Formula One’s second visit to the Circuit of the Americas isn’t accompanied by the buzz of a nail-biting championship battle like the first but there is still a genuine sense of excitement surrounding this weekend’s United States Grand Prix. There is still a great deal riding on it too with the runner-up spot in both championships up for grabs on Sunday and the TCF Form Guide looks at the prospects for all 22 drivers in the field.
|Sebastian Vettel – Red Bull Racing Renault – 347 Pts (2013 FIA Formula One World Champion)|
|Last 5 Races: 1st, 1st, 1st, 1st, 1st||Best In United States: 2nd (2012)|
Sebastian Vettel’s remarkable ascent to sporting greatness began in the United States just six years ago when he scored points on debut in Indianapolis. Eighth place at the age of 19 was impressive enough but his dominance at Abu Dhabi last time out was simply mindblowing. Missing out on pole didn’t seem to bother him as he romped into the lead and his margin of victory could have been more than the eventual 30.8s. Losing the win to Lewis Hamilton here 12 months ago will still irritate the world champion so don’t expect any lack of motivation this weekend.
|Fernando Alonso – Ferrari – 217 Pts|
|Last 5 Races: 2nd, 6th, 4th, 11th, 5th||Best In United States: 2nd (2007)|
The championship may have been decided but there was no let-up from Fernando Alonso whose efforts for the Ferrari cause landed him in hospital after the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix following an uncomfortable ride over the kerbs. Thankfully for the Scuderia, Alonso has been declared fit for Austin and with Kimi Raikkonen absent through an injury of his own, the Spaniard needs fifth or higher to secure second in the championship. Given the speed of his Ferrari at present, that won’t be far from where he finishes.
|Lewis Hamilton – Mercedes – 175 Pts|
|Last 5 Races: 5th, 5th, DNF, 6th, 7th||Best In United States: Winner (2007, 2012)|
Lewis Hamilton and the United States seem to fit like hand in glove. The 2008 world champion spends plenty of his time across the pond and his racing record would suggest he feels at home there, winning on both of his previous visits. Lewis drove out of his skin to defeat Sebastian Vettel here in 2012 but will need a performance of a similar standard to be victorious again. Hamilton has been his own biggest critic recently with Nico Rosberg putting him in the shade and this weekend would be the perfect time for the real Lewis Hamilton to stand up.
|Mark Webber – Red Bull Racing Renault – 166 Pts|
|Last 5 Races: 15th, DNF, 2nd, DNF, 2nd||Best In United States: 7th (2007)|
Mark Webber drove one of the best qualifying laps of his career to snatch pole position from his teammate at Abu Dhabi but normal service was resumed in the race as Vettel won the drag race to turn one and wasn’t seen again. Time is running out for the Australian to mark his final Formula One season with a victory and his record in the States wouldn’t fill anyone with confidence having finished once in seven attempts. Few would begrudge a change of luck on Sunday but in fairness, it’s probably Sebastian Vettel’s luck that needs to change to open the door for Mark.
|Nico Rosberg – Mercedes – 159 Pts|
|Last 5 Races: 4th, 7th, 8th, 2nd, 3rd||Best In United States: 9th (2006)|
He hasn’t attracted many headlines but Nico Rosberg has been in sensational form of late. Second place in India was good enough but Abu Dhabi was a venue that his teammate Lewis Hamilton had virtually owned over the years, yet Nico outqualified and outraced him. The challenges keep on coming for the German with the Circuit of the Americas another to play nicely to Hamilton’s strengths but Nico will take some beating himself on current form and both look likely to strengthen Mercedes’ Constructor’s Championship position.
|Romain Grosjean – Lotus Renault – 114 Pts|
|Last 5 Races: DNF, 3rd, 3rd, 3rd, 4th||Best In United States: 7th (2012)|
Kimi Raikkonen’s Lotus career has been brought to an early end and the mantle of team leader passes over to Romain Grosjean. The extra pressure shouldn’t have an effect on the new, mature Grosjean though who has frankly been leading Lotus’ on-track efforts since Singapore. The off-track rumblings can’t have helped the team in their pursuit of second in the Constructor’s Championship and the E21 wasn’t a match for Red Bull or Mercedes in Abu Dhabi either. The Enstone squad will pinning their hopes on Romain to make the difference.
|Felipe Massa – Ferrari – 106 Pts|
|Last 5 Races: 6th, 9th, 10th, 4th, 8th||Best In United States: 2nd (2006)|
Ever since his Formula One future was thrown into question, Felipe Massa has been a Formula One driver reborn so Ferrari will be hoping that the confirmation of Felipe’s move to Williams won’t slow the Brazilian down. Massa was the subject of Ferrari’s crude gearbox change last year as they took every opportunity to move Fernando Alonso up the grid but Massa won’t have that problem to deal with this time. Fernando and Ferrari might have a familiar feeling though with Massa dominating the qualifying head-to-head since the summer. Can he make it six out of seven?
