Archive | November, 2012

New kid on the block: Valtteri Bottas

30 Nov

Williams have now confirmed that Valtteri Bottas will replace Bruno Senna for 2013, so here’s some information about the young Fins history.

That name rings a faint bell, why?

Valtteri has spent this season as the Williams reserve driver and as such the young Finn has taken part in many first practice sessions over the year.

How’s he fared?

He’s had a very strong season, of the 14 practice sessions he’s competed in so far this season he’s been faster than Pastor Maldonado (one of Williams’ two actual drivers) on 6 occasions. His best performances in qualifying to date are his 8th fastest time in FP1 in Spa (although this sessions was heavily rain affected) and his 5th fastest time in FP1 in the Spanish GP.

What’s his life like off the track?

Valtteri was born in Nastola, Finland a town with a population of 15,000 and is located near the south of the country. But Bottas is currently living in Oxford here in the UK. Valtteri is currently going out with Finnish swimmer Emilia Pikkarainen.

So what feeder championships has he been through?

Valtteri is a very young driver (23) and as such only started competing in big series in 2007, so far he’s competed in:

  • 2007 Formula Renault 2.0 NEC (races: 16 / wins: 2 / final position: 3rd)
  • 2007 Formula Renault 2.0 UK Winter Series (4 / 3 / ineligible due to only competing as a guest driver, otherwise he would have finished 1st)
  • 2008 Formula Renault 2.0 Eurocup (14 / 5 / 1st)
  • 2008 Formula Renault 2.0 NEC ( 14 / 12 / 1st)
  • 2009 Formula 3 Euro Series (20 / 0 / 3rd)
  • 2009 British Formula 3 Championship (4 / 0 / ineligible due to only competing as a guest driver)
  • 2009 Masters of Formula 3 (1 / 1 / 1st)
  • 2009 Macau Grand Prix (1 / 0 / 5th)
  • 2010 Formula 3 Euro Series (18 / 2 / 3rd)
  • 2010 Masters of Formula 3 (1 / 1 / 1st)
  • 2010 Macau Grand Prix (1 / 0 / 3rd)
  • 2010 Started role of Williams test driver
  • 2011 GP3 Series (16 / 4 / 1st)
  • 2011 British Formula 3 Championship (3 / 1 / 17th)
  • 2011 Macau Grand Prix (1 / 0 / didn’t finish race)

As you can see Valtteri has a very impressive CV his biggest achievement being that he won the GP3 series at his first attempt. Of the 114 races Valtteri has competed in, he’s won 31, been on pole position 27 times, set 30 fastest laps and been a podium finisher in 58 races.

So he’s not new to the taste of champagne then. Could we see him in F1 in 2013?

There is currently intense speculation that Valtteri will be promoted to a race seat at Williams but this relies on Williams dropping either Bruno Senna or race winner Pastor Maldonado. If Williams don’t promote him then there’s a chance that Bottas could drive for Sauber of Force India next year.

How far is he expected to go?

I expect Bottas to score points in his debut season and I suspect Bottas will finish on the podium if not be a race winner at some point. If he’s given the right car though he could be a championship contender.

VICTORY FOR BUTTON AND TRIUMPH FOR VETTEL AMIDST BRAZILIAN DELUGE

26 Nov

The Michael Report- FORMULA ONE GRANDE PRÊMIO PETROBRAS DO BRASIL 2012

WHERE should we start on this one? The final Grand Prix on this year’s calendar was always going to be exciting, with a title battle on the cards, but no- one could have predicted the tension, excitement and drama at Interlagos – with crashes galore, countless manoeuvres and totally unpredictable weather, the 2012 Braxilian Grand Prix is almost certain to go down as one of the classic races of all time.

The light drizzle from the onset wreaked havoc to many unfortunate drivers- Sergio Perez and Bruno Senna were the first victims of the slippery circuit with collisions that brought an abrupt end to their season, and one of these incidents completely jeopardised Sebastian Vettel’s chances of obtaining a third consecutive title Sao Paolo- Bruno Senna’s great start was not to be as he collided into the side of Sebastian Vettel’s car in the fourth corner- after a poor start, damage was considerable to the sides of the young German’s car, but although he had to pit, the damage was light enough to continue with an under performing car with less grip and less downforce.

