F1 Power Rankings: United States Grand Prix

We’ve reached the penultimate round of the 2012 Formula One World Championship and the championship battle has another twist in store. Formula One is returning to America on the brand new Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas. Sebastian Vettel combined luck and speed to stay on top of the World Drivers’ Championship but Fernando Alonso’s race pace showed he shouldn’t be counted out yet. Who has the upper hand with a maximum of 50 points still on the board?

#1 Sebastian Vettel (Last Race #1)
Old Two-Time has a different impression of Tilke tracks than the rest of the world. Elevation change and Hermann Tilke are seldom ever seen in the same sentence: “I have been in the simulator learning the Austin track; how it flows and getting a general feel for it. What we know from designer Hermann Tilke is that the hallmark of the circuit will be the big differences in altitude within a lap as the highest point is expected to be 40ft higher than the lowest point. The site has natural elevation changes, which promises a fast course with difficult corners for us to familiarise ourselves with.”

#2 Fernando Alonso (LR #2)
Well, I said that it would take luck for Alonso to get his hands on the title. He got three points worth of luck when Vettel didn’t have the required amount of fuel after qualifying. I think I might know the real problem with the F2012 right now. Alonso is severely lacking in single-lap pace. His race performances are great but he’s having to salvage a good finish from poor qualifying efforts. If he can qualify near Vettel, he can challenge him during the race. It’s just that he hasn’t gotten close in qualifying.

#3 Mark Webber (LR #3)
@AussieGrit isn’t ready to sign off on the likelihood that the RB8 will dominate the field this weekend: “Regarding the new track, it’s unproven in terms of what we need to do with the car there. We will have a reasonable idea before we turn a wheel, but we’ve got to get into the nitty-gritty from our simulations. We need to see track temperatures and how the asphalt is for the car in terms of grip – we’ve got a lot of unanswered questions which we only learn on Friday.”

#4 Lewis Hamilton (LR #7)
Old Louise Hamilton is just completely stoked to be driving in America. I hope he knows remembers that you turn right on a red light: “I have to admit – I’m absolutely made-up that we’re going back to the States. It’s a fantastic country and a place where our sport truly deserves to be. I think the Circuit Of The Americas looks like it could also be the place that modern Formula 1 finally calls home. I’ve only driven it on the computer and in the sim, but I think it’s going to be a track that drivers enjoy, which produces some great, close racing, and which fans will quickly love.”

#5 Kimi Raikkonen (LR #6)
I know The Iceman won the last race but I’d rather hear him talk about his short-lived NASCAR experience: “Last year I tried NASCAR. I did two races on the Charlotte oval and I really liked it a lot. That was probably the experience I needed to open my eyes for racing again. After that I really wanted to come back to Formula 1, while it was a tempting idea to do more NASCAR, too. After seeing the excitement of the American NASCAR fans I hope Formula 1 gets people as eager to enjoy our racing in Texas, too.”

#6 Felipe Massa (LR #5)
Pop quiz! After Kimi Raikkonen’s 15 consecutive points finishes, which driver has the longest active points scoring streak? If you guessed Felipe Massa, I probably gave the answer away by putting it here. After months of speculation regarding his future employment, Phil has stepped up his game with points scored in his the last eight races. Only Raikkonen’s active 15-race streak and Alonso’s 11-race streak from the start of the season are longer this year. There’s your needless F1 stat of the day.

#7 Jenson Button (LR #4)
Jenson talks about how he learns a new circuit: “Visiting a new circuit is always an interesting challenge. You approach it in a very different way from a track you’ve visited before – Thursday’s trackwalk and those first laps are all about exploration and understanding as you gather information from lots of different sources in a bid to build up a complete picture of the track and what’s required to get the best from it.”

#8 Nico Hulkenberg (LR #8)
Nico doesn’t sound too impressed with the layout at COTA: “I’ve driven the lap on a simulator so I’ve got the layout in my head. It’s pretty much an average medium-speed track with a lot of elevation changes. Turns three to six are high-speed with lots of change of direction – a bit like Maggotts and Becketts at Silverstone. There are some big stops and some low-speed sections towards the end of the lap too. So pretty much a bit of everything.”

#9 Romain Grosjean (LR #9)
Grosjean talks about how important Kimi’s win was for the team: “It was unbelievable for the team. It had looked as if the chance of a win was escaping from us, but we’ve kept pushing and the top step was a fantastic reward. Kimi did a fantastic job. The car is there and although this race wasn’t the one we were expecting to win, we did. Hopefully the good results continue, starting in Austin.”

#10 Daniel Ricciardo (LR #10)
I’ll be the first to admit that I thought I was reaching a bit by putting Daniel Ricciardo in the top ten of last week’s power rankings. Then, at Abu Dhabi, he goes out and finishes 10th and gets his fourth points finish from five races. I think this run also shows that the five midfield teams are all very close late in the season. You can break the field into the four teams up front (Red Bull, Ferrari, McLaren & Louts), the three new teams and the five remaining teams in the middle.