|Jenson Button – McLaren Mercedes – 60 Pts|
|Last 5 Races: 7th, 8th, 9th, 14th, 12th||Best In United States: 5th (2012)|
After seven straight races in the points, Jenson Button has now gone two Grand Prix weekends without breaking into the top ten as poor qualifying performances have caught up with him. Just as in India, Button came to grief on the opening lap and despite what Martin Whitmarsh described as a “truly brilliant job of tyre management”, he couldn’t climb higher than twelfth. Despite its lack of serious upgrades, the McLaren is still quick enough to scrape into the points but qualifying a little higher is a must for Jenson this weekend.
|Paul Di Resta – Force India Mercedes – 48 Pts|
|Last 5 Races: 20th, DNF, 11th, 8th, 6th||Best In United States: 12th (2012)|
Whether or not it has come in time to save his Force India seat, Paul Di Resta has raised his game in the back end of the 2013 season. The Scotsman was one of the stars of Abu Dhabi as his ability to make a one-stop strategy work lifted him well into the points. After holding off Lewis Hamilton for sixth, Di Resta has revived Force India’s hopes of pipping McLaren to fifth overall with eighteen points seperating the two but Pirelli’s conservative tyre choice and the likelihood for one-stoppers all the way up the grid may work against them.
|Nico Hulkenberg – Sauber Ferrari – 39 Pts|
|Last 5 Races: 9th, 4th, 6th, 19th, 14th||Best In United States: 8th (2012)|
Nico Hulkenberg’s preferred destination for 2014 would appear to be Lotus but the German could have been driving the black and gold machine this weekend, only to decline the offer. Hulkenberg was apparently reluctant to burn his bridges with Sauber and take the risk of being soundly beaten by Romain Grosjean in a car the Frenchman knows inside out. Still at Sauber, Nico shouldn’t have quite as much difficulty outpacing the man on the opposite side of the garage but points will be the ultimate aim.
|Sergio Perez – McLaren Mercedes – 35 Pts|
|Last 5 Races: 8th, 10th, 15th, 5th, 9th||Best In United States: 11th (2012)|
Despite outqualifying and outracing teammate Jenson Button, Sergio Perez’s race in Abu Dhabi was described as “disappointing” by Martin Whitmarsh and the writing seemed to be on the wall. Upon arriving in Austin, Perez has discovered his McLaren seat will be occupied by Kevin Magnussen in 2014 and now, aged 23, must drive for his Formula One future. Beating Button again will be the best way to go about attracting other teams as any hopes of a podium finish in the chrome and red of McLaren have long since disappeared.
|Adrian Sutil – Force India Mercedes – 29 Pts|
|Last 5 Races: 10th, 20th, 14th, 9th, 10th||Best In United States: 14th (2007)|
Getting knocked out in Q1 at Yas Marina put Adrian Sutil firmly on his back foot heading into the Grand Prix but like his teammate, Adrian maximised his one stop strategy and salvaged a point for Force India. Losing ninth to Sergio Perez on the last lap put a slight dampener on the night but Sutil’s drive was still an excellent one. For the first time this year, Adrian finds himself with a new track to learn after missing COTA’s debut in 2012 so Force India will need him to be a quick learner.
|Daniel Ricciardo – STR Ferrari – 19 Pts|
|Last 5 Races: 7th, DNF, 13th, 10th, 16th||Best In United States: 12th (2012)|
Daniel Ricciardo’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix promised so much when he set an impressive 1:40.852 to reach Q3 but a terrible first lap undid all his hard work from the Saturday. Having fallen back into the pack on option tyres already used in qualifying, Ricciardo’s race never recovered and getting off the line cleanly will be top of Daniel’s list of aims for Austin. Another top ten grid slot will be the target too but the Australian will first need to avoid a repeat of 2012 when he produced, by his own admission, his worst qualifying performance of the year.
|Jean-Eric Vergne – STR Ferrari – 13 Pts|
|Last 5 Races: 14th, 18th, 12th, 13th, 17th||Best In United States: DNF (2012)|
Jean-Eric Vergne drove very well in Abu Dhabi for very little reward in the end with many remembering his race for the near-collision with Fernando Alonso. The fact that Jean-Eric was side-by-side with the Ferrari showed how well he was doing but his one stop strategy didn’t quite pay off and his medium tyres cried enough. His drive two weeks ago proved that points are still possible for Toro Rosso but will first have to stay out of trouble at turn one, something he failed to do at the Circuit of the Americas first time around.