Meanwhile, Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa had amazing starts and managed to claw their way through into high positions by the end of the first few laps, and with Sebastian’s accident, Fernando Alonso looked set to win the Championship title at one point… But then the heavens opened, forcing many cars to pit for the intermediate compound tyres, and all cars began slipping and sliding around the circuit, and Alonso’s chances slid away again as he went wide on the Senna S curves at the start of another lap- the battle was still on.

Only the elitist of the elite had the guts to remain on slick tyres during the rain, but as it eased off, Jenson Button and Nico Hulkenberg sought the greatest reward as they pulled off from the pack to a substantial lead, soon to be joined by Lewis Hamilton who switched back onto dry tyres later on; this would also allow them a sufficient enough gap to pit and still hold on to the podium positions. Hulkenberg demonstrated his potential as he managed to overtake the squabbling McLaren drivers to take the lead of the race, and his pace was very impressive.

The safety car was deployed after debris added to the challenging circuit, and this was partially due to Nico Rosberg’s puncture, and Romain Grosjean spinning off and crashing into a wall. The pack bunched back up again, and when the safety car left the track, racing was well and truly back on- unfortunately, back markers meant that there wasn’t enough room for both Nico Hulkenberg and Lewis Hamilton to turn into the first corner, they collided, and Hamilton suffered a write off in his final McLaren race; Hulkenberg received a harsh drive through penalty for causing a collision that can easily be blamed on a racing incident in tricky conditions. Eventually, the rain returned, and all cars switched back to wet tyres- Sebastian Vettel looked like a loser after having to pit twice more, with a broken radio leading to one of these stops lasting twelve seconds- a Ferrari champion was yet again on the cards!

However, despite Fernando Alonso’s best efforts, second place just wasn’t good enough- he ideally needed to overtake Jenson Button in first place if he was to stand a chance of hauling enough points to steal the title from Vettel, and the race ended abruptly following Paul Di Resta’s crash on the penultimate lap, forcing a second outing for the safety car team, preventing overtaking, and meaning that Vettel’s sixth place was enough to beat Alonso and become the youngest ever Formula One triple world champion, and only the third ever to win these titles consecutively.

Jenson Button led the procession to the chequered flag, followed closely by Fernando Alonso in second, and home favourite and team mate Felipe Massa in third place. Mark Webber finished fourth, and Nico Hulkenberg staged a remarkable comeback to finish in fifth place; Michael Schumacher gave way to Sebastian Vettel to finish seventh in his last ever Formula One Grand Prix. Eighth place went to Jean Eric-Vergne, who also had to endure the loss of a front wing after contact with a back marker, and Kamui Kobayashi bowed out of Sauber in ninth place. Kimi Raikkönen nearly ended his 100% of laps completed record today- he ran wide several times, almost succumbed to a collision with Michael Schumacher, and lost himself on the old circuit after running wide onto the grass, discovering his dead end, and turned around to return back onto the circuit to finish in tenth!

The main titles were decided, but it was a crucial race for the Caterham team, for if they managed to finish twelfth or above, they would retake tenth place in the Constructors Championship from Marussia, meaning an extra £10-15 million of funding, and Vitaly Petrov survived the hectic conditions to finish in an impressive eleventh place ahead of Charles Pic in twelfth, and Marussia buried their heads in their hands, for if Timo Glock hadn’t crashed with Vergne, all signs indicated Marussia would have held onto their place in the standings.

Nonetheless, it was a fitting finale to an absolutely jam packed race in Brazil, one that saw triumph and heartbreak, but never failed to thrill and excite, and one that saw Sebastian Vettel secure his Drivers’ Championship for a third year in a row and make his mark on Formula One history, with many more exciting years still ahead for the young driver.

FINAL OFFICIAL STANDINGS

Fernando dug deep, but it wasn’t good enough to stop Vettel winning the Drivers’ Championships, but such was his driving today, that he lost by a mere three points, with Sebastian accumulating 281 points to Alonso’s 278. Kimi Raikkönen’s solitary point meant that he finished third with 207 points, which could have been overturned if it weren’t for Lewis Hamilton’s 2012 misfortune- he finished fourth with 190 points. Team-mate Jenson Button managed to claw back fifth position from Mark Webber, finishing with 188 points ahead of Mark’s haul of 179 points.

