For many, the final Grand Prix of the 2013 season can’t come soon enough but Sebastian Vettel won’t agree as the race victories keep coming. As the world champion goes in search of a ninth win in succession, many other matters remain to be decided – Mercedes vs Ferrari vs Lotus for second in the Constructors Championship, Marussia vs Caterham for tenth and for many drivers the battle to secure their Formula One future. The latest TCF Form Guide looks ahead to the season finale.
|Sebastian Vettel – Red Bull Racing Renault – 372 Pts (2013 FIA Formula One World Champion)|
|Last 5 Races: 1st, 1st, 1st, 1st, 1st||Best In Brazil: Winner (2010)|
The Circuit of the Americas played host to another Sebastian Vettel escape act and in truth, his final margin of victory was much smaller than it probably should have been. After comfortably lapping in the 1:40s, matching those behind him, a 1:39.856 two laps from the finish showed just how much pace he had to spare after cantering through the second stint. With an eighth straight victory, Vettel made Formula One history in Texas and in all probability, only the rain can deny him a ninth at Interlagos.
|Fernando Alonso – Ferrari – 227 Pts|
|Last 5 Races: 6th, 4th, 11th, 5th, 5th||Best In Brazil: 2nd (2006, 2008, 2012)|
He’s never won a race here but Interlagos holds special memories for Fernando Alonso who clinched both his world championships here. Ferrari’s lack of competitiveness in 2013 has ensured there won’t be a triple crown in Brazil for Alonso and fifth in Austin made sure that he will leave Sao Paulo as championship runner-up for the second year running. Replicating that in the constructor’s championship will be Ferrari’s aim but on current form, not even Alonso can overturn the fifteen point deficit to Mercedes.
|Lewis Hamilton – Mercedes – 187 Pts|
|Last 5 Races: 5th, DNF, 6th, 7th, 4th||Best In Brazil: 3rd (2009)|
Lewis Hamilton’s unbeaten record in the United States bit the dust last weekend and the Briton certainly didn’t enjoy seeing another victory pass him by. Victory in Hungary was thought to have signalled a championship charge but only one podium has followed and a summer of frustration appeared to come out in Hamilton’s radio transmissions. Lewis won’t like the idea of fighting for fourth place again but should he achieve that on Sunday, Mercedes will surely secure enough points to see off Ferrari in the Constructor’s battle given the Scuderia’s lack of pace.
|Mark Webber – Red Bull Racing Renault – 181 Pts|
|Last 5 Races: DNF, 2nd, DNF, 2nd, 3rd||Best In Brazil: Winner (2009, 2011)|
After 216 Grand Prix weekends, the curtain comes down on Mark Webber’s Formula One career on Sunday. In his final year, the Australian hasn’t beaten Sebastian Vettel in a race both have finished and would dearly love to break that streak before he goes. The concern would be that Suzuka aside, Webber hasn’t come close to stopping the Sebastian Vettel juggernaut but he does have a winning record here having taken the honours in 2009 and 2011. Will the pattern extend into 2013?
|Nico Rosberg – Mercedes – 161 Pts|
|Last 5 Races: 7th, 8th, 2nd, 3rd, 9th||Best In Brazil: 4th (2007)|
India and Abu Dhabi were two of his better drives in 2013 but Nico Rosberg struggled in the United States thanks to an inability to generate tyre temperature. The race was always going to be a challenge after qualifying twelfth but given the limited strategy options available, he did well to salvage two valuable points for the team in ninth. Much like Hamilton, Nico’s job will simply be to beat the Ferraris but that won’t stop him aiming for the podium and if it’s wet, Rosberg may be able to set his sights even higher.
|Romain Grosjean – Lotus Renault – 132 Pts|
|Last 5 Races: 3rd, 3rd, 3rd, 4th, 2nd||Best In Brazil: 13th (2009)|
Austin gave an early indication of what we can expect in 2014 as Romain Grosjean settled beautifully into the role of Lotus team leader. The 27 year old continues to be the only driver remotely capable of keeping the Red Bulls honest and splitting them in America was nothing short of a sensational achievement. When the rain came twelve months ago, Romain stuck his Lotus in the hedge but that was the old Grosjean and the new mature Frenchman should be right in amongst the Red Bulls again.
|Felipe Massa – Ferrari – 106 Pts|
|Last 5 Races: 9th, 10th, 4th, 8th, 12th||Best In Brazil: Winner (2006, 2008)|
After eight years with the Scuderia, Felipe Massa prepares for his final race with the team and he would surely have chosen no better location for his Ferrari farewell. When you think of Felipe and Interlagos, your mind instantly wanders back to 2008 and the heartbreaking way in which he lost the championship. That emotionally charged occasion remains the day of Massa’s last Grand Prix victory and while it’s unlikely that he’ll change that this weekend, a podium finish would be a very popular result, not least with his team who need every point they can get.
