Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel won his eighth Grand Prix in a row and his twelfth this season at the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas.
The German maintained his lead for the entire race, save for one lap after he made a pit stop, where eventual second-placed driver Grosjean headed the pack. The Frenchman also notched the fastest lap of the race; while Vettel’s team mate Mark Webber completed the podium.
THE RACE AS IT HAPPENED
The uphill climb to turn one saw very little in terms of position changes, however Mark Webber made yet another bad getaway, and slipped from second to fourth, being overpowered by Grosjean and Hamilton. The rest of lap one was much more eventful though, culminating in a crash for Adrian Sutil, who made contact with Pastor Maldonado, spun into the wall, and brought out the Yellow flags.
With the wrecked Force India lying by the side of the fastest part of the track, the Safety Car was a necessity, but at least Adrian was okay. It stayed out for four laps while the car was removed, and Esteban Gutierrez took the opportunity to put on the harder-compound tyres. He hoped to make the most of the situation and last the entire race one just one set of tyres.
Meanwhile, Maldonado was in trouble. After a difficult qualifying session (where he scorned his own team mechanics) the Venezuelan had picked up damage on his front wing. Pastor complained of vibrations and appeared not to notice that his front wing was dangling precariously off the nose of his Williams, and was shown the black and orange flag, ordering him to pit.
Mark Webber, perhaps determined by his less-than-perfect start, got the better of lap one adversary Lewis Hamilton, and promptly passed him at turn 1 on Lap 13. While one Mercedes lost a place, the other gained, as Rosberg passed Ricciardo. The dicing pair, and indeed Paul di Resta were very surprised on Lap 20 when they emerged from the pits behind Heikki Kovalainen – the Finn had performed a brilliant ‘undercut’, by pitting earlier and gaining track position.
Heikki’s decent comeback was ruined though, when suspected front wing damage caused his lap times to slump. He had to pit for a new one in the middle of the race, dropping him well out of the points.
Another Finn, Valtteri Bottas, was having an excellent afternoon. He had qualified an impressive eighth, and on Lap 35 he breezed around the outside of Esteban Gutierrez at turn 2, which was surely the best overtake of the race. Though encouraged by what was essentially a pseudo-home crowd, just north of the border, the Mexican looked like he would not benefit from his early pit under the safety car.
Perhaps the best battle on the track was between German sensation Nico Hulkenberg and Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso. They swapped positions several times during the race and on Lap 45, the latter swept past at turn 1, after many many laps staring at the former’s rear wing.
Towards the end of the race, Nico got a second wind and looked like he would sneak past and grab 5th place. On the penultimate lap he tried to make the same move that Fernando did ten laps prior, but he couldn’t make it stick, and had to settle for sixth.
Another close battle occurred for the final points-paying position, as both Toro Rossos, Gutierrez and Button all scrambled for 10th place, and on Lap 56, Jenson Button surged past Daniel Ricciardo and took it. However, the frustrated cars behind came unstuck and with barely 5 turns to the flag, Gutierrez crashed into Vergne and nearly took both of them out of the race. Both cars managed to finish, but way down the order.
A late flourish from Webber nearly saw him overcome Romain Grosjean but the Aussie used up too much of the remaining grip on his rear tyres and could not get past the Lotus number two, and took the bottom step of the podium. Sebastian’s 8th win means he is just one win away from equally two incredible records – Alberto Ascari’s 9 wins in-a-row from 1953, and Schumacher’s 13 wins in a season from 2004.
S Vettel (1-27 29-56)
R Grosjean (28)
1. S Vettel, Red Bull
2. R Grosjean, Lotus
3. M Webber, Red Bull
4. L Hamilton, Mercedes AMG
5. F Alonso, Ferrari
6. N Hulkenberg, Sauber
7. S Perez, McLaren
8. V Bottas, Williams
9. N Rosberg, Mercedes AMG
10. J Button, McLaren
11. D Ricciardo, Toro Rosso
12. JE Vergne, Toro Rosso
13. F Massa, Ferrari
14. E Gutierrez, Sauber
15. H Kovalainen, Lotus
16. P di Resta, Force India
17. P Maldonado, Williams
18. J Bianchi, Marussia
19. G van der Garde, Caterham
20. C Pic, Caterham
21. M Chilton, Marussia
A Sutil, Force India (Spun off)
By Charlie Eustice