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F1 Advent Calendar 2012 (Day 23) - Austin awesome // The inaugural race at the Circuit of the Americas stands up to the F1 test

Published by Christine Blachford

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Hello and welcome to the F1 Advent Calendar 2012, thank you for getting this far through our mini series season review. As I hinted at last time, we’re moving on to the first race at a brand new circuit, with Day 23 - Austin awesome.

The new circuit in Austin had been long anticipated, and with great affection - everyone wanted the weekend to go off without a hitch, to give the US some of the F1 love that they so deserve and have previously been robbed of. It’s a complex relationship between Formula One and the United States, but the race in Texas looked set to mend at least some of the heartbreak.

Thus, the teams and drivers rocked up to the Circuit of the Americas in mid-November, and instantly there were good reports coming in. Hamilton spoke of the track, saying: “It’s quite difficult to learn initially but it looks fantastic to drive. I really started to enjoy it once I got used to it, which took perhaps a little bit longer than some of the other circuits.”

We were particularly looking forward to the fabled Turn One, given how notorious first corners can be in a race anyway. Off the line, the drivers would go a short distance, before rising rapidly uphill to face a super tight blind left hand turn. Difficult at the best of times, let alone when jostling for position with 23 other racers.

As it turns out, the first corner of the race was completely clean - all 24 drivers getting through without incident, perhaps because they were taking it easy knowing what a challenge it would be. Sebastian Vettel had started from pole position, after dominating the practice sessions as well.

Also in qualifying, the HRT drivers both managed to get through, despite their own initial concerns that they wouldn’t make it with a time inside the 107% cutoff. Narain Karthikeyan did pull to a halt out on track, but not before he’d managed to set a time inside the cutoff. Jenson Button also had some mechanical trouble, reporting a loss of power over the radio and crawling back to the pitlane. He qualified twelfth.

Back to the race, and they were through the first corner safely. Button lost even more places off the start, but Lewis Hamilton made his way past Mark Webber to take second place as Sebastian Vettel retained his lead.

Unusually for Vettel, he couldn’t scamper off into the distance, as Hamilton kept with him, maintained the gap, then closed in and eventually took the position. Hamilton couldn’t disappear off into the lead, either, with victory coming for the McLaren driver by just half a second over Sebastian Vettel, who stayed with him for the remaining laps.

Fernando Alonso did the best job he could to keep his championship fight on course by securing third place, getting himself on the podium. Felipe Massa, who had shown great pace throughout the weekend, secured fourth.

Further back, Mark Webber suffered the Renault alternator failure that we have seen a few times before, and this raised concerns within the Red Bull team that it could be a problem in the remaining race - coming just when the championship would be within their grasp.

They didn’t need to worry about the Constructor’s Championship, however, as Vettel’s victory gave the team enough points to be unbeatable, and thus taking their third title in a row. Christian Horner said afterwards: “To have won a third consecutive title is something we could only have ever dreamed about a few years ago. To have achieved what we have in 2010, 2011 and 2012 against the opponents we have, in only our eighth year in the sport, is something that is quite remarkable.”

Overall, the US Grand Prix was a great success, a highlight of the year, and it was brilliant to find a brand new race go without a hitch - the track was ready on time, and there were no major problems to worry about. Bernie Ecclestone said: “Everything is good. Everyone is happy. It is good when you do something and it works. Here you can see they are behind this, which is good. The governor said we would get a bigger crowd next year than this year.”

That’s all for this episode of the F1 Advent Calendar 2012, and now we have just two more episodes to go. Thank you for listening so far, and do join me again for the penultimate episode of the advent calendar, it’ll be Day 24.

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