F1 Power Rankings: United States Grand Prix

There are just two races left in the season but Sebastian Vettel is still on a mission. He’s never won a race in America. The US Grand Prix and the Hungarian Grand Prix are the only two races currently on the calendar that he hasn’t won. Can he win the second-to-last race of the season and cement himself as the Penultimate Warrior? Find out in this week’s F1 Power Rankings.

#1 Sebastian Vettel (Last Race #1)
The four-time World Drivers’ Champion explains rally driving in a Formula One car around the Circuit of the Americas: “Last year we were all sliding quite a lot because the tarmac was still so new, especially on the tight and twisty bit towards the end. It was sometimes almost more rally style than Formula One, because it was so slippery!”

#2 Mark Webber (LR #5)
@AussieGrit talks about the importance of momentum in Austin: “It is an incredible race track, it looked good on paper and lived up to expectations. It’s really stimulating to drive, with lots of fast corners and some big undulations. There were some initial worries about the length of the first sector because it’s long and has a lot of consecutive corners. But I think it’s okay; it’s very challenging because it’s fast and you have to be very precise because it’s very difficult to regain lost momentum if you make a mistake.”

f1-romain-grosjean-helmet-2013#3 Romain Grosjean (LR #3)
Romain gets an early taste of leading Lotus this weekend. With Kimi out for back surgery we’ll get an early impression of what to expect for next season. Instead, Grosjean wants to talk about his hog: “Since last year I’ve bought myself a Harley Davidson, so visiting Austin last year must have made an impression! I’ve had it customized so maybe I’ll have to ride it around the US sometime in the future.”

#4 Fernando Alonso (LR #2)
If I had to pick one thing that cost Alonso the championship, apart from the RB9’s raw pace, it’s that the F138 just didn’t have the single-lap pace needed to compete for wins consistently. Sure, he ran well in a number of races but starting outside the top five almost certainly takes you out of contention for a win before the lights go out. That’s something Maranello needs to focus on for 2014.

#5 Nico Rosberg (LR #6)
Keke’s kid is reaching for the stars… because that’s where Austin’s Turn 1 takes him: “The track has a similar layout to Suzuka in the first section and is very fast with good long straights and the DRS zone for overtaking. The big uphill section at the start of the lap is very unique as you’re looking straight up into the sky and then suddenly you’re in the middle of the corner.”

#6 Lewis Hamilton (LR #7)
It’s all about balance for Lewis. Kind of like the balance between spice and flavour in Mexican cuisine: “The track itself is a lot of fun and a real challenge to get the perfect lap. The high-speed changes of direction combined with the long straights and slower sections make it quite tricky to find the right set-up and balance.”

#7 Felipe Massa (LR #8)

f1-sergio-perez-helmet-2013#8 Sergio Perez (LR #11)
Checo isn’t letting his pending unemployment get him down: “I’m happy to call the United States Grand Prix my ‘home’ race! Texas is on the border with Mexico, so the venue provides the perfect opportunity for many Mexicans to make the trip to Austin for a taste of Formula 1. Last year, I was really overwhelmed by the level of Mexican support – you could see the grandstands full of Mexican flags, and the fans that I met were all really passionate, enthusiastic and knowledgeable.”

#9 Paul di Resta (LR #14)
Dario’s cousin takes us for a lap of the Circuit of the Americas: “Sector one stands out for me. It’s very similar to the Maggots and Becketts sequence at Silverstone and the fast chicanes work the car and tyres really hard. It’s a very enjoyable part of the lap and those corners really show you the potential of a Formula One car. The rest of the lap is quite open with a great flow. A lot of the corners are off-camber, too, which adds another challenge.”

f1-heikki-kovalainen-angry-birds-helmet-2012#10 Heikki Kovalainen (First Start)
So Kimi is out and Heikki Kovalainen is in to replace him for the final two races of the season. The Iceman took the final two weekends off to have back surgery. Since he’s not getting paid, it doesn’t make much of a difference to The Iceman. Staying in the car for longer than he has to won’t help him make money at Ferrari next season.

