November 16th, 2012 (F1plus / Paul Godley).- In a slight twist to writing some things that we can learn about a Grand Prix, I've decided to write about five things to look out for this weekend. I'll then be reviewing and analysing these after the race weekend is finished to see if or what has happened in any of the topics raised below. So, here you go!
It's down to just two
The battle for the 2012 Formula 1 Drivers Championship can now be won by just 2 drivers, Sebastian Vettel of Red Bull and Fernando Alonso of Ferrari. In the last 5 races Vettel has scored 115 points compared to Alonso's 66, a huge swing of 49 points. Momentum you'd say then is with Vettel, especially given what we saw last time out at Abu Dhabi. If Abu Dhabi reminded us of one thing, it's just how unpredictable Formula 1 is. A front row start became a pit lane start (after many, many hours), before somehow being turned into a 3rd place finish come the chequered flag. Many saw Abu Dhabi as the chance for Alonso to not only catch Vettel, but to truly stamp his mark on the championship. He managed to claw back just 3 points on Vettel, a missed opportunity? So what about Austin? A new track, an exciting looking track and one that has the potential to throw up all kinds of unknowns. To me Sectors 1 and 3 look like they'll favour Red Bull, whereas Ferrari should have the edge in Sector 2. Vettel vs Alonso. 2 races left. Only 10 points separate them. 50 points up for grabs. Who will win? One thing is for certain; 2012 will see a triple World Champion crowned. Race time.
Could Kimi win again?
His dominate and controlled win in Abu Dhabi last time out saw the brutally honest, sharp and extremely funny Finn win his first race since his comeback. So, can he do it again this weekend? Why not? He's now out of the title hunt, despite that win last time out, so really has nothing to lose. He has a comfortable 31 point lead over 4th placed Webber in the standings, so what's to lose? We know he win, the team knows he can win, and more importantly Kimi knows he can win. Kimi is Kimi; and that's why so many people love him. The swearing debacle was blown out of all proportion by some. I'd rather hear honesty from drivers. I like to hear what they actually think, not what they think is going to sound good for sponsors or the press. That's what Kimi does, says it as he sees. Can Kimi win again this weekend? Of course he can.
Have Sauber missed the chance to overhaul Mercedes?
Mercedes are in the midst of an awfully poor, and it has to be said unlucky, run of form. They've not scored a single point for 4 races, with Michael Schumacher not scoring for 5 races, his worst run in Formula 1. But have Sauber capitalised on this as much as they should, or could have done? They've taken 23 points in the last 4 races. When I say they, I mean Kamui Kobayashi. A 3rd in Japan and 6th last time out mean the likeable Japanese driver now sits just 8 points behind soon to be McLaren driver Sergio Perez. The Mexican has not only failed to score in those 4 races, but failed to score because of driver error. An overly ambitious attempted move on Lewis Hamilton saw him crash out in Japan, and last time out he was punished for causing a multi-car crash that saw several drivers retire. I'm not sure he was totally to blame for the incident, but he certainly played his part. He's been in positions to score points on several occasions but has managed to turn that into a points finish. The gap is only 12 points; what will it be after Austin? 5th for Sauber would be a fantastic result, but 6th for Mercedes? Ouch. Let's see what happens come Sunday.
Nico Hulkenberg with the track tower in the background.
Should Force India be looking over their shoulder?
In recent races the team have been attempting to catch the Mercedes/Sauber battle for 5th place in the Constructors, but is it about time they looked behind to see that Williams are fast approaching? The British outfit are now just 22 points behind; and having scored 14 points last time out in Abu Dhabi may fancy their chances of a late season surge. Those 14 points could have been considerably more had Pastor Maldonado's KERS not failed early in the race as the team are looking increasingly strong in the late part of the year. Maldonado is probably one of the finest qualifiers on the grid, and if he can repeat his Abu Dhabi performance then Williams will feel very confident. If Senna can get on top of his qualifying performances, then I'm sure he too could race just as strongly and as far forward. This battle will certainly be one to watch out for, particularly if the two Force India drivers once again come together at turn 1â€¦
Can Marussia keep hold of 10th?
10th place may not be the most glamorous position in the world; it may not be a position that gets as much as much media or fan focus, but to finish in 10th place for these teams is just as important as winning. 10th place can be the difference between having a paid driver and a paying one (some would say talent and speed versus money). Marussia currently hold the advantage thanks to Timo Glock's 12th place in Singapore, but as the team have said this week, they need to ensure that they beat Caterham on track to guarantee that they secure that 10th place. As unlikely as it is that Caterham will beat that 12th place, anything can, and probably will happen. It's a new circuit, and despite all of the work done on the simulators, there will still be lots of unknowns. Keep your eye on that battle this weekend. Yes it's not for the lead or the championship, but it's just as important.
I'll be reviewing these questions again after Sunday's race to see if or what has changed. Make sure to check back on Sunday evening to find out! For now, here's to a great weekend at Austin. I'm not sure I've been this excited about seeing a new track in Formula 1 for years. Enjoy!