|Jenson Button – McLaren Mercedes – 61 Pts|
|Last 5 Races: 8th, 9th, 14th, 12th, 10th||Best In Brazil: Winner (2012)|
When Jenson Button won the 2012 Brazilian Grand Prix (right), he must have thought the groundwork was being laid for a championship challenge in 2013 but the McLaren driver returns to Interlagos having scored just 61 points, something he achieved by the halfway point of last season. Overtaking under a red flag in FP1 last weekend ultimately restricted him to a single point in the race and Jenson will be determined avoid such a fundamental mistake this time as McLaren search for their first podium finish since winning here a year ago.
|Paul Di Resta – Force India Mercedes – 48 Pts|
|Last 5 Races: DNF, 11th, 8th, 6th, 15th||Best In Brazil: 8th (2011)|
Paul Di Resta and Force India have been the masters of stretching their stints through tyre management in 2013 so it was surprising to see the Scotsman run out of rubber towards the end of the U.S Grand Prix. The slide to fifteenth was particularly frustrating for Paul who had put himself in a good position during the first stint, only for it to fall away late on. With Di Resta’s future in Formula One looking increasingly precarious, a strong drive in Brazil could prove to be a career-altering moment for him.
|Nico Hulkenberg – Sauber Ferrari – 48 Pts|
|Last 5 Races: 4th, 6th, 19th, 14th, 6th||Best In Brazil: 5th (2012)|
Nico Hulkenberg isn’t assured of a place on the 2014 grid either but you certainly can’t put that down to any under-performing on his part. The German excelled again in Austin and only the tactical nous of Fernando Alonso denied him fifth on the final lap. Hulkenberg’s glowing reputation has been partly built on sensational performances at Interlagos with pole in 2010 and a near-victory last year and the Sauber’s strengths out of slow corners and down straights should give him the platform for another giantkilling performance.
|Sergio Perez – McLaren Mercedes – 41 Pts|
|Last 5 Races: 10th, 15th, 5th, 9th, 7th||Best In Brazil: 13th (2011)|
Receiving his marching orders from McLaren in the build-up the Grand Prix certainly didn’t have a detrimental effect on Sergio Perez in Austin. The Mexican outqualified teammate Jenson Button once again to level up their Saturday head-to-head and kept his form up on race day, scoring for the third race in succession. Checo’s 2012 Brazilian Grand Prix only lasted half a lap before he was caught in the dramatic accident which held up Sebastian Vettel and he will be desperate to avoid such trouble as he seeks to put himself in the shop window.
|Adrian Sutil – Force India Mercedes – 29 Pts|
|Last 5 Races: 20th, 14th, 9th, 10th, DNF||Best In Brazil: 6th (2011)|
The less said about Adrian Sutil’s United States Grand Prix, the better. The German was knocked out in Q1 before clashing with Pastor Maldonado half a lap into the race as the pair made what appeared to be completely avoidable contact on the back straight. Adrian has history of incidents in Brazil too having come close to a punch-up with Jarno Trulli in 2009 but when he stays out trouble, he’s definitely quick here. Sutil had been driving well before the disaster of Austin so he will look to show that his Stateside nightmare was merely a blip.
|Daniel Ricciardo – STR Ferrari – 19 Pts|
|Last 5 Races: DNF, 13th, 10th, 16th, 11th||Best In Brazil: 13th (2012)|
The United States Grand Prix was a case of what might have been for Daniel Ricciardo who qualified and finished eleventh. The Australian won’t have been too disappointed to narrowly miss out on Q3 but losing the last point to Jenson Button within sight of the chequered flag will have hurt. Ricciardo bids farewell to Toro Rosso this weekend before his graduation to Red Bull Racing and few drivers will be keener to perform this weekend than Daniel who will want some points to go with his commemorative crash helmet.
|Jean-Eric Vergne – STR Ferrari – 13 Pts|
|Last 5 Races: 18th, 12th, 13th, 17th, 16th||Best In Brazil: 8th (2012)|
As the only driver to start on the prime tyre, Jean-Eric Vergne was banking on his contrary strategy to secure him some points in Austin. It didn’t quite pay off as the Frenchman brought his Toro Rosso home in twelfth but his untidy collision with Esteban Gutierrez brought his afternoon to a disappointing conclusion, although the subsequent demotion to sixteenth won’t exactly have changed his life. An interesting sub-plot to the Grand Prix this weekend will be the first head-to-head with Danil Kvyat who will drive Ricciardo’s car in FP1 this morning.