The driver in seventh place is the resurgent Felipe Massa, who managed to end his year with a total of 122 points, which is an impressive feat if you consider his dire performance in many Grands Prix this year. Romain Grosjean’s incident meant he would end the year without surpassing a century- he finished in eighth with 96 points, just three ahead of Nico Rosberg in ninth place and 93 points. Sergio Perez leaves Sauber in the top 10 with 66 points in tenth.

Nico Hulkenberg finished ahead of his Force India team-mate with 63 points in eleventh; Paul Di Resta only amassed 46 points in fourteenth- Kamui Kobayashi is twelfth with 60; Michael Schumacher achieved thirteen with 49 points. Williams’ Pastor Maldonado finished fifteenth with 45 points, and colleague Bruno Senna ends the year with 31 points in sixteenth. The two Toro Rosso drivers end the year in seventeenth and eighteenth- Jean Eric- Vergne has 16 points, and Daniel Ricciardo has 10.

Concerning the pointless drivers, an F1 count back has meant that Vitaly Petrov had the highest positions overall and finishes nineteenth; Timo Glock finishes in twentieth ahead of his Marussia colleague Charles Pic in twenty-first. Heikki Kovaleinen finished in twenty-second for Caterham, and even Jerome D’Ambrosio’s one off drive for Lotus in Italy (Due to Grosjean’s ban) meant he finished twenty-third, ahead of the HRT drivers. Narain Karthikeyan was statistically better, finishing twenty-fourth and Pedro De La Rosa finished in last place, twenty-fifth.

In the Constructor’s Championships, Red Bull added to their winning score to achieve a total of 460 points this year, and Lewis Hamilton’s accident failed to allow McLaren to overtake Ferrari, who end 2012 with 400 points; the Woking drivers finished third with 378 points. Lotus finished fourth with 303 points.

Mercedes managed to hold onto fifth place, finishing with 142 points, ahead of the Sauber drivers, who managed to accumulate 126 points. Seventh placed team Force India finished with 109 points, and Williams finished eighth with 76 points, ahead of Toro Rosso who finished with ninth place and 26 points. Caterham finished, pointless, in tenth, Marussia in eleventh and HRT in last place.

We are likely to say goodbye to the HRT team this year, due to a lack of funding and resources, but it has most definitely been an enthralling season for the entire grid from start to finish. From Melbourne victory for Button to a first Williams victory for Maldonado in Spain, to a massive pile up in Belgium and back to back Vettel victories in Asia, Formula One has once again delivered and it has been a privilege to share this with you.

Have a great Christmas and New Year and I hope to share another year of excitement with you. We start with Melbourne on the 17th March. Until then, Michael Aspin says goodbye and thank- you for reading.

‘Classic’ GP ends 2012 season as Vettel makes it 3 in a row

25 Nov

Good Day Bad Day, Brazil 12.

Good Day:

  • Sebastian Vettel – S4 F6 8/10 – it comes to something when you can afford to have an incident on the first lap, have a poor pit stop and complete 71 laps with a big chunk of bodywork missing and still manage to finish 6th and win a world championship. Vettel did what he needed to do today, and on the basis of today’s performance he deserves this 3rd championship.
  • Nico Hulkenburg – S6 F5 10/10 – The Hulk has found his form at this track and came close to his maiden victory. Hulk had a great time on the slick tyres in the wet moving all the way to 1st before a safety car and a hot on his heels Hamilton could overtake, sadly Nico’s race was marred by an incident at turn 1 where he collided with Lewis which despite it’s innocent appearance gave Nico a drive through penalty.
  • Felipe Massa – S5 F3 8/10 – There’s nothing more special than finishing on the podium at your home GP especially after you’ve had a proper good race overtaking the new world champion and defending like mad to make sure your team mate can pull away. Today Massa showed why he’s such a valuable commodity for Ferrari, he’s fast but equally importantly he’s loyal.
  • Michael Schumacher – S13 F7 8/10 – Despite yesterdays poor qualifying performance Michael has finished his career on a high after battling his way through the field to finish with 6 points. Michael even had a part to play in the championship waving Vettel through to promote the new German legend from 7th to 6th securing him his 3rd title.
  • Jenson Button – S2 F1 7/10 – Jenson may have only won this race because Hamilton and Hulkenburg collided but his ability in the wet was second to none today and it was only when the track became dry that he couldn’t keep up. Timing of Jenson’s win couldn’t be better with McLaren no.1 Lewis leaving and McLaren needing a new man to promote to lead driver.
  • Caterham – 8/10 – Not only were they only 1 place off their inaugural points but most importantly, by Vitaly Petrov finishing 11th Caterham returned to 10th in the constructors championship netting the team millions of pounds more for next season to see them carry on their improvements.