#11 Nico Rosberg (LR #11)
Keke’s kid thinks that he and his team are ready to go this weekend: “I spent some time practicing on the simulator at the factory this week so I know what to expect and, as a team, we are as well prepared as we can be from our simulator work. The track looks cool with a great double S section to begin the lap and it looks like there should be some good opportunities for overtaking.”

#12 Kamui Kobayashi (LR #15)
Kobayashi Maru wins the PR quotage contest this week. I should just end the column with this walk-off mic drop: “I have never been to Texas, as I have only been to New York and Las Vegas in America. I know this will be something completely different and perhaps pretty exciting because Texas is cowboy country, so I hope I can see some of them there.”

#13 Michael Schumacher (LR #12)
Old Seven-Time is looking forward to going back to the US. After all, he’s the winningest driver in US GP history: “My wife and I have been big fans of the USA, and also of Texas, for many years, so I’m particularly looking forward to the race. I’m really excited to see what kind of track we will find and to see if the American fans will embrace our sport.”

#14 Bruno Senna (LR #17)
Bruno says something I’ve never heard before. I always thought Texas was hot and dry: “I’m excited to go to Austin because I’m hearing lots of good things about the track. It has both high speed and technical sections so it will be tricky to learn for all the drivers and it’s always interesting to see how drivers cope with a new layout and new corners they haven’t driven before. The weather can be very varied in Texas as well, with lots of wind and drops in temperature so that could be a factor.”

#15 Paul di Resta (LR #13)
Dario’s cousin has fallen behind on his prep for this race. If lack of knowledge doesn’t get him, will jetlag? “I’ve not done a massive amount, to be honest. I’ve seen some maps of the circuit, but the main preparation will come from my simulator session on the Monday of race week. So I’ll arrive in America with it fresh in my mind.

#16 Pastor Maldonado (LR #18)
Pastor might not have the most generic PR quote of the week but it sure doesn’t say much: “The team has worked very hard to get the car back to the sort of pace that can consistently challenge for points and that is what we will be looking for in this race. The track is new so it will be challenging to get the right set up, but that is the same for all the teams. It looks like a fun and challenging track to drive from the work we have done in the simulator and the American fans should bring a really good atmosphere as well.”

#17 Sergio Perez (LR #14)
Checo has declared the US GP as his home race as it’s the shortest trip for his Mexican fans: “I am very much looking forward to this race! I think it is the closest race for eight years for me to my home town of Guadalajara. I expect many Mexican Formula One fans to attend and this, for sure, will give me an extra boost. Of course I also hope there will be a Mexican Grand Prix one day, because I am aware of the great enthusiasm for Formula One in my country, but for now I regard the race in Austin as my home Grand Prix.”

#18 Jean-Eric Vergne (LR #16)

#19 Heikki Kovalainen (LR #19)
Heikki talks about his non-racing plans for the week: “Quite a few of my golfer friends either live out there or have houses in America so hopefully I can get a round or two in and have a little bit of the lifestyle they enjoy out there… But the only thing I need to make sure is that I don’t put on any weight! The food in the US is really good and I’ve heard they do pretty big steaks in Texas, so my physio will be keeping a close eye on how much I’m enjoying myself off track!”

#20 Vitaly Petrov (LR #20)
Unlike the Hulk, Petrov thinks that COTA will be a pretty good track: “I think all the drivers are excited about getting on track. It’s a new challenge and from what I’ve seen in the simulator it could be a really special track. There’s a lot of elevation changes, a few blind corners where it’s going to be tricky to find the apex and quite a lot of the lap is high speed.”

#21 Timo Glock (LR #21)
Tim O’Glock is going to get some cowboy boots while in Texas. I think that’s what he meant anyway: “Going to Austin is a really big thing for the sport and everyone involved. The first race back in the US will be quite something for us… I’m really looking forward to it a lot and I hope the organisers and fans have a great first race bringing F1 back again; I know we will enjoy being back in the US. I can’t wait to arrive early next week and have my first real view and walk of the track. Should be an amazing weekend.”

#22 Charles Pic (LR #22)
Chuckie talks about the Constructors’ Championship. It’s kind of important to the team, after all: “As for our objectives, there is a lot to think about as this is a new race, but we need to keep pushing hard to maintain our current momentum versus Caterham – in qualifying and the race – and ensure we leave town with 10th in the Constructors’ still firmly in our grasp. Should be a great weekend.”

#23 Pedro de la Rosa (LR #23)
Pedro is concerned that Pirelli has picked the wrong tyres this weekend: “The important thing is for our car to adapt well to this circuit and we will dedicate Friday to learning the track and setting up the car. The choice of medium and hard tyres seems, on paper, an election of quite hard compounds. But until we don’t confirm the grip of the asphalt it will be difficult to draw any conclusions.”

#24 Narain Karthikeyan (LR #24)
Narain is drawing a parallel between COTA and Buddh. That can’t be good: “The Circuit of The Americas looks like a promising layout, lots of parts from different circuits around the world but what I’m looking forward to most is the massively uphill turn one. These gradient changes do well to add to the circuit’s character as we’ve seen in India so it is going to be a challenging layout. So as a driver, it would be up to us to do the maximum number of laps possible on Friday to learn the circuit and get the base set-up right and then take it from there.”

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