|Esteban Gutierrez – Sauber Ferrari – 6 Pts|
|Last 5 Races: 12th, 11th, 7th, 15th, 13th||Best In United States: Debut|
Esteban Gutierrez looked to have turned the corner when he opened his points account at Suzuka but the last two races have seen him follow a major step forward with two steps back. Qualifying has been his Achilles’ Heel with the Mexican dropping out in Q1 at Abu Dhabi and without the capacity to one-stop, points were out of the question. The United States Grand Prix is as close to a home race as Esteban will have so he will certainly have the crowd on his side. Time will tell as to whether he can give them anything to cheer about.
|Pastor Maldonado – Williams Renault – 1 Pt|
|Last 5 Races: 11th, 13th, 16th, 12th, 11th||Best In United States: 9th (2012)|
Pastor Maldonado has done precious little to endear himself to the Williams team with his comments in the media leading up to the weekend having confirmed his departure from the squad which gave him his F1 break. The Venezuelan has been understandably disappointed with the machinery at his disposal and those feelings will have been exacerbated by missing a point by 2.7s in Abu Dhabi. Pastor did make it into the top ten in America last year though and a repeat this time would go some way to ensuring he departs from Williams on good terms.
|Valtteri Bottas – Williams Renault – 0 Pts|
|Last 5 Races: 13th, 12th, 17th, 16th, 15th||Best In United States: Debut|
With his place in the Williams team secured for 2014, Valtteri Bottas would be forgiven for just wanting to get 2013 out of the way and turn his attentions to next year but the Finn has two races of his rookie campaign to run. Any hope of his first Formula One points in Abu Dhabi were wiped out at the start when he fell behind the Caterhams but with Williams’ current qualifying pace, Valtteri may run that risk again this weekend. COTA is also one of the few circuits Bottas didn’t drive in free practice last year so expectations must be kept in check.
|Jules Bianchi – Marussia Cosworth – 0 Pts|
|Last 5 Races: 18th, 16th, DNF, 18th, 20th||Best In United States: Debut|
In Abu Dhabi, Jules Bianchi was back in command in his inter-team battle with Max Chilton, outqualifying the Briton by eight tenths of a second before beating him to the chequered flag but Marussia’s lack of pace relative to Caterham couldn’t be ignored. Bianchi admitted he couldn’t keep up without damaging his tyres and Marussia’s tenth place in the Constructor’s Championship continues to be safeguarded by the reliability of those ahead of them. It would take something special from Jules to stop Caterham leading him home again.
|Charles Pic – Caterham Renault – 0 Pts|
|Last 5 Races: 19th, 14th, 18th, DNF, 19th||Best In United States: 20th (2012)|
Understeer dominated Charles Pic’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix as he wrestled his Caterham around the Yas Marina Circuit. Being asked to move over for teammate Giedo van der Garde didn’t lighten the Frenchman’s mood either and he eventually trailed the sister Caterham by eleven seconds. With a certain Finn returning to Formula One this weekend, Caterham will be keeping a close eye on Kovalainen’s performance and therefore the private battle between Pic and van der Garde may take on added significance.
|Giedo van der Garde – Caterham Renault – 0 Pts|
|Last 5 Races: 16th, 15th, DNF, DNF, 18th||Best In United States: Debut|
The result sheet may have read eighteenth place and most will have remembered his race for the collision which eliminated Kimi Raikkonen, but Giedo van der Garde described Abu Dhabi as one of his “best ever” drives. While his teammate fought to keep his Caterham under control, van der Garde revelled under the bright lights of Yas Marina and comfortably claimed the honours over Pic. The weather forecasts for Austin suggest there may be some rain around on Sunday so Giedo and Caterham’s prayers for an oddball race may yet be answered.
|Max Chilton – Marussia Cosworth – 0 Pts|
|Last 5 Races: 17th, 17th, 19th, 17th, 21st||Best In United States: Debut|
Solid and unspectacular it may be, but Max Chilton continues to close in on Formula One history. The British rookie is now just two races away from completing his maiden season with a 100% finishing record but the challenging Circuit of the Americas is sure to put his skils to the test. Max had started to gain a foothold in his battle with teammate Jules Bianchi prior to Abu Dhabi so while seeing the chequered flag will be the primary goal, closing the gap to the sister Marussia will certainly be another.
|Heikki Kovalainen – Lotus Renault – 0 Pts|
|Last Grand Prix: 2012 Brazilian Grand Prix||Best In United States: 5th (2007)|
One Finn’s loss is another’s gain as Heikki Kovalainen steps in for the injured Kimi Raikkonen at Lotus, returning to the team where he started his career under its Renault guise. Having only arrived at the circuit on Thursday afternoon, turning up so late that he missed his scheduled appearance in the FIA press conference, Kovalainen will need every ounce of his experience to deliver Lotus the points they need in the Constructor’s Championship. Considering Davide Valsecchi’s snub though, experience would appear to be the very reason Eric Boullier has picked him.