US Grand Prix Weekend
The weekend is here, and boy do we wish we were in Austin for the second running of the US Grand Prix at the Circuit of the Americas. Qualifying is set to start in two hours but lets recap Friday’s practice and some of the events of this ever evolving silly season.
FP1 was delayed for thirty minutes due to fog (I know, weird – in Texas), and then subsequently red flagged due to the lack of a medical helicopter. Apparently circuit officials didn’t realize it had left, also odd. But that didn’t stop some promising rookies from taking to the track and hammering away for the remainder of the session. Toro Rosso’s Daniil Kvyat drove FP1 and was lapping just .2 seconds behind Daniel Ricciardo, the man he’ll be replacing. At Caterham, American Alexander Rossi performed well, outpacing Charles Pic by nearly a second per lap.
Earlier this week Kimi Raikkonen announced he would not return for the final two races in Texas and Brazil, so Lotus scrambled to find a substitute for the Finn. Davide Valsecchi, Lotus’ reserve driver, arguably should have received the drive (as it is literally in his job description), but was snubbed for Caterham reserve driver, Heikki Kovalainen. This incident has cast a pretty dark shadow over Lotus upper management, but you wouldn’t know it by the track performance on Friday. Kovalainen adjusted to the E21 chassis in FP1, but outpaced Romain Grosjean to a fifth fastest time in FP2. Wonder if this weekends performance could vault the Finn back into a permanent F1 seat?….
Felipe Massa knows something about that, as he’s been fighting for a seat in the sport for the past few weekends since Raikkonen was rehired by Ferrari for 2014. Williams announced they will take Massa and current driver Valterri Bottas for 2014, dropping Venezuelan Pastor Maldonado. In another rather strange and unexpected move, McLaren has opted to drop Sergio Perez for 2014, and instead hire Kevin Magnussen. Wait you haven’t heard of Magnussen? You know, the winner of Formula Renault 3.5 this year. Yeah, we didn’t either. This controversial decision will leave Perez without a seat, unless he’s picked up by Lotus, or perhaps the duo of Caterham and Marussia. Either way, he’ll be fighting with Maldonado and anyone else who finds themselves sacked in the next two weeks.
Qualifying today should be interesting. The track seems to still be quite fresh in its only second year of running, so expect to see lots of cars running wide and locking up the fronts. If we go by FP2, the Red Bulls once again look unbeatable as they topped the charts. Mercedes has rebounded slightly. Nico Rosberg feels confident in his car’s balance, and Lewis Hamilton starts out with a brand new chassis for the last two races. His impressions are good; following a few miserable performances and having complained about terrible handling in his Merc, the mechanics tore it all down and discovered carbon cracks which compromised the chassis. Let’s see if King Lewis has what it takes to defend his run of two US GP titles…