Bad Day:

  • Fernando Alonso – S7 F2 8/10 – You couldn’t have asked for Alonso to do more today he fought valiantly and dug deep but sadly that just wasn’t enough for the Ferrari star to claim his 3rd title. Alonso needs to hope that Ferrari produce a car that is competitive from the off next season if he wants next year to be the year.
  • Marussia – 7/10 – Marussia were unlucky today, despite fighting for places way above what they should have been fighting for a few spins demoted their cars nearer the back of the pack and left them 11th in the constructors championship. Despite this bad news for the team they should be proud of what they’ve achieved this year and they’ve moved further forward, next years needs to be onwards and upwards.
  • Lewis Hamilton – S1 F ret. 7/10 – Lewis will have been dreaming of a victory today so that he could leave McLaren on a high, how wrong he was. Lewis put in a great race but despite fighting his way back up to 1st position after making a mistake with the tyre strategy, but after an incident with Hulkenburg at turn 1 Lewis had to retire.
  • Paul Di Resta – S10 F ret 6/10 – It was a comedy of errors for Paul today, regularly spinning and just struggling to control the car in the slippery conditions, and the final incident added insult to injury. With only a couple of laps left Paul had another slip and ran along the wall for a few seconds ruining the car and leaving the race to finish behind a safety car.

Alonso digs deep but Vettel digs deeper

25 Nov

The tweet review, Brazil 12

“so the starting grid as so: HAM BUT WEB VET MAS HUL ALO RAI ROS DIR SEN PER SCH KOB RIC MAL VER GRO PET KOV GLO PIC KAR DLR” @formula1formula 15:17 (GMT)

“if you missed the news Alonso is already up to 7th after Maldonado was given a 10 place penalty for missing not attending the weighing” @formula1formula 15:20

“Great start by Ferrari! Massa into P2, Alonso is P4, Vettel is way down! What a start to the race!” @RichlandF1 16:04

“Oh dear. Vettel got tangled up and spun. Now at the back of the field and it appears to be raining” @easonF1 16:05

“ALO now up to 3RD!!!!” @F1_Fans_Updates 16:05

“Hulkenberg gets past Webber for P4.” @F1TimesLive

“Vettel lies in twenty-first place, but the damage doesn’t seem to be affecting his lap times. The chase is on” @PortalF1 16:08

“Alonso is off, he’s ran wide at T1 and he is down to P4 defending from Webber. Wow, this is already a classic GP” @RichlandF1 16:09

“Massa has got ahead of Webber for P5.” @F1TimesLive 16:11

“L6 Grosjean crashes out at Mergulho as Hamilton defends his lead from Button at the start of lap seven.” @f1fanaticlive 16:12

“Webber has spun!! He’s gone down the order at T1. Alonso is now 4.4s off Hulkenburg for the magic P3” @RichlandF1 16:13

“Button takes the lead from Hamilton!!!” @IrvineF1

“Kovalainen is P11! Could the Marussia/Caterham race take another twist?” @RichlandF1 16:15

“Vettel – “Massa ahead, be careful”” @Formula1_com 16:17

“So Vettel has gone from 4th to 24th to 6th to 18th in 11 laps! Crazy!!” @pubsilverstone 16:20

“Red Bull studying pix of Vettel’s damaged car down on the pitwall, Obviously not serious” @easonF1 16:27

“Rain is expected to continue for next 30 mins but it’s still the cars on slicks who are fastest, not sure what to expect” @formula1formula 16:29

“L19 Hulkenberg passes Button and Force India lead the Brazilian Grand Prix!” @f1fanaticlive 16:20

“The front two are 45 seconds ahead of Hamilton in 3rd. Shows what the right strategy can do” @RichlandF1 16:33

“We have a safety car for debris.” @F1TimesLive 16:36

“at the restart VET KOB and WEB go three abreast down the straight, KOB overtakes VET whilst WEB goes wide” @formula1formula 16:49

