Sebastian Vettel and his Red Bull Renault have controlled the entire weekend at the new Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas for the first United States Grand Prix since 2007.
Vettel made his debut at Indianapolis on that weekend and scored points in a BMW Sauber, subbing for Robert Kubica, who was injured in a crash at the Canadian Grand Prix the week before.
Five years later, Vettel stands to become a three-time World Drivers Champion if he beats Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso by fifteen points today. For Red Bull, the Constructors title would be their third consecutive title as well. Alonso, a winner of three races and two poles in 2012, has driven well above the capabilities of his car all season.
Alonso held the points lead for a good part of the year before Vettel went on a run of four-straight wins and three from pole. Starting ninth, the Ferrari leader needs a mechanical failure or mistake that Red Bull usually does not make, to keep the title alive into next week at the season finale in Brazil.
Vettel would join Juan Manuel Fangio and Michael Schumacher as the only drivers to win three consecutive titles. The difference is Vettel is 25-years-old and has barely hit his prime. The only driver to be on pace with Vettel this weekend is McLaren Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton.
Hamilton, the winner of the last U.S.G.P. in 2007, will start second today and needs a good start on the dirty side of the track to have a chance against Vettel. Hamilton is in his penultimate race with McLaren, before moving over to Mercedes AMG in 2013. McLaren has had the pace all year, but miscues on pit road, mechanical problems and accidents have cost the team dearly.
If the three major teams falter at all, the Lotus Renault pair of Kimi Raikkonen and Romain Grosjean has fast cars and can contend. Raikkonen, the winner two weeks ago at Abu Dhabi, has had a solid return to the series after a few years racing in the World Rally Championship and even NASCAR for Kyle Busch. Grosjean will start ninth after taking a five-spot penalty for changing a gearbox.
Look out for seven-time World Champion Schumacher, racing in his next-to-last race of his legendary career, before going into retirement for a second time. Starting seventh and with nothing to lose, the Mercedes AMG driver may use an alternate strategy to take his sixth U.S.G.P. win.
The new Circuit of the Americas has opened to rave reviews and the United States Grand Prix has found a permanent home. Enjoy the racing.