United States preview - Hamilton ready to take the fight to Vettel 14 Nov 2013
Last year an excellent opportunistic overtaking move won Lewis Hamilton the inaugural United States Grand Prix at the Circuit of The Americas. One of the factors that impressed him most while following Sebastian Vettels Red Bull RB8 was its phenomenal traction out of corners.
The RB9 that has carried the German to his fourth consecutive world championship already this season is carved from the same stone, but Hamilton will be pushing his Mercedes as hard as he can in Texas as he bids to stop Vettel taking his 12th win of the year and eighth in a row.
Austin is a wonderful track and I really enjoyed being the first winner there in 2012, says Hamilton ahead of this weekends race. This year it will be a fight to repeat that, but we will be giving it everything we can, especially in the battle to keep ahead of Ferrari in the constructors championship.
Mercedes are currently on 334 points, 11 ahead of Ferrari. Fernando Alonso - still suffering some back pain after his flight across the kerbs in Abu Dhabi - says he will be doing all he can to put Ferrari back in front of Mercedes, backed by team mate Felipe Massa who arrives in Austin buoyed by a celebratory valediction at Ferrari in Mugello last weekend and this weeks confirmation of his seat at Williams for 2014.
Lotus are mathematically still in with a chance of snatching second place in the constructors championship, though the teams hopes hit a setback with the news that Kimi Raikkonens career at Enstone is over. The Finn will miss both this weekends race in Texas and the season finale in Sao Paulo as he is having surgery on his back to alleviate the pain hes been suffering for the past few races.
Lotus have yet to announce who will take Raikkonens seat in Austin and Brazil, but whoever it is, Romain Grosjean is determined not to let the hubbub over his new team mate distract him from getting up with the Red Bulls this weekend.
Im looking forward to it a lot, the Frenchman says. Last year we had a reasonable weekend there in what was Formula Ones first visit to the Circuit of The Americas, but this year I think theres potential for a lot more. In 2012 the track surface was new and temperatures were quite cool, so we struggled to find grip and also to get the best setup as we learnt the new circuit. This year we have all the data from last time, were expecting warmer temperatures and I know both the team and myself are working really well together to extract strong performance from the car.
Its quite a balanced circuit in that you dont need one particular thing over another for the car to perform well, but it should be a circuit where the E21 can go strongly once again. Last year the challenge was finding the level of grip we wanted and I expect this to be a challenge again. The tyre allocation is quite hard so you really have to work the tyres to get them in the best performance window. We expect warmer temperatures this year which will help and the track surface will have changed a bit from the very new surface we had last time. All in all, I think we have potential to go quite well.
Regardless of their rivals ambitions, Red Bull remain the hot favourites for this weekends race, with Vettel - who visited the squads factory in Milton Keynes last week to thank staff for their efforts - keen to continue his sparkling run of form at a circuit he enjoys.
Its a great track, for sure, he says. Last year we were all sliding quite a lot because the tarmac was still so new, especially on the tight and twisty bit towards the end. It was sometimes almost more rally style than Formula One, because it was so slippery!
The most challenging part is the section after the steep hill at the beginning. Last year it took me quite a while to get my bearings and to position the car correctly there.
This will also be a very important weekend for the two Mexican racers, Sergio Perez and Esteban Gutierrez, with a huge number of their countrymen expected to make the short journey from across the border to watch them race.
Im happy to call the United States Grand Prix my home race! says Perez, who announced ahead of the weekend that he'd be leaving McLaren at the end of the year.
Texas is on the border with Mexico, so the venue provides the perfect opportunity for many Mexicans to make the trip to Austin for a taste of Formula One. Last year, I was really overwhelmed by the level of Mexican support - you could see the grandstands full of Mexican flags, and the fans that I met were all really passionate, enthusiastic and knowledgeable.
For me, this will be the most important weekend of my year, and Ill be especially keen for a strong result to send my fans back home with a smile on their faces. I think weve shown some solid improvement and greater understanding of our car over the past few races, yet, frustratingly, both Jenson and I have had few opportunities to really demonstrate what the car is capable of.
Id love another chance of a race like India, where I was able to push throughout the entire race and get some strong points for the team.
As Sauber continue to fight to catch Force India for sixth place in the constructors championship, Gutierrez says: Austin will be a very special weekend for me. Im from Monterrey, which is quite close to Austin, being about one and a half to two hours away, so my family and also a lot of my friends will come to the event. This will give me additional motivation for the weekend and makes the atmosphere special.
I really enjoyed attending the event as test and reserve driver last year, and now I am excited to be there as a Formula One driver. My personal expectations are to score points for our team in front of a big Mexican crowd. I want to entertain them and give them a reason to celebrate.
Also of great interest to the Americans in the crowd will be Alexander Rossi driving in FP1 for Caterham, fresh from winning the GP2 feature race in Abu Dhabi. Rossi has previously driven for the green and yellow team in practice in Canada this year and in Spain in 2012.
"This is an important time in my career and for the sport in America and another major step forward for me, to drive FP1 in my home country, in front of my own friends, family, supporters and fans, Rossi says. "It means a lot to me that the team is giving me this opportunity, while trusting me with the responsibility and I want thank everyone who's helped make this possible."
Fridays opening practice will also see an official Grand Prix weekend debut for Toro Rossos 2014 signing Daniil Kvyat. The 19-year-old Russian, recently crowned 2013 GP3 Series champion, covered just over 400 kilometres in a test at Italys Misano circuit last week driving a two-year-old car. He thus met the FIA Super License requirements needed for FP1 run outs in Austin and Brazil.
The 5.516-kilometre Circuit of The Americas is characterised by several changes of elevation and is one of only five on the calendar which is completely anti-clockwise. Tyre supplier Pirelli expect that a years wear and tear will have made the track surface slightly more abrasive, as the small stones from which the asphalt is made become more exposed when the topmost layer of bitumen is worn away.
The hard and medium tyres are the best choice for the United States Grand Prix, says their motorsport director Paul Hembery, because its 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 its 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.
Formula One received an absolutely fantastic welcome from the American public last year, which made it a truly memorable race, and were very much looking forward to going back to a country full of great F1 fans.
There have been no notable changes to the track ahead of this years race, save for the introduction of removable kerbs, 50mm high and similar to those used at the apex of Turns 8 and 9 in Abu Dhabi, which have been installed at the apex of Turns 3, 4 and 5. Similar kerbs, 75mm high, have been placed at the apex of Turns 7 and 9.
After just one last year, there will be two DRS zones on the circuit for 2013. The detection point of the first will be 150 metres after Turn 10, with the activation point 320m after Turn 11. The second zones detection point will be 65m after Turn 18, with the activation point 80m after Turn 20, just before the start line.
The weather is expected to get warmer as the weekend goes on, rising from around 23 degrees Celsius on Friday to 26 on Sunday. However, it may well be cloudy on several days with the possibility of some rain on Saturday. The race, which starts at 1300 hours local time (GMT -6) will run over 56 laps or 308.405 kilometres (191.633 miles).
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