“Kobayashi passes Alonso who drops to fifth now, a place ahead of Vettel.” @F1TimesLive 16:52

“Massa uses DRS to get past Vettel. The Red Bull drops to seventh” @ESPNF1 16:55

“Hulk says, “I don’t like these downshifts” with “too much push” in engine braking on entry” @F1PitRadio 17:08

“Hulkenburg slides whilst trying to turn letting Hamilton overtake for 1st place” @formula1formula 17:15

“Red Bull tell Vettel his radio does not work now.” @IrvineF1 17:19

“Hilariously Kimi goes off and ends up in a cul de sac. 3pt turn required” @easonF1 17:21

“HAM and HUL touch at T1 fighting for the lead putting BUT 1st and ALO 2nd, unlucky for HULK he was doing so well” @formula1formula 17:23

“Hulkenburg has been given a drive through penalty. Alonso is behind Massa, but he will be let through. Cue people crying about that…” @RichlandF1 17:26

“Schumacher lets Vettel pass. That could be it. Alonso needs to win the race to win the WCC now…” @IrvineF1 17:35

“LAP 69 ALO P2 VET P6” @F1_Fans_Updates 17:44

“Di Resta crashes. Safety Car!” @Formula1_com 17:46

“final top 10 but ALO mas web hul VET sch ver kob rai so Vettel is the 2012 world champion” @formula1formula 17:49

“driver of the race award goes to Hulkenburg, such phenomenal driving and really didn’t deserve the drive thru penalty” @formula1formula 17:52

 

Swansong pole for Hamilton as McLaren go 1-2.

24 Nov

3 winners and losers of qualifying, Brazil 12.

Winners:

  • Lewis Hamilton – Q1: Despite already being ruled out of the drivers championship Hamilton was second to none in qualifying. Interlagos has never been a circuit where Lewis has performed strongly but if he has a good day tomorrow he could get his final McLaren victory before the move to the mediocre Mercedes.
  • Sebastian Vettel – Q4: It appears that so long as there’s no rain tomorrow Vettel will be only the third driver to take 3 championships on the trot, Vettel could only manage 4th in qualifying but with Alonso 8th only rain can realistically stop Vettel’s title charge.
  • Nico Hulkenburg – Q7: In comparison to his last F1 qualifying at Interlagos today was a massive disappointment but then again he’d set the target high. Hulkenburg’s 7th grid spot puts him ahead of 3 world champions (Alonso, Raikkonen and Schumacher since you ask) and ahead of team mate Di Resta. Hulkenburg’s talents are going to be wasted at Sauber next season, he should easily be driving for one of the bigger teams.

Losers:

  • Romain Grosjean – Q18: After an incident with Pedro De La Rosa and then a loss of a front wing Grosjean just couldn’t pull out a good enough lap to make it through to Q2. The start of the race will be vital for Grosjean tomorrow, with so many slower cars around him there’s a chance he could crash out on lap 1 again.
  • Michael Schumacher – Q14: 7 world championships, 91 race victories and 155 podiums. It all comes to an end tomorrow for the greatest F1 driver so far but it’s disappointing to see him so low down on the grid as Mercedes just haven’t been able to make a good enough car.
  • Fernando Alonso – Q8: Ferrari fans around the world will be hoping that Alonso’s car was on a wet setup when he qualified today because if he wasn’t then the championships as good as lost, the same can be said for if it doesn’t rain tomorrow. Alonso’s title chances hang by a thread.

Prediction:

With a front row lock out it looks like it will be a McLaren victory and from the performances so far this weekend I’d plump for Hamilton with Button 3rd. Webber is my bet for 2nd but I fully expect Vettel to come close to the podium, Massa will also be fighting for the podium so long as he doesn’t A, have to give up his position to Alonso or B, if he ‘accidentally’ collides with Vettel. If it rains then my prediction will definitely not be correct with maybe Button winning and the chance of both of the Ferrari drivers joining him on the podium.

The prediction for the championship is that Vettel will be the champion so long as there isn’t rain or a retirement for the German. If it does rain then predicting the champion is going to nigh on impossible.

Brazil GP preview

21 Nov

How’s the championship looking going into the final race?

Well, the constructor’s championship was tied up last weekend by Red Bull. The team now have 440 points (73 points more than Ferrari). But the drivers championship isn’t decided yet, Sebastian Vettel goes into the final race with 13 more points than Fernando Alonso so for a Vettel championship he needs to finish at least 4th regardless of where Alonso finishes.