|Esteban Gutierrez – Sauber Ferrari – 6 Pts|
|Last 5 Races: 11th, 7th, 15th, 13th, 13th||Best In Brazil: Debut|
After a couple of poor races since scoring at Suzuka, Esteban Gutierrez looked much more like his old self in the United States before a bizarre incident in Q1 when he was warming his tyres up, completely baulking Pastor Maldonado. As a result, reaching Q3 was all for nought and he started 20th but the Mexican drove well in the race, albeit for no reward. Esteban is another on a long list of drivers fighting for their Formula One future but you fear he’s fighting a losing battle whatever he does here.
|Valtteri Bottas – Williams Renault – 4 Pts|
|Last 5 Races: 12th, 17th, 16th, 15th, 8th||Best In Brazil: Debut|
Few drivers gave their reputation a bigger boost in Austin than Valtteri Bottas. Williams’ decision to take a step back with their exhaust configuration has certainly helped him but the Finn deserves all the credit for qualifying and finishing inside the top ten, securing his first Formula One points. Having finally opened his account, Valtteri surely has every chance of breaking into the top ten once again and with Esteban Gutierrez just two points ahead of him, he may yet end 2013 as the top scoring rookie.
|Pastor Maldonado – Williams Renault – 1 Pt|
|Last 5 Races: 13th, 16th, 12th, 11th, 17th||Best In Brazil: DNF (2011, 2012)|
Pastor Maldonado’s comments before taking to the track in the United States wouldn’t have earned him any admirers within the Williams team so the last thing he needed was to be comprehensively outperformed by teammate Bottas. His suspicions that his FW35 had been tampered with weren’t clever either, showing a total lack of respect in my view, and a collision with Adrian Sutil on lap one didn’t help him in the race as he toiled to seventeenth. It’s fair to say things can only get better for Pastor in Brazil.
|Jules Bianchi – Marussia Cosworth – 0 Pts|
|Last 5 Races: 16th, DNF, 18th, 20th, 18th||Best In Brazil: Debut|
Jules Bianchi described the United States Grand Prix as his toughest of the season but his hard work certainly paid off as he beat the Caterhams to the chequered flag for the first time since Canada when both teams have finished. Bianchi’s role this weekend will be absolutely crucial as the fight for tenth place goes down to the wire. Jules’ job will be to simply to beat the green machines again and if he succeeds in that mission, Marussia will win the battle to avoid Formula One’s equivalent of the wooden spoon.
|Charles Pic – Caterham Renault – 0 Pts|
|Last 5 Races: 14th, 18th, DNF, 19th, 20th||Best In Brazil: 12th (2012)|
Charles Pic came away from the United States Grand Prix unhappy with the feeling of his Caterham, just as he did in Abu Dhabi. The Frenchman already looked set to be beaten by teammate Giedo van der Garde before picking up a drive-through penalty for ignoring blue flags but the stewards’ intervention certainly compounded his disappointment. By losing eleventh to Vitaly Petrov late in last year’s race, Pic effectively gave tenth in the constructor’s championship to Caterham and the Leafield squad will this time be relying on Charles to wrestle that place back again.
|Giedo van der Garde – Caterham Renault – 0 Pts|
|Last 5 Races: 15th, DNF, DNF, 18th, 19th||Best In Brazil: Debut|
Losing position to Jules Bianchi at the start proved to be Giedo van der Garde’s undoing in Austin as the Dutchman spent much of his afternoon staring at the back of a Marussia which had the legs on him in a straight line. With both teams finishing so far down the order, beating Bianchi wouldn’t have made any difference to Caterham’s Constructors Championship prospects but the weather forecasts suggest that there may be opportunities for Giedo this weekend. Caterham will be praying that if there are, he takes them.
|Max Chilton – Marussia Cosworth – 0 Pts|
|Last 5 Races: 17th, 19th, 17th, 21st, 21st||Best In Brazil: Debut|
Max Chilton sits just 71 laps from history as he looks to complete his rookie season with a perfect finishing record. The Briton got all of his mistakes out of the way on Saturday in Austin with a block on Pastor Maldonado landing him a drive through penalty in the first five laps of the race. As a result, Max was subjected to blue flags virtually from the word go and was always going to finish last from there. If he can avoid such errors in Brazil, and the car’s reliability holds, the record will surely be his.
|Heikki Kovalainen – Lotus Renault – 0 Pts|
|Last 5 Races: n/a, n/a, n/a, n/a, 14th
||Best In Brazil: 7th (2008)|
The race result may not reflect it but Heikki Kovalainen did a fine job on his return to Formula One at the Circuit of the Americas. Qualifying inside the top ten was as much as Lotus could’ve expected from their stand-in driver and he would have almost certainly been in the points had he not lost KERS, coupled with an unscheduled front wing change. With a weekend’s driving at the wheel of the E21, Heikki can only go forward from his Austin performance and the Enstone squad will be expecting points.