get in on the act?! This type of nonsense could cause a diplomatic incident.

Martin and DC – to be reunited next season?

Martin trundled down the grid again for a very long time and chatted to Susie Wolff to kill some time. Then we had to hear the American Anthem being sung by someone with such intensity that I thought his skull might explode. Martin found Governor Rick Perry who might be the most American looking person I have EVER seen. Anyway thanks to Rick for giving me my top F1 anecdote of the season (possibly of all time). Earlier in the weekend, Rick Perry went up to Christian Horner, looked at his shirt, and said ‘Nice to meet you Pepe.’ As in Pepe Jeans… There are no words to do this justice. It really is a true story!

Rick Perry blending in nicely with the mechanics and cool A-listers 

So the United States grid lined up as follows:
Schumacher (!!)
ALONSO (!!!)
Grosjean (uh-oh)
Maldonado (uh-oh)
Time For The Start and Go Go Go…!
And straight away, Alonso made a BLISTERING START to rocket up to 4thplace. Phew! Can you imagine how horrific it would have been if he had stalled on the grid or got taken out by Grosjean after Ferrari came up with that Machiavellian masterstroke of genius proportions (aka Gearbox-gate). Tediously Mark Webber had overtaken Hamilton and we had the horrific prospect of Red Bull tearing off into the distance. Remember Sergio Perez? He’s the driver at McLaren next year although since that announcement he has scored a grand total of nil points in every single race. Expect to see lots more Martin Whitmarsh <sad face> next year. What was my point…oh yes, Perez passed Senna. Which to be fair isn’t very difficult.
Meanwhile Schumacher after his brilliant P5 in qualifying was going backwards, getting gobbled up by first the Hulk, then Kimi, Grosjean, Di Resta, Massa and a small passing pigeon called Jose. For the love of God, how cack is that Mercedes? I think it might be the worst car that Schumacher has ever driven (its an even bigger pile of crud than the 1996 Ferrari). I just want it all to end like now.

“What can I say? The car is a bag of shit”
Remember how Mark Webber was talking about expecting some wobbles? Sure enough he was sliding about all over the place and on lap 4, Hamilton made his move and was up into 2nd place. Not be be outdone on the wobble front was Grosjean who ended up in a big spin after trying to pass the Hulk and dropped down 6 places. Hamilton was closing in rapidly on Vettel and lower down in the dog-eat-dog part of the running order, Button had taken Schumacher. So with just a few laps of the race gone, Mercedes’ two drivers were running P14 and P16. How can a car that won a race earlier in the season be THIS bad? What must Hamilton be thinking? Still, his bad…as he would say himself.
Kimi executed a beautiful pass on Hulkenberg on lap 13 after some great racing from the two. Everyone talks about Kimi’s brilliant driving and rightly so but the Hulk does not get enough plaudits (especially on the Beeb where their man love for his team-mate, Di Resta, knows no bounds) – I think the Hulk is super talented so there!


Time for our first retirement and astonishingly it wasn’t an HRT or Schumacher but instead it was the Toro Rosso of Vergne who got tangled up with both Mercedes and ended up in the gravel. Schumacher then went into the pits for a new set of boots. He must have been seriously tempted to switch off the engine and sink a few beers with the Lovely Tanja and his German buds. Bah to contractual obligations and all that.
More chit-chat with Matt Le Blanc: “It’s fantastic that F1 is back in the States. Between this and MotoGP I got all my bases covered. I met Kimi for the first time and Lotus have got great pedigree, but my heart lies with Ferrari – my mother would kill me if I didn’t say that.”
Matt is possibly my new favourite person in the entire world.
And MINOR SENSATION: Mark Webber was out of the race just moments after reporting his Kers was not working. This had two dramatic consequences: (1) Alonso was now 3rdin the race and (2) if Webber’s Red Bull conked out then maybe, just maybe Sebastian Vettel’s Red Bull might develop a problem. Crossing everything, doing raindance etc. The husband commented the other day that I’m not very impartial. Wouldn’t a blog be quite boring if I sat on the fence all the time. Honey, its not going to change so just deal with it (and for the record, I did say that I thought Schumacher cheated in Adelaide!). So at the front, we had Lewis pushing Vettel; and Kimi pushing Alonso. The Stuff of Dreams.

Note how it is always Mark’s car that goes wrong. Just saying.

