Formula One is the pinnacle in all of motorsports. America is the pinnacle of all the countries. Texas likes to think it's the pinnacle of all the states (but don't tell Matt and Patrick it isn't.) Today brings us the Formula One United States Grand Prix straight from Texas, and you better watch it.
Last year we said that the USGP was a big deal. Red Bull driver Sebastian Vettel was locked in battle with Ferrari driver Fernando Alonso, and the championship was still up for grabs with only ten points between them and two races to go. This year Vettel's already got the championship locked up, despite there being another two races to go. But it's still a big deal. And here's why.
In case you haven't been following the politics and petty internal battles of Formula One over the past few years, and I don't know anyone who would be so fed up with all the crap that they haven't, Red Bull Racing teammates Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber don't exactly get along. They might get along in a "oh maybe we'll get a beer after the race sort of way" but then they totally don't because Mark didn't mean it, but they don't get along in a competitive way. The RBR effort has been dogged throughout the past few years by insinuations and rumors of internal sabotage and schemes, all in an effort to get Vettel to finish first and Webber to maybe gum up the works for everybody behind or something. To be honest, it's been kind of hard to figure out.
The thing is, Mark Webber is a true competitor no matter what. Just check him out on Top Gear earlier this year:
Yeah, it's kind of awkward.
The difference with this race is that both men are on the starting row, and all bets are off. Vettel's already got the championship, so any other points are just for funzies. And Webber's already signed on to drive for Porsche's factory Le Mans effort next year, so he's under no pretensions as well. This may be one of the first times all year we'll see the two actually, really compete against each other from the start.
It'll be interesting to see who wins that first corner.
Finnish driver for Lotus and beloved eccentric mumbler Kimi Raikkonen is out for the rest of the season, sidelined by back problems. Also, the lack of a paycheck doesn't help. He's been replaced by his countryman Heikki Kovaleinen, who's been known to be damn good in his own right. Lotus has actually proven to be reasonably competitive this year, so throwing somebody else in is certainly a wild card.
I want to see him win. Just for fun.
Coupled with the championship already being sewn up, the fact that it's late in the year, and Because Texas, if this year is anything like last year's US GP the whole thing is going to be a great party. Too much beer, too many cheerleaders, and too much Rick Perry. Come to think of it, on the global stage, is there ever not too much Rick Perry?
But I digress. This is Texas. It's the place where the governor still carries a six-shooter (if only for show), and we give the winner of the race a cowboy hat. But it's also Austin, which is unlike any other spot in Texas and thus is hilarious.
Also, we're naming all the corners.
Anything can happen here.
Last year there were a number of issues with tires, but mainly the talk was a lack of grip. Austin was a bit chilly in 2012, but that shouldn't be a problem today with temperatures pushing near 90 degrees Fahrenheit. The real issue is that this years tires have a tendency to, well, explode.
Pirelli's again brought its medium and hard compound tires to the track, and the blend that goes into them has been reformulated since the spectacular incidents earlier this year, but the Circuit of the Americas still covers a pretty big difference. Coupled with the fact that the American market is huge and perennially trying to draw more fans in, and any repeat of something like the 2005 US Grand Prix where tire problems only allowed six cars to "race," Pirelli's tires are under a lot of pressure.
On the other hand, Americans do enjoy explosions. If you want to argue, go Google "Hollywood Films" and then come back and don't leave a comment.
I don't care that we just had a race here last year. The fact that we get a Grand Prix over here in the good ol' US of A is still something to be thankful for, after all the political wrangling and bullcrap we F1 fans in the Greatest Country On Earth™ had to put up with. And for once, just like what seems like every other goddamn country on the planet, we get to sit down, in the afternoon, and enjoy an F1 race on a major television station.
It doesn't get much better than that. Watch it. Coverage starts at 1 PM EST on NBC, so no more of that "but it's four in the morning!" excuse. It's gonna be great.
What do you think are going to be the big story lines this year? Let us know below in the comments!
All photos credit Getty, except the one of the young women, that one is courtesy of the Lotus F1 team, because of course it is