So it’s not that great for Alonso, what could help him win the championship?

Luckily for Alonso Interlagos has built up a reputation as a track with unpredictable weather, and if it rains then Alonso will be in with a chance since the Ferrari has been the quickest car in wet conditions.At the time of writing the weather forecast is this: Friday is expected to be sunny, Saturday is forecasted for mostly cloud and there should be rain on sunday so it appears the F1 gods don’t want this race to be too clear cut.

So it should be a good race! How have the two contenders performed in Brazil in the past?

Alonso has raced at Interlagos 10 times, but has never won there despite finishing on the podium there 6 times. Sebastian Vettel on the other hand has only been to Brazil 5 times but did win the race in 2010. The driver who’s won the most races at Interlagos is Michael Schumacher, who’s won at the circuit 4 times. Ferrari hold the record for the constructor who’s won the most at Interlagos, they’ve won the race 8 times, whilst Red Bull have won the race only 3 times (consecutively from 2009 to 2011).

Who’s the fan’s favourite? 

Anyone Brazilian so this year there support will be split between Bruno Senna and Felipe Massa, Senna especially seeing as he’s the nephew of triple world champion Ayrton Senna. Massa on the other hand has been improving over the year and has been especially strong at Interlagos winning the race in both 2006 and 2008. Fernando Alonso is likely to be more popular with the home fans than Vettel seeing as Fernando is Massa’s team mate but if there are some Ferrari team orders the fans will quickly change sides.

Where will the race be won or lost?

This race will be won or lost off track not on it with strategy being key, do you go for a wet setup and risk a poor qualifying performance or a dry one to start near the front and risk rain in the race also the timings and numbers or pit stops will be crucial, since despite the circuit being one of the shortest the pit lane is easily one of the longest.

Who else will be mixing it up at the front? 

Despite winning last weekends American GP it is unlikely Lewis Hamilton will win in Brazil, only finishing on the podium once in 5 previous attempts, Jenson Button also doesn’t look like a good bet, in 12 races at the circuit he’s only been on the podium twice, but the championship rival’s team mates should make more of an impact. As previously mentioned Felipe Massa has won two home races but he has struggled at this track since his horror crash in 2009. Mark Webber has also won two races at the circuit (2009 and 2011) and so long as his Red Bull doesn’t suffer from it’s customary KERS failure Mark will be a bug contender for the victory. Kimi Raikkonen should also be touted as a contender, he won the race in 2007 and has finished on the podium a further 3 times.

So what time do I need to get up for the sessions?

WARNING: these times are in GMT

Since Brazil is west of the UK the race is late on in the afternoon as apposed to early in the morning. Practice 1 starts at 12:00 (midday) on Friday, Practice 2 at 16:00 also on Friday, Practice 3 on Saturday at 13:00 and Qualifying only a few hours later at 16:00. The race will start at 16:00 on Sunday and since the race generally last around one and a half hours it should end around 17:30.

LEWIS HAMILTON WINS THE WILD WEST RACE

19 Nov

The Michael Report- 2012 FORMULA ONE UNITED STATES GRAND PRIX

We apologise for any US puns in this piece of writing.

TEXAS was chosen to host the first United States Grand Prix since 2007, and the newly built Circuit Of The Americas certainly delivered an amazing exciting race, with lots of undulating twists, turns, the enthusiastic US crowd and one that Lewis Hamilton became a back to back American Grand Prix winner, albeit five years apart.

A superb McLaren dominated the race, as Lewis found an absolutely astonishing pace through the circuit, despite losing position in the opening run up the hill due to being on the dirty side of the track he was a man on a mission, tormenting Vettel and creeping up gradually to the Red Bull until he pounced and overtook Red Bull to cruise round a few more laps to take the chequered flag and became the first lone star of Formula One in this brand new venue, in his penultimate drive for McLaren.

The race was packed with side-by-side tussling and near-misses- positions swapped and swapped back; cars flew past under the DRS and some cars succumbed to the tricky corners, (inspired by Silverstone, Hockenheim and Instanbul) costing them dearly. Sebastian Vettel came home second with eighteen points, but team-mate Mark Webber trundled into the gravel and retired with an alternator fault (yet again). Christian Horner and Adrian Newey must be biting their nails and hoping that these errors don’t creep up on Vettel as the Championship title heads to Sao Paolo next week.

Ferrari had an excellent American Grand Prix, but their sheen in the Austin sunlight was somewhat shrouded by controversy even before the race began. Alonso had qualified in eighth, on the dirty and slippery side of the track, Massa in sixth, but speculation was rife that Scuderia deliberately broke a valve on the gearbox, forcing Massa to take a gearbox penalty, which would propel Alonso onto the easier and clean side of the track. Cheating? Yes! Unsportsmanlike? Yes! Sly? Yes! Against the FIA regulations? NO! Hence the negative press would be a small price to pay if Alonso were to gain positions and finish still in contention, which he did! After the first lap, Alonso had driven superbly and went from seventh to fourth, before managing to finish atop the podium in third, gaining fifteen desperately needed points, crucial to the Championship title. Felipe Massa managed to recover from eleventh to finish fourth with twelve points.

Jenson Button’s disastrous weekend went from bad to worse as the race started falling back to sixteenth, but tyre choice played to his advantage- the McLaren found pace and gathered speed under the harder compound tyre- once he pitted, he managed to claw back into fifth place.

The Lotus drivers coped well on Tilke’s new track, Grosjean, however, loved it a bit too much- the Frenchman ran wide and span out of turn nineteen, costing position, but managed to recover to finish behind team-mate Raikkönen, finishing seventh and sixth respectively. The two Williams drivers did themselves justice around the twisting Texan corners- Pastor Maldonado and Bruno Senna almost collided with each other near the RV rooftop cowboys, staying practically side to side in soaring seventh gear- thankfully, they went round to the end, finishing in ninth and tenth, the final points positions.

Despite some exciting racing from Michael Schumacher and Nico Rosberg in the tight corners and high speed straights, the Mercedes cars fell back and failed to score points for a sixth consecutive race, and things aren’t looking too promising for Lewis Hamilton’s new team; Sauber remained pointless today and although the Toro Rosso’s started well, Jean Eric Vergne decided to stop off at the Gravel Diner after spinning off the wagon trail and Daniel Ricciardo’s pace wasn’t quite enough to finish in the points.

Bernie Ecclestone vowed never to return to the states five years ago, but relented and should be pleased with the enthusiasm and revenue generated from Formula One making its grand return across the pond- Austin has the potential to be a classic race circuit, and we eagerly anticipate the next running of the race. McLaren will be barn dancing and hoe-downing till sun-up; Red Bull will hope that the forecast Brazillian rain will not dampen their hopes next week.

OFFICIAL STANDINGS UPDATE

Sebastian Vettel remains atop of the Drivers’ Championship with 273 points, 13 points ahead of Fernando Alonso. In Interlagos, Vettel must finish fourth to secure his crown and secure a third consecutive title, a feat only achieved by Michael Schumacher and Juan Manuel Fangio. Kimi Raikkönen increased his points tally to 206 points and Lewis Hamilton has re-taken fourth place with 190 points. The battle for fifth place lies between Mark Webber, on 167 points, and Jenson Button, on 163 points. Nico Rosberg has tumbled from seventh to ninth in two grands prix, remaining on 93 points. Meanwhile, Felipe Massa now holds 107 points to his name, and Romain Grosjean creeps towards the century with 96 points. In tenth is Sergio Perez with 66 points.

The Constructors’ Championship title race is over; Red Bull have clinched the crown with 440 points with another Grand Prix to go- Ferrari remain second with 367 points- McLaren, though, could return to second place with an impressive finale- they hold 353 points in third place. Lotus are safely in fourth place with 302 points. Mercedes are still fifth with 136 points, and Sauber have done nothing to gain on 124 points in sixth place.

Force India are in seventh, safely holding 99 points ahead of Williams’ total of 76 points in eighth. Ninth place goes to Toro Rosso with 22 points. Tenth place goes to a pointless Marussia, eleventh to Caterham and twelfth to HRT.

I will be back with the final report of the year next week, with a full review of the Brazilian Grand Prix and a complete set of official F1 standings. Who will win the Championship duel? Find out in a week’s time as we discover whether Sebastian Vettel or Fernando Alonso becomes the fastest driver in the world for a third time in their careers.