Lap 21 and pitstops galore. Hamilton in, Alonso in (rubbish pitstop), Vettel in (blink and miss it stop) and suddenly our three frontrunners were Vettel – Kimi (yet to stop) – Hamilton. Alonso was unable to hold off Button who suddenly (from frigging well nowhere) was up near the front. The 5 year was over the moon as Jenson Button is his New Favourite Driver. Lewis squeezed past Kimi for P2 prompting Kimi to take his pitstop where the commentators waffled on about Kimi’s clutch for a bit. Jenson Button, living up to the 5 year old’s hype, was now the fastest man out on track and to my amazement, Ricciardo was in SIXTH place. How did that happen?
At the half-way stage, the top runners were 1) Vettel 2) Hamilton 3) Button 4) Alonso 5) Ricciardo and 6) Massa. Button then pitted on lap 37 and rejoined in 7thplace. Shortly after, Schumacher pitted AGAIN from 14th place. Even our clapped out Tiguan would manage tyres better than that crapheap of a car. Narain Watch was brought to us on lap 42 (the husband gets quite excited now at mentions of Narain – it’s a small but personal triumph for my blog!) but alas we heard that Narain was getting lapped ‘again’.
Then on lap 42, a MAJOR SENSATION: Lewis Hamilton took the lead of the United States Grand Prix. Much whooping in the House of Power and much whooping (presumably) in the garages of McLaren, Ferrari and Mercedes (who must be pinning everything on a Hamilton bounce next year). And Lewis not only passed Vettel but left him for dead. I just noticed at this point that Lewis had a star & stripes helmet. Good ol’ Simon Fuller is pushing Brand Hamilton hard across the pond hey. Still this is a day to admire and heap ridiculous amounts of praise on Lewis, the racingdriver. To my mind, Alonso and Lewis are the two best drivers in F1 today. Discuss etc.

Lewis embracing the American Dream
And guess what, poor little Sebastian wasn’t happy. Straight on the radio ‘waaaaaaaaah, Lewis overtook me, he got too close’. Er get with the programme Sebastian and grow up. This is motor-RACING, its not (as you might think) ‘a sport where you get in the fastest car designed by a genius and win every race never needing to overtake another car’. Reason #8346 why I want Alonso to win the drivers’ title this year.
On lap 46 there was a superb overtake by Button on none other than Kimi Raikkonen after some mouth-watering wheel to wheel racing. And we didn’t hear Kimi whinging on the radio to his engineers (actually they’d be lucky to get any communications!) about the huge injustice of someone overtaking him. Alonso was racing out of his skin, setting fastest laps but Vettel was still a whopping 30 seconds ahead of him. Button was closing on Massa on 4th place and Vettel was closing in on Hamilton. Further down, Maldonado overtook Senna in a manner (ie. aggressive but brilliantly so) to make all the Williams mechanics flinch but thankfully both cars stayed on track.

Jenson Button (just for the 5 year old!)

Another Random Celebrity at a Race with a sighting of Gordon Ramsey in the McLaren garage. We didn’t see him on the grid did we? Maybe Ron Dennis had him slaving over a hot stove on the Death Star while they both had a swear-off. It was tense enough at the front as Vettel had clawed back the gap to 1.8 seconds but Lewis held on to WIN the inaugural United States GP in Texas and the 21stwin of his career. Vettel’s second place ensured Red Bull won the constructors’ title and Alonso finished 3rd to keep the championship battle alive going into the final race of the season. And in a further example of the US GP’s never-ending brilliance, the drivers on the podium wore Pirelli stetsons before being interviewed by Mario Andretti (it so should have been Matt Le Blanc!).

No stetson for Martin? I’d have paid money (well 5p) to see that!

Here are the results from the United States Grand Prix 2012:

1.    Hamilton – Amazing race. Free from title pressure, Lewis went out there and just had a blast and gave us all a dazzlingly brilliant win.
2.     Vettel – He knew he didn’t need to win and is still in pole position come Interlagos.
3.     Alonso – Another display of awesome racecraft to finish on the podium.
4.     Massa – Hooray for Felipe. A fantastic result (especially given Gearbox-gate).
5.     Button – Superb drive. Who says this guy cannot race?!
6.     Kimi – Very creditable sixth.
And now folks, the end is near. It is time for the final showdown in Brazil on Sunday. Vettel leads the drivers championship by 13 points. Prepare yourselves for endless ‘title’ maths to blow your minds and lots of shots of Weather Monitors of Doom (for in Brazil it sometimes RAINS!).

Senna after winning the 1991 Brazilian GP
This could quite possibly be the biggest race in years:

·        Its time to say goodbye to Jake – I’m already feeling a mounting sense of panic at what ‘hilarious’ sketches and montages we will have to sit through for Jake’s send off.
·       The possible last race for HRT (they are in serious financial trouble) and heart-stoppingly, the very real prospect that this could be Narain’s last race.
·        Its Perez’s final race for Sauber which will evoke emotions of relief and utter panic in equal measure for Sauber and McLaren.
·         Its Hamilton’s final race for McLaren before he disappears into the black hole abyss of Mercedes.
·      The world of F1 (except for Damon Hill, Jacques Villeneuve, Rubens etc etc) will say an emotional final   farewell to Michael Schumacher. I know we’ve been here before but I’m almost welling up already.
·         And if all that wasn’t enough, we will finally have The Big Reveal of who will be crowned F1 World Champion for 2012 out of Sebastian Vettel or Fernando Alonso…

I’m not sure my nervous system will cope but I’ll be blogging away like a loon anyway!


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