#11 Adrian Sutil (LR #12)
So what does Sutil think of America? “I’ve spent time in America before. I’ve been to a few of the big cities: New York, Los Angeles and Miami, but never to Texas. I hear it’s a beautiful place with a lot happening so it sounds like a great location. I’ve heard lots of good things about the Circuit of The Americas, too.”

f1-jenson-button-helmet-2013#12 Jenson Button (LR #10)
Jenson likes the first sector of the track because there’s only one corner where he can be passed: “The first sector of this circuit ranks as one of the best parts of a racetrack anywhere in the world. The first corner is really tricky, because it’s steep and blind, after that, the circuit just winds through an incredibly fast switchback until the heavy braking for the back straight.”

f1-nico-hulkenberg-helmet-2013#13 Nico Hulkenberg (LR #9)
The Hulk doesn’t give us a guide to local cuisine. I’m absolutely gutted: “Austin is a place everyone in Formula One likes, and I certainly like it. The organisers have done a fantastic job in putting an event like this together and making us feel welcome… Also, Austin as a town is fun. It’s not a mega city, but there is a lot to do, and it has good restaurants and a nice atmosphere.”

#14 Daniel Ricciardo (LR #13)

#15 Jean-Eric Vergne (LR #16)

#16 Pastor Maldonado (LR #17)
Pastor talks about the challenges facing the teams this weekend without mentioning spicy local cuisine: “The track is quite hard on the tyres because of the many high speed corners and it is a long lap so getting on top of this will be a key focus during the practice sessions. The weather can also be quite varied in Texas with strong winds common and swings in temperature so this is another challenge for the teams.”

f1-esteban-gutierrez-helmet-2013#17 Esteban Gutierrez (LR #15)
Steve talks about Austin being his de facto home race: “Austin will be a very special weekend for me, because we can expect to have a lot of Mexican supporters again. I’m from Monterrey, which is quite close to Austin, being about one and a half to two hours away, so my family and also a lot of my friends will come to the event. This will give me additional motivation for the weekend and makes the atmosphere special.”

#18 Valtteri Bottas (LR #18)
The Circuit of the Americas is all about compromise according to Val: “There are lots of different types of corners so you will need a well balanced car to get a good laptime. You need a car that changes direction well and doesn’t feel too soft as it needs to be very responsive when turning from one corner to the other. There is also a very long back straight so you need to find a good compromise between the level of downforce and drag.”

#19 Charles Pic (LR #19)
Chuckie says that everyone was surprised by last year’s reception in Austin: ” I think that last year, when we went for the first time, we all expected the organisers to put on a great event, it is America after all, but I don’t think anyone realised the whole city of Austin would embrace F1 like they did. I think this year it’ll be even bigger and better – I know all the boys in the garage are looking forward to it as one of the great races of the year, and when you find a race like that, it’s very special.”

#20 Geido van der Garde (LR #20)
Gary is looking to move Caterham ahead of Marussia in the WCC. All he needs to do is finish 13th: “The focus in Austin will be the same as it has been all year. Keep ahead of the team we’re fighting with for tenth and keep our fingers crossed for a bit of luck. I think we’re due it – if luck was the reward for hard work and effort I’m sure the whole team would have had a load by now, but even without that, we just have to do the best job we can and grab anything that comes our way.”

#21 Jules Bianchi (LR #21)
Jules waxes poetic before the stretch run: “I’m really looking forward to the next two – the final two, actually – Grands Prix of my debut season… Every now and then I get the chance to look back and think how quickly my first season of F1 has passed by, so I will take some time to savour Austin and Brazil and hope for a positive end to 2013.”

f1-max-chilton-helmet-2013#22 Max Chilton (LR #22)
Despite what TV ratings may say, Max says that F1 has some passionate American fans: “I shared the experience of the inaugural United States Grand Prix with the Team last year in my role as Reserve Driver and it was great to see just how much Austin had put into welcoming F1 back to America. The reception we all received from the fans was fantastic and the track looked awesome, so I’m really happy that I will finally get the chance to drive there next weekend.”

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