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Pre-Austin analysis - title protagonists playing it cool 16 Nov 2012

Sebastian Vettel (GER) Red Bull Racing.
Formula One World Championship, Rd19 United States Grand Prix, Preparations, Austin, Texas, 15 November 2012 Fernando Alonso (ESP) Ferrari.
Formula One World Championship, Rd19 United States Grand Prix, Preparations, Austin, Texas, 15 November 2012 Fernando Alonso (ESP) Ferrari.
Formula One World Championship, Rd19 United States Grand Prix, Preparations, Austin, Texas, 15 November 2012 Fernando Alonso (ESP) Ferrari.
Formula One World Championship, Rd19 United States Grand Prix, Preparations, Austin, Texas, 15 November 2012 Sebastian Vettel (GER) Red Bull Racing in the Press Conference.
Formula One World Championship, Rd19 United States Grand Prix, Preparations, Austin, Texas, 15 November 2012 Sebastian Vettel (GER) Red Bull Racing.
Formula One World Championship, Rd19 United States Grand Prix, Preparations, Austin, Texas, 15 November 2012 (L to R): Lewis Hamilton (GBR) McLaren, Pedro De La Rosa (ESP) HRT Formula One Team, Sergio Perez (MEX) Sauber and Fernando Alonso (ESP) Ferrari.
Formula One World Championship, Rd19 United States Grand Prix, Preparations, Austin, Texas, 15 November 2012 Lewis Hamilton (GBR) McLaren.
Formula One World Championship, Rd19 United States Grand Prix, Preparations, Austin, Texas, 15 November 2012

As usual, neither Sebastian Vettel nor Fernando Alonso was interested in talking up their championship fight in Austin on Thursday, as they head into the race that could decide the title in the former’s favour, the 2012 Formula 1 United States Grand Prix.

“Usually you try to prepare as much as you can,” points leader Vettel said as he prepared for his 100th Grand Prix. “It’s not the first time we’ve raced on a completely new circuit. Obviously we had this kind of challenge previous years as well. I think we do what we can. The most important is to get into the rhythm on Friday and have a good start and go from there.”

Alonso’s comments suggested that Ferrari are pinning all their hopes on a major upgrade for Brazil, and that the US Grand Prix will again be a matter of damage limitation.

“Nothing has really changed in terms of preparation and approach for the weekend,” he said.

“Maximum concentration, maximum effort from everybody in the team. Preparing some new parts that we are bringing every Grand Prix and hopefully that we can test them tomorrow and have some feedback about that. Try to do our very good, smooth Friday, here, maybe more important than some other circuits, to do a lot of laps, to learn the racing lines, the possibilities and some… maybe, tricks… that the circuit can have. And a good Saturday, try to be in the best position possible for the race and 56 laps, try to score as many points as possible. Exactly the same as every other weekend.”

Interestingly, however, the Spaniard said that he feels much more relaxed than he did when he fought for the championship late in the day in 2005 and ’06.

“I'm much more focused. In 2006, I arrived at the last race fighting with Michael [Schumacher] in Brazil. It was quite stressful, quite an intense weekend and not easy to get focused or sleep or things like that because it was a very emotional weekend. The year after, 2007, it was also a very stressful last race, three of us fighting for the world champion (sic): Lewis [Hamilton], Kimi [Raikkonen] and me and it was also a stressful weekend and not easy to do things.

“In 2010, we arrived in Abu Dhabi, again fighting for the world championship at the last race. I was much more calm there, I was more confident and things in the race, in the weekend were quite good for us and we did more or less - in terms of preparation and approach - it was much more calm and more mature, I felt. The race was what it was and we didn't win in the end but feeling-wise we were much more prepared.

“In these last two races, I feel, as I said before, completely normal. It's good experience. It's the fourth time we have been fighting for the world championship up to the last race - hopefully - and you really feel the difference, being much more focused, concentrated, trying to do the job and understanding that if you do everything perfectly you have a chance; if you make a mistake you will lose the chance.”

He said that he doesn’t feel there is any advantage being at a new circuit, though, despite the potential ‘wild card’ nature of that.

“I think we all will adapt very quickly in first practice and we all have simulators and everything that we use to prepare for the race, so I think that's more or less the same as every other race. Confident? I'm very confident, I trust my team, I trust myself. We are honest with ourselves, we know that we don't have the quickest package out there and we've qualified an average of sixth or seventh this season, so if we see that on Saturday we are sixth or seventh, people will say 'Maybe you say bye-bye to the title'. No. I think it's our normal position but even with this normal position, we were leading the championship until three races ago and we are 10 points behind the leader, so this is not our strong point. Our strong point is to score more points than the others on Sunday and I'm sure we will do this in the next two races.”

So far the dramatic Circuit of The Americas has met with nothing but very positive comment.

“We prepared in the simulator but apart from that I haven’t seen much,” Vettel said. “I will walk the track this afternoon but I think if we have to wait until we get out until we have a judgement on how the circuit feels. So by the looks of it, it looks quite interesting, but you know it’s always the feeling you get inside the car that is most important, so I’m looking forward to tomorrow.”

“We did some simulator programmes, after Singapore it was that we started,” Alonso said. “A bit more intense this last week and yesterday I also did two laps on the bicycle. The programme is to do some more this afternoon. So, we are more or less ready. The track seems spectacular, very, very nice. It will be challenging for us drivers and for the engineers as well. I think it will be a good show for everybody and hopefully some good overtakings as well, opportunities around the track.”

Lewis Hamilton, meanwhile, said: “It’s quite an interesting track. It’s quite difficult to learn initially but it looks fantastic to drive. I really started to enjoy it once I got used to it, which took perhaps a little bit longer than some of the other circuits to learn but it’s going to be very interesting.”

Hamilton, the winner the last time there was a US Grand Prix, at Indianapolis in 2007, also spoke warmly of rivals Vettel and Alonso as their title battle nears its climax.

“I think it goes without saying that these two are obviously two of the best here,” he said. “What they’ve achieved is absolutely incredible and all of us other drivers are trying our hardest to aspire to do the same. They’re both incredibly professional. Amazing to see how professional they are, considering how much pressure there is on the both of them. But they’re both world champions, they handle it no problem.

“And as for me, it is what it is. I’m happy just to be here fighting. I’ve got two last races in my team and just want to do the best job and try and see if we can still fight with them, even though we’re not fighting for the championship.”

He denied recent suggestions by McLaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh, however, that he has any regrets about his decision to leave for Mercedes for 2013.

“I was a little bit surprised to hear that, he admitted. “It’s clearly absolutely not the case. But I’ve got a great team and I’ve been with them such a long time. So, I’m sure everyone has emotions within the team but I’m still here giving 100 per cent to them for the last two races. Of course it’s quite emotional for me but I’m very, very happy with the decision I’